Men are sporting bushy whiskers at a time when the climate is changing and the risk of fire – whether accidental or deliberate – is unprecedented.
So far, no major beard-related wildfires have been reported, but firefighters are particularly concerned about large gatherings of bearded men that could turn into infernos.
“The problem is that conventional firefighting methods are useless when the enemy is combustible whiskers,” explained Red Emberlake, head of the National Institute for the Study of Incredible Conflagrations, Retardant, OH.
A recent incident near New York City illustrates the point. During a barbecue a man’s long beard was ignited by a stray spark, and the flames quickly spread to neighboring bearded men. Firefighters were on the scene within minutes, and wanted to create a firebreak by pulling up the lawn to prevent the flames from spreading. But the homeowner objected since had had just cut the grass. Instead, the firefighters dug a trench, a standard method for limiting burns. The bearded men fell into the trench and their flames were extinguished, but they are now suing the fire department for multiple broken bones.
“Another technique we use is bombing fires with water, but that’s tough when the target is an out-of-control whisker burn,” said Emberlake.
His organization has issued guidelines for men with full-length beards that they hope will lower the risk of whisker wildfires.
- Wear a personal fire extinguisher at all times.
- Periodically douse your beard with water to keep it damp in drought conditions.
- Try to not to talk rapidly. Studies have shown that sparks from clashing teeth and fillings are a major cause of beard fire.
- Do not venture near naked flames, and, of course, never start a fire in a forest of beards.
“We are optimistic that bearded men will take this advice to heart and we’ll avoid a major wildfire. But to be honest, this is a disaster waiting to happen,” said Emberlake.