Fire on Ice

Posted by MNAngler On January - 29 - 2010

As I was doing research for my last post, I came upon an article about ice safety. At the end of the article, a reader posted a comment that he’s seen people build fires out on the ice. The commenter couldn’t believe that they would do such a thing. Previous to my calculations, I would have thought the same thing.

The calculations in my last post showed how a heater in an ice shelter is not a problem. However, it would seem to be a bit more dangerous to have a fire on the ice given that there is a concentration of heat underneath the fire even though a lot of the heat is dissipated above it. It turns out it’s not.

My neighbor Mark, who has been ice fishing for years, has been on the ice when they’ve had bonfires that go for hours. He said that after the fire, the ice has barely melted much at all. The ice is cold enough to keep the fire at bay.

I found these three pictures via The first one is from and the other two came from

I wasn’t been able to find any information on how much heat is generated by a fire, so I couldn’t do any calculations to prove what Mark has witnessed or the pictures above. However, I would think it would be a lot more dangerous early in the season when the ice is only a few inches thick versus in the middle of January when ice is thick enough to drive on (at least 15 inches). In my mind, at worst, you’d melt a specific spot more than cause a large enough area to melt for it to be a problem. Obviously, from the pictures above, many people can stand close to a (big) fire on the ice while it is going without it being a problem.

Personally, I would only attend a fire and not build it myself. But if I did, I would make sure an SUV could park on the ice. And I wouldn’t park the SUV anywhere near it.

4 Responses to “Fire on Ice”

  1. BigSkyAngler says:

    I have done this many times. Think of wood ash as an insulator and the fact that the bottom of the fire doesn’t burn nearly as hot as the top of the fire (due to wood getting wet and more air at the top) and you can understand how this doesn’t melt a hole in the ice.

  2. […] friend of mine read my Fire on Ice post and clarified why it isn’t dangerous to have a fire on the […]

  3. […] (notice in the foreground of the picture of Mark’s shelter, there is proof that people build fires on the ice). But when the sun came out, Mark’s family vacated the shelter and I followed. I had some […]

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