The Stream Doctor

January 20th, 2003

Your questions and answers about everything stream related.

Q. From Herb in S. Carolina...My friend Mike and I recently stalked native trout in the highlands of the Great Smoky Mountains. Backpacking for miles took its tool, and we barely had enough energy to filter new drinking water. A conveniently located 'out house' was near our campsite and Mike, in his infinite wisdom, tried to extinguish a cigarette into the confines of the latrine, when he was startled to find that a fire had started on loose dangling toilet paper inside the walls of the holding tank. Naturally he rushed to the campsite and grabbed all the freshly filtered water water and proceeded to put the fire out.

Dr. Cushing, my question is: Would freshly filtered water have any greater extinguishing power than, say, unfiltered water? Cause I smacked crap out of that clown for wasting all my fresh water. Thank you.

A. Surely, you're putting me on! This sounds like something out of a tall-tales contest. Obviously, there would be no difference in the fire extinguishing capabilities of filtered vs. non-filtered water. However, in keeping with the spirit of this tale, one might postulate that, in fact, unfiltered water would probably be better at extinguishing fire because it would still contain particulate matter, which would help smother the fire. On an equal volume basis, that also means that it would be a little heavier, again having a greater smothering impact. Of course by being heavier, it means the carrier would get exhausted quicker and not be able to carry as much water in a given period of time. Need we go further?

~ C. E. (Bert) Cushing, aka Streamdoctor
105 W. Cherokee Dr.
Estes Park, CO 80517
Phone: 970-577-1584

The 'Stream Doctor' is a retired professional stream ecologist and author, now living in the West and spending way too much time fly-fishing. You are invited to submit questions relating to anything stream related directly to him for use in this Q & A Feature at

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