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Help - I'm Afraid of Fire

  1. Aug 26, 2004 #1

    This thing invokes so much terror in me. I really need help overcoming that fear because I will be having my Practical Exams in around 8 weeks. The Chemistry and Biology (sometimes Physics) practicals require that you light a Bunsen Burner by yourself during the exam. I just can't bring myself to put a lit match near the mouth of a Bunsen Burner when the gas supply is turned to on. The Burner is just immediately lit with a great, nasty, terrifying, apocalyptic BOOM!!!

    I had my mock practicals just a week ago. I was the cause of much amusement to the invigilators who politely covered their mouths when I jumped back from lighting a Bunsen Burner (after 4 or 5 failed attempts).

    The problem is that I've been trying to get myself well acquainted with the Bunsen Burner for the past 2 years - with no success. Part of my phobia can be attributed to an incident I had last year where I burned part of my hand during crystallisation. The copper sulphate solution that I was heating in the evaporating dish just started being sprayed everywhere. The teacher FORCED me to withdraw the Bunsen Burner from underneath the evaporating dish, and that was when this huge gob of copper sulphate solution landed on my hand. AHHHH, even recalling that incident and relating it to all of you here on PF is difficult for me, and my hands are trembling.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2004 #2
    I can't help you there, I like fire...In fact, I like fire a little too much
  4. Aug 26, 2004 #3
    Uuuuhhhh...I understand you. Since I was little I have had phobia of fire...I mean, I could not even sleep because I was afraid since in my mind I have the idea that the fan could start a fire and cried when in a movie there was a fire (although today I don't cry because I don't want people to think I am a freak...but inside of me, I still cry when someone is burning in a movie), but with time I have make a lot of progress. I was able to use a match when I was 16...but no lighters thank you!! I cannot use lighters. Somehow I have always managed to never use a Bunsen Burner (well I used it, but just after someone have already turned it on).
    I guess you can talk to your professor and let him/her know your situation...He has to understand...you know, that's a "mental condition" and the law is on your side, it's just like the accommodations that a professor has to make to a student on a wheel chair, it's the same law. You can ask him/her to turn it on, and then with a little of caution you should be able to manage your fear and do the rest of the test.

    I hope that knowing that you are not the only one with this problem helps.
    Talk to your professor!
    And good luck on your exam!
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2004
  5. Aug 26, 2004 #4

    jimmy p

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    Bunsen burners are cool. I like seeing how long I can hold my hand in there for. Like when lighting a match, you see how long you can hold it for. I remember trying to melt an iron nail with a bunsen... didnt work. I also remember trying to pick off a metal gauze after using a bunsen. The burnt imprints were there for ages...
  6. Aug 26, 2004 #5
    Id recommend finding some sort of salad prongs to hold the match into position once its lit, then slowly approach the bunsen burner until it goes boom. For maximum security wear lead radiation shielding, welding mask and bicycle helmet, thick 2" gloves, and knee/elbow pads. :biggrin:
  7. Aug 26, 2004 #6
    How cruel!...you are making jokes of our problems...really! It can be very scary!...Nah ...don't worry...I know you are joking...
    Motai...are you hispanic??
  8. Aug 26, 2004 #7


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    Recon, I hate lighting them too. I'm afraid of gas, period, since, well never mind, I don't want to scare you even more. I have no gas connected to my house, only electricity.
  9. Aug 26, 2004 #8
    DarkAnt and jimmyp, thank you for sharing your enthusiasm with me. fisipavia and Evo, you two are the only people I've ever met who are afraid of fire. I really needed the reassurance that I am not the only person on this planet who is afraid of Bunsen Burners.

    motai, I like your idea but I do not want to be laughed at (by the teachers) again!
  10. Aug 26, 2004 #9
    Just trying to make sure everything that can possibly go wrong cant go wrong (which explains the placement of the bicycle helmet and knee/elbow pads).

    Not hispanic, more of a third-generation American with oriental/mixed-european ancestry. I know almost nothing of my lineage on my dad's side, and a little bit on my mom's. Proving that im not lying: https://www.physicsforums.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=1129

    On another note, fear can be distressing. I myself am afraid of heights and wont ride any tall rollercoaster. Whenever I am on a tall building I wont get 6 feet close to the edge unless there is a guard rail, then I can tolerate standing 3 feet. As for fire, the only experience ive had is burning myself on a hot lamp at a university, leaving a rather nasty scar on my right forearm.
  11. Aug 26, 2004 #10
    :eek: What a mixture!... I have the impression that you were hispanic,but you know what? you actually look hispanic, but I believe you because of the flag :tongue2:
  12. Aug 26, 2004 #11


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    Recon, I'm not afraid of fire in general, but I've never liked lighting bunsen burners. If I had to use matches, I'd probably hire a tech just for that job! I prefer those long-handled strikers that create a spark to light the burner while your hands are quite far from the top of the burner. The main thing is to make sure you have a clear reach of the gas supply valve without needing to reach over the burner. That way, if anything truly bizarre happens, you just shut-off the gas.

    When I was in high school, we had sort of trick bunsen burners (i.e., malfunctioning ones...student safety wasn't a big priority of our science teachers at the time). You'd light it and flames would start shooting out the bottom, so you had to quick shut off the main valve and hope there was another to replace it.

    I also had a friend reach over an alcohol burner once and catch her sleeve on fire. Fortunately, she ran straight to the sink to put it out before anyone else realized she had even caught herself on fire (the sink was very close), so she only had a very small, minor burn. But, I've never liked working around those things since then. But, it's a necessity in science, so you just have to get used to it. I just do my best to keep my distance.

    If they insist you must use a match and not a long-handled lighter, then hold the match upward and your hand below the flame...even if it ignites with a "pop" the flame will be going up, not down, so your hand is out of danger if held below.

    Hey, I jump when I light gas stoves and gas barbecues too. Once they are lit, I'm fine (well, I'm never too fond of gas stoves...I'm always a little worried of catching myself on fire...I can be dangerous in the kitchen), but it's the lighting part I don't like.
  13. Aug 27, 2004 #12


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    Bring one of these from home.

    As show that burner who's boss!!
  14. Aug 27, 2004 #13
    Set fire to some house somewhere, then you'll LOVE fire! lol Only joking, seriously its only a joke.

    You could get a Doctors note saying that you have a phobia of fire and then get the invigulator to lite the fire for you.
  15. Aug 27, 2004 #14
    Moonbear, I'm most of afraid of lighting the burner. My school's lab is designed so badly that I have to reach over the burner to turn on the gas tap. I have to wear long-sleeved shirts too and I am not allowed to roll them up because of school regulations. Otherwise, I can be in quite close proximity to the burner.

    Galileo, I'll get the long liter as soon as I can. The reason why I don't have one at home is because I can light the stove at my house by just turning a knob.

    Andy, I'm afraid it is too late for getting a Doctor's note. Some people from my country are allowed to sit for a different practical paper that doesn't require lighting burners or testing chemicals, but only because they have a note from their doctor saying that they are colour blind.

    I'm not colour blind.
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