My son T was full of beans when I picked him up from the station after school today. He asked if we could buy a box of matches and some firelighters, then simply light the box to see what would happen.
So we wandered round Tesco to find them. Got home and went straight ino the garden to set up the experiment. We put one firelighter on a metal garden chair in the middle of the lawn, placed the box of matches on top, filled the watering can with water, I wetted the grass under and around the metal chair, went through the 'roll a person on the ground if they are on fire' warning I always mention, then T lit it and we stood 20 feet away.
There was a flash of flame from one side of the box, which was very slightly open. Then the fire lighter continued burning. This was the 'is that it?' stage. After a while there was a bigger flash of flame from both ends of the box, simultaneous. There was a whoosh noise too. T said this was the magnesium. We decided to pour water over the lot once it was clear it was just burning quietly, no further explosions. The fire was doused immediately.
When we poked the box open with a stick, we found that only the ends of the matches had burnt, the middle sections of wood were still pale. If we had let it burn itself out it would have taken some time. I felt a bit stupid for having risked the paint on the chair going up in smoke, luckily it didn't take. Next time I would use the fire pit or a sturdy foil bowl as a fireplace. T said he had wanted to try this for years, ever since I had lit 5 matches at once as an experiment one time.