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Thursday, November 12, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Trail Mix

Attention, Northwest Campers: Coleman Lanterns And Gasoline Turn Out To Be Unacceptable Mix

Turn out the light, the party's over.

At least it is for Coleman lanterns that run on unleaded gasoline.

Word from the company's corporate headquarters is that burning the new ethanol unleaded gasoline now being sold in this area could damage your appliance, if not dissolve seals and create a safety hazard.

Three of Coleman's campstoves and three of its lanterns are capable of running on unleaded gasoline or white gas. The advantage is price. Unleaded gasoline sells for about $1.25 a gallon, compared to the $3 to $4 a gallon for Coleman's white gas.

The dual-fuel stoves also were favored by those who traveled abroad, where white gas often is not readily available.

But you'll be risking your appliance if you fuel your Coleman product with unleaded gasoline from a local pump, a Coleman spokeswoman confirmed.

Local stations began selling unleaded with an ethanol additive last month. Ethanol adds oxygen to the mix, reducing air pollution. Use of oxygenated gas in areas with poor air quality - including the Puget Sound area, Vancouver and Spokane - is required for much of the year under the federal Clean Air Act.

Some regions use gasoline with methanol. Here, the choice was ethanol, and that caught the eye of a Seattle man who describes himself as a retired "belt-and-suspenders kind of guy."

The man, who doesn't want his name bandied about in the newspaper, reasoned that ethanol is a powerful solvent. Having only

recently plunked down $50 for a new Coleman unleaded lantern, he wondered what the ether would do to its plastic generator.

You don't want to find out, Coleman said. "It just doesn't produce a good burn," said spokeswoman Carolyn Britton. "They're just not tuned for that oxygenated fuel."

Worse yet, the new fuel will deteriorate plastic and rubber seals much more rapidly, she said.

"I'm thinking, `Boy, what if this thing dissolves in a tent full of Boy Scouts and the gas starts coming out all over the place?' " the Seattle man said.

"I don't believe there's an immediate safety risk," Britton responded. Still, unleaded gas should be avoided, she said.

The solution? "If at all in doubt, use Coleman stove fuel," Britton said. It does cost more, she acknowledged. "But it's cheaper than replacing a generator."

At this point, Coleman hasn't considered recalling the product, or even changing precautions in the instruction book, which warn only against using "gasohol."

Company engineers have considered tinkering with the design to make it compatible with modern fuels, but even that is fraught with difficulty: Various additives now are used in unleaded in different corners of the country at different times of the year. Finding the right match could be nightmarish.

All of which suggests Coleman dual-fuel products and the Clean Air Act probably never will comfortably coexist. Buyer beware. If you're shopping for a stove or lantern, consider the more costly dual-fuel option to be worth little more than the paper on which it is printed.

Cut your own, but behave

-- Washington's once-a-year lumberjacks and lumberjills can take heart in a new service from the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. It's a toll-free hotline for obtaining a Christmas tree cutting permit.

The permits go on sale Nov. 23. The toll-free line, 1-800-953-3004, goes on line Monday.

Permits cost $10 and are issued first-come, first-served at Forest Service offices in Enumclaw, Skykomish, Verlot, Darrington, Sedro Woolley and Glacier. Call first; numbers are limited.

And forget about buzzing up I-90 to fell your tree. They've run out of suitably sized Douglas and Silver firs in the North Bend area. Trees in replanted clearcuts there have either been harvested or grown too big, rangers say. In past years, they've busted overzealous holiday revelers who fell 40- to 50-foot trees, then cut out the top and plop it in the living room.

Remember, the rangers find out who's naughty and nice.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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