A few weeks ago, in this very column, we got a faceful of arrows when we talked about tripwire hooks. But arrows aren’t the only thing you can put in a dispenser to deter mobs and players from entering your base. This week, we’re featuring an item that’s rather more spectacular than plain ol’ arrows – it’s the fire charge!
The fire charge was added to Minecraft in update 1.2.1 alongside jungle biomes, iron golems and redstone lamps. They’re made of blaze powder, coal or charcoal, and gunpowder, combined in a 2×2 or 3×3 crafting grid, and at the time of writing they can only be crafted – you won’t find them spawned naturally anywhere in the world.
You might be wondering what they’re for. Good news, I’m here to let you know! If you right-click one onto a surface then it’ll start a fire, just like a flint and steel. Unlike a flint and steel, though, they can make fire at a distance. Because when you put them into a dispenser… well now, that’s when the real magic happens.
A fire charge that’s fired out of a dispenser will act like a Blaze fireball, zooming off in a straight line until it hits something. If or when it does, it’ll set it on fire. This is useful for lighting a nether portal or burning down a wooden structure at a distance, if that’s something you’ve ever wanted to do. If it hits a player or a mob, it’ll deal four and a half hearts of damage – two and a half from the projectile, and two from catching them on fire.
But what happens if it never hits anything? Well, the answer is that it’ll keep flying forever. Minecraft’s worlds can generate infinitely, so if you shoot a fire charge at a high enough altitude, and you can somehow keep the chunks it was passing through active, it would keep going and going and going and never stop until the heat death of the Universe, or you shut down your PC. Whichever happens first.
There are several ways in which someone could make something similar to a fire charge in the real world. Some chemical reactions create fire, and some elements – like the alkali metals in the leftmost column of the periodic table that you might remember (or have completely forgotten) from chemistry class – are extremely reactive on their own. Throw some lithium or potassium into water, for example, and it’ll explode. On second thought, don’t do that – because yes, it will explode.
The alkali metals lower down on the periodic table, like rubidium and caesium, are so reactive that they have to be stored under oil for safety, and the last metal on the list, francium, is so reactive that it’s effectively impossible to find in nature. Only 30 grams of it, at most, exists spread out within the Earth’s crust at any one time, before it decays into other elements.
I’ve got one last handy tip for you when it comes to fire charges in Minecraft. If your nether portal gets accidentally closed by a ghast fireball, and you left your flint and steel on the other side, then don’t just give up and delete your world. Ghasts drop gunpowder, Wither skeletons drop coal, and Blazes drop blaze rods that can be crafted into blaze powder – all the ingredients you need to craft a fire charge, and light that portal on fire again.
Then just make sure you go back to the Overworld, and bring enough cobblestone to build a protective box around the portal so it doesn’t happen again. You’re welcome!