Two things come to my mind when we start rolling into December and the holiday season. No, it’s not peace or love or some such slop. It’s also not blockbusters or award films.
It’s cold weather and drinking.
This also makes me think of Canada, and this in turn makes me think of legends of comedy: Bob and Doug McKenzie.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the motion picture premiere of the beer-drinking duo from the Great White North. In their film Strange Brew, Bob (Rick Moranis) and Doug (Dave Thomas) must stop an evil Brewmeister (Max Von Sydow) from controlling the minds of Canadians with a tainted beer supply. In one scene, Bob saves the Royal Canadian Institute for the Mentally Insane from burning down by pissing all over it.
This got me thinking: Would it be humanly possible to put out a large fire by urinating on it?
The Answer: If your body could handle it (which it can’t), you could. But it would hurt like hell.
In the film, Bob and brewery-owner Pam Elsinore (Lynne Griffin) are trapped inside a huge beer vat in the brewery. The Brewmeister’s minions try to kill them by filling the vat with beer. Bob uses his special power of beer consumption to drink all of the brew and keep him and Pam from drowning. Shortly thereafter, Doug helps his brother out of the vat and rolls him to the adjoining Royal Canadian Institute for the Mentally Insane, where an explosion has blown the roof off and started a fire. Off-screen, Bob urinates on the fire to extinguish it.
The vat where Bob and Pam were trapped is capable of holding 6000 gallons of beer, and it appears that Bob drank that amount, considering he expands to fill the entire volume of the container when Doug finds him. The alcohol content in beer is quite low, compared to wine and hard spirits, but a mere 1 gram of alcohol can increase your urine production by 10 mL. Depending on the brew, beer can have an alcohol content anywhere from 3.5% for light beer to 8% for stronger brews.
If you assume the average beer is about 5% alcohol, that would mean there is approximately 1134 kg of alcohol in 6000 gallons, which would increase Bob’s urine production by 11,340 liters. The human body has only about 40 liters of water in it to begin with, so let’s assume that Bob has an X-Men mutant power that allows him to process all that alcohol without getting dehydrated.
Would that be enough to put out the fire?
There’s an entire science used by fire departments around the world to determine how much water would be needed to put out a fire. It’s not an exact science because there are so many factors, including the materials involved, the size of the affected area, the weather conditions, and how exposed the area is to the open air. In fact, because most fire departments rely on a municipal water supply, the concern is less about the availability of water and more about how much can be applied at a given moment, which could require as much as 1000 gallons per minute of flow.
In areas where fire hydrants and access to a seemingly unending water supply are not available, fire trucks come with their own water. These trucks can carry anywhere from 1500 to 3000 gallons of water, which is enough to put out fires in remote or rural areas. If Bob was carrying 6000 gallons of urine in his bladder, this would be enough to put out the fire in the Institute.
Though, it would probably smell really bad when he did.
How long would it take?
While we never see Bob’s urinary prowess on the screen, we do see the aftermath. As Bob is fastening his waistband, a firefighter says to him, “You did a fine job son. What took you two minutes would have taken us two hours. If you ever want a job at the fire department, you come and see me and you’ve got it!”
Anyone who has woken up after a night of drinking beer is painfully aware at how full it can make your bladder. The morning pee after such a night can seem to take forever, and there’s a reason for that. The average male urinates at a rate of approximately 21 mL a second, taking approximately 30 seconds to empty a ragingly full 600 mL bladder. This doesn’t even come close to what Bob McKenzie manages.
Two key things that determine the ability to discharge 6000 gallons in 2 minutes is the size of the opening and the speed with which the fluid travels. Using a basic online calculator for plumbing, Bob’s urethral orifice would have to expand to almost a foot in diameter (or about 47 times its original size of 6 mm) to achieve this.
The other option would be to increase the speed with which the urine is discharged. However, even if you assume the urethral orifice stretches to twice its original size, the urine would have to be rocketing out of him at 3744 mph, or just about Mach 5.
Either way, it would hurt like hell. And probably kill anyone standing close to Bob.
Perhaps he was so drunk he didn’t feel a thing. Regardless, he’s a true hero.