Dr. Dale wrote: just finished a series of lectures on geology given through The Great Courses. (Highly recommended!) I am happy to report a possible geophysical explanation for the inability to kindle fire noted in 3 Nephi 8:21 (and objected to by Mr. Dubious Commentator.)
As many of you probably know, what actually provides the explosive power in volcanoes is the rapid release of dissolved water (as steam) and carbon dioxide from the magma. But it turns out that carbon dioxide is also often released slowly from magma…without any explosion. This carbon dioxide travels upward through fissures and cracks in the rock strata and is released at the surface.
Carbon dioxide is more dense than air, and especially when cooler than the surrounding air, carbon dioxide can collect in lower spots. Carbon dioxide does not support combustion and would make it difficult or impossible to light fires. Hence 3 Nephi 8:21 is consistent with physical facts surrounding earthquakes and eruptions.
Honorentheos raised a excellent point on the Interpreter comments section regarding the problem of death carbon dioxide (CO2) in response to Bruce Dale's "volcanic CO2" theory as to why no fire could be lit during the period of darkness in the Book of Mormon.
I find it incredible that someone who works with fuels (and therefore combustion), as Bruce's biosketch states, would not understand that breathing air with CO2 concentrations high enough to prevent ignition or combustion would be fatal to humans within minutes.
CO2 concentrations as low as 2000 to 5000 ppm in air can result in poisoning, the symptoms of which are degradation of neurological function. These may not appear for days or weeks after exposure.
Concentrations of 10% (100,000 ppm) or more would cause convulsions with incapacitation and death soon to follow. Gasification is a well known process in alternative fuels production in which combustion takes place in CO2 concentrations far greater than 10%. Anyone who works in fuels and combustion should be aware of this fact.
It is also incredible that a senior engineer is not aware of what happened to more than 1,700 people and hundreds of animals in 1986 when a landslide released CO2 from waters of Lake Nyos in Africa. The lake had been saturated with volcanic CO2 over time. The landslide provided the mechanical energy needed to cause the CO2 to come out of solution travel along the ground downwind. Even if he were unaware of the Nyos disaster, had he bothered to check his latest crackpot correspondence with a simple Google search, he would have found the information soon enough.
Had CO2 been the reason that fires could not be lit during the days of darkness in the Book of Mormon, it is unlikely that anyone who experienced the phenomenon would have survived to tell the story.