Looks like painted wood Lathe that was used. It does not appear to be the old Asbestos plaster type tape that they used to use back before the 60's.
Aren't you living in this house?I'm hesitant to try and break any of it off, for obvious reasons.
Awesome, paint seems to be the best way to go then. Most of it is going to be covered by a new ceiling, but it is exposed in our laundry room.One tiny flake won't hurt you as long as you don't inhale it. Once asbestos is wet it is safe. If you are concerned about it paint it and encapsulate it. They do that on old boilers and pipes that are covered with it in power plants etc. Paint it with latex paint and forget about it.
Kinda looks suspicious to me. Could be the original owner was in the biz or concerned about fire hazard and had a asbestos fibreboard installed between the pipes and the wood. Little did he know those pipes can never get hot enough to start a fire but some people like to be cautious.
We have to leave 1" clearance above the furnace plenum for fire seperation but in my over 35 yrs in this biz I have never heard of a fire caused by too hot pipes. If you had a oil furnace and it got flooded with oil and caught fire it is remotely possible but I have never heard of it happening. I had one catch on fire but it still did not get the pipes red hot. Chimney pipe, yes, heat pipes no.