How to Start a Fire

Starting a fire is one of the primary activities in a survival situation. In nearly any outdoor scenario having a fire is lifesaving. You may need a fire for a number of reasons:

  1. Warmth
  2. Cooking
  3. Light

My grandfather is known for his 1-match fires. I don't think I ever saw him use more than one as a kid. Whether he was starting a fire in the cabin stove, burning refuse, setting up camp, or burning scrap from a construction site. 

Required Components for a Fire

  1. Dry Fuel - In a survival situation the fuel has to be dry. Damp fuel either won't ignite or will smoke - a lot. The paper, wood, leaves, etc. must be dry.
  2. Heat - Whether you are starting a fire with another flame (lighter, match, torch, etc.) or with friction (bow, etc.) you'll need enough heat to ignight your fuel.
  3. Oxygen - You'll need a draft to keep smoke away from the fuel source and fresh oxygen close to it. Fire requires oxygen to burn.

Proven Tips to Starting a Fire

  1. Prepare for the Fire. Find the following and set it aside close to your fire location
    1. Tinder - find small super dry twigs, needles, leaves, or paper - 2 handfuls
    2. Small Fuel - find super dry small twigs and branches - 2 handfuls
    3. Medium Fuel - find medium dry branches - 2 handfuls
    4. Large Fuel - find logs and large branches - enough for the time you need to burn
    5. Secure a Lighter or Matches
  2. Build a Fire Ring. Find a safe place away from water sources. Place large stones in a ring on the ground. Remove any dry grass in the area.
  3. Start with a burnable base. This one gets missed in many tutorials. If you build a fire on the ground, a lot of the heat from the fire gets absorbed into heating the dirt, snow, or rock. Find a flat, dry piece of wood or make a stable platform of medium sized branches.
  4. Build a small mound of super dry twigs, needles, leaves, or paper. Make sure the mound has plenty of air and is NOT compressed.
  5. Build a small structure (teepee, log cabin, etc.) of super dry small branches around the mound. Make sure there is space for the fire to breathe.
  6. Light the Fire. Place your match or lighter low on the small mound until it's lit.
  7. Feed small Fuel. Feed some of the small tinder into the fire as it burns the mound. Feed it until the small structure is burning.
  8. Feed Medium Fuel. Add medium fuel to the burning structure until coals begin to form. 
  9. Feed larger Fuel. Add larger and larger branches until the fire is roaring.
  10. Maintain. Keep adding branches and logs as the fire burns down. You need a minimum of 3 branches or logs in the fire at all times to keep the smoke down.

Be Careful

Any time you start a fire there's a chance of fire getting out of control or someone getting burned. Be careful around the fire. 

  1. Always watch the fire - don't leave it unattended
  2. Keep a first aid kit on hand
  3. Watch little children
  4. No horsing around 

Advanced Fire Starting Methods

In the movie "The Edge" Anthony Hopkin's character tells another character who is struggling psychologically that you can start fire with ice. We had to look it up. Here's what we found:

In the same way, you can use a sandwich bag and water to start a fire. The idea is to create a magnifying glass on super dry tinder. Hopefully the sun is out!

Fatwood is wood heavy in sap found late in the season. You can harvest it and it works as the perfect tinder.

Recommended Products

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