When put in a situation where your survival is at stake, fire can be one of your best friends, and worst enemies.
A fire can be used for warmth, cooking food, boiling water, and even for signalling rescuers. Yet how many people know how to actually light start a fire?
If you have matches or a lighter on you, you should be able to build a fire in pretty much any weather condition, if you can remember these basic principles.
- Select a dry, sheltered spot.
- Use only the driest of tinder to start the fire.
- Have a good supply of kindling on hand before striking that first match.
- Start with a small fire, and add the fuel as the flame grows.
- Remember. Fire needs air to breathe, so add fuel sparingly.
- If needed, blow gently on your kindling to help the flames along.
- Fire burns up. Place fresh kindling above the flame.
- Only use dry deadwood.
Picking Your Fire Site
Use some good judgement when selecting a spot to have your fire.
As far as practicable, avoid those spots that are windy, or on damp ground. Make sure that the spot you choose won’t cause the fire to spread and burn out of control.
If it is raining, or looks like it is going to, try and find a spot under a leaning tree or some over hanging rocks.
Building Your Fire
As simplistic as it sounds, this is more often the part where people have some challenges.
The process for building a fire is to already have the four separate parts ready and available when the fire moves to the next stage.
You can’t start a fire without creating a spark or flame in the first place. Your ignition source could be something as simple as a box of matches, preferrably waterproof ones, a lighter, magnyfing glass, or even chemicals.
This is easily combustible material used by the ignition source to start a small fire which is then used to ignite kindling.
These are the small pieces of wood and twigs used to start a fire and build it up to the point where you are able to put fuel on it.
This is usually the larger logs that will keep the fire burning.
As mentioned above this is how you start the fire in the first place. Matches, lighters, magnesium block and flint are the more common ways to start a fire. Other things that can be used to start a fire include magnifying glass, Condie’s Crystals and sugar or brake fluid. These methods will be shown in later posts.
Tinder can be dry grass, leave or plant stems. If you are going to use twigs, find ones that are not much thicker or bigger than the average disposable pen.
Some of the best tinder is dryer lint. This can be collected and put into waterproof containers such as empty 35mm film canisters or empty pill bottles and put into your survival kit.
You can never have too much kindling, and should have plenty of it around when you start your fire.
Soft woods make the best kindling because they light easy and burn quickly. Choose dead branches that are off the ground, as those ones are more often than not damp inside. Remembering that most dead branches snap when broken, whereas live ones bend and aren’t brittle.
This is what keeps your fire burning longer.
Keep in mind that not all wood burns the same. Some hardwoods scarcely burn at all, whilst others burn very quickly and make a hot flame.
When building the fire, you should use whatever is available after all, a fire is a fire.
As a general rule, hardwoods make a slow burning fire with lasting coals, and softwoods burn quickly produce a lot of heat with coals that are easily spent.
Once you have your fire established, remember that unless absolutely necessary, smaller is better. Not only from the point of saving fuel, it will also be more manageable and able to be extinguished quickly if need be. By building deflectors or using the natural environment, a small fire should be more than enough to keep you warm in normal conditions and be suitable for any cooking needs you may have.