Fire Starting 101
Fire, we take it for granted every day, however fire is one of the most important things we should consider when we start prepping. We should all know how to make, build and maintain a fire. Many, millions, of us have lost this basic skill today. The ability to start and maintain a fire is the difference between life and death in hundreds of scenarios.
Three Principals of Fire.
Fuel, Heat and Air without an understanding of how these three things work together, you simply can not build a fire.
Lets start with Fuel, there are three different fuels that are needed to start and maintain a wood fire. Tinder, Kindling, & Wood.
Tinder is typically dry and easy to light, meaning very combustible. We recommend that everyone always be on the lookout for this while hiking or camping. There are many kinds of tinder to look for such as birch bark, the shredded inner bark of chestnut, cedar, and red elm trees, dead grass, ferns, straw, sawdust, etc. Essentially what you are looking for is something that will ignite with very little heat from either a spark from your Ferrocerium Rod, or the small flame from a lighter. If you’re prepared, you will have some charcloth, or even better waterproof waxed jute with you. Having this with you, allows you more time to spend looking for water or shelter.
Kindling is also dry and very combustible. You will add this to your tinder pile once you have a flame. Kindling is a slightly larger than your tinder, small twigs, wood shavings, cardboard, fatwood (naturally imbued with pine resin, smells like turpentine). These items are slowly stacked on top of your ignited tinder so as not to smother the flame (remember air is a factor here, don’t add this to quickly). Again, if prepared you’ll have at least some fatwood in your pack.
The third and final type of fuel is the one that you’re probably thinking of, which is logs that have been split into quarters or whole logs from small to medium sized trees. These will burn slowly and steadily once they are fully ignited and will release wood gas which is what is actually fueling the campfires you’ve sat around. When choosing trees to cut for logs you want to make sure to choose dead trees that are still standing and have the tops intact. This prevents them from collecting rainwater and rotting. Do not cut down a living tree, it will not burn.
Now that you understand the 3 fuels for fire the other parts naturally fall into place.
Heat or an ignition source is what you need to get your tinder to light. Whether that’s a cheap gas station lighter, a ferrocerium rod scraped with a knife or striker, a flint and steel, or an ember from a friction device like a fire-bow or a fire-plow. You’ll have to get some type of ignition source onto or into the tinder to create a flame.
We all know that fire needs air to burn. If you need proof of this simply light a candle in your house and then put a glass over it, cutting off the supply of oxygen. The fire will quickly go out. Knowing this, you need to make sure to leave gaps and air pockets in your kindling and logs for air to move through and keep the fire burning hot.
The best way to master fire is to practice. However, simply knowing the components of a good fire, already puts you at a great advantage. You can improvise between different sources of ignition and fuel.