Fire Building

Saturday, April 10, 2010
Fire Building

Can you build a blazing fire with damp wood and one match?

The ability to build a fire when lost is extremely helpful for reasons beyond the obvious warmth it provides. The light from the fire helps search teams at night when their task is much more difficult. During the day, a smoky fire will attract searchers as well.

First Things First
The key to fire-building is to assume that no matter how many matches you actually have, you will need some later to start another fire. Always carry wind resistant and waterproof matches. With practice, you can learn the skill of building a roaring fire with ONE match, ONLY one and ALWAYS one. In addition, collect your firewood and start to build your fire BEFORE darkness and BEFORE it gets cold.

Choosing a Site
Choose a site well protected form wind. Clear the ground down to the soil and dig a small pit. This pit helps protect your fire from wind, aids in positioning the twigs and collects red coals as the fire continues. Now gather rocks and surround the pit with them. The rocks offer additional wind protections, but more importantly, they absorb heat from the fire and increase the radiative heat.

Collecting Wood
As you collect wood, keep in mind that no twig is too small when attempting to start a fire. Break the wood down to manageable pieces, some as small as toothpicks. You MUST have very small twigs to start a fire efficiently with only one match. And remember, YOU MUST TRY TO DO THIS WITH ONLY ONE MATCH! If small twigs are unavailable, pieces of torn clothing or lint from pickets may be substituted. Gather enough wood for a long-lasting fire.

If the ground is wet, dried pine needles underneath the top layer of needles might be available. If it is raining, look up for dried firewood. Most trees have dead lower branches that remain dry during the early stages of a rainfall. Never try to start a fire with fresh, green pine needles, however. You will simply waste your matches. And remember, use your matches as if your life depends on them. IT MAY! A candle is extremely useful in starting a fire and conserving matches.

Until you have a large bed of red-hot coals, do not rest secure in the belief that you have built a successful fire. Monitor the fire, blowing on it whenever necessary, adding more twigs and logs and protecting your wood pile from future rain by covering them with branches.

Build a Visible Fire
Since searchers often utilize airplanes and helicopters, you should try to create a visible fire. At night, add as much wood as is reasonably safe to create a big fire. During the day, add items that create smoke. Rubber items work well for this, as do fresh branches of green pine needles. A smoky fire can be visible for many miles.

Practice this skill on your next camping trip, or for that matter in your fireplace at home. This valuable skill may help you avoid a cold, wet evening spent staring at a book of used matches and a lifeless pile of firewood.