The greatest discovery humankind has ever made was fire. It was arguably the point where existence itself took a turn and paved the way for many other discoveries and inventions throughout time.
But do you know how to start a fire? You may think this is not such a difficult task. After all, how hard can it be to find someone with a lighter or a few matches? But securing the spark is only one of the steps
Here’s a fire starting life hack you can always use.
When You Would Need This Skill?
The most obvious answer to this question is the good, old fashioned campfire. The campfire is a mandatory element for any overnight outdoor activity, and there’s really nothing beating the relaxation of sitting around the fire with your friends and family.
But there are also some emergency-type of situations where, of course, knowing how to start a fire can come in handy. For instance, being stranded overnight in an area without reception. The best thing to do in these cases is to build a fire that can both keep you warm and keep any predators away, at least until the morning when you can go and look for help.
But understanding how to build a fire doesn’t just protect you and the people you are with. It could also protect the environment. There have been many reported instances where campfires have caused serious damage to nature and even other people, either because they were improperly built or left unattended by campers.
Starting a Fire 101
Starting a fire sounds like one of those life hacks everyone knows how to do. That is, until you start trying. There are several different steps involved, and it’s imperative you follow them to the letter.
Take a look at these tips on how to build a successful fire and keep everyone around it safe.
1. Gather What You Need
Starting a fire doesn’t just involve putting a few sticks together and throwing a match between them. You’ll need a lot of materials to be able to light it and maintain it for longer times.
Here’s what you should look for:
- Tinder, which is key to getting the fire started. Because it’s the smallest material, it’s the first to catch fire, and then it can spread to the rest of the wood. Tinder can be wood shavings, paper, cardboard, wax, etc.;
- Kindling like twigs or small branches;
- Firewood – which is the basis of the campfire. It can be up to 5 inches in diameter, anything thicker can be problematic. Make sure your firewood is completely dry, otherwise your fire won’t stay lit.
- Matches or a lighter for the final spark.
When you go around to find the materials for the fire, remember to just look for the wood that’s already on the ground, and not cut any branches from the trees if you can. If you know you’re going to start a campfire, try to bring as much of the materials (like tinder) from home.
2. Setting the Stage
If you’re camping in an area that has special places for campfires, you can use it to start your own, though you’ll most likely have to remove any ash or stones from previous fires first.
However, if you have to create your own pit, you should do so in an area where there are no hovering branches that could potentially catch on fire. Clear any grass of vegetation in the place you want to start the fire until you reach the dirt. You should dig it at least a few inches deep, and keep the extra dirt around to put out the fire when you’re ready.
At the center of the fire ring, you’ll need to place a bed of tinder, then lay your kindling over it, topped with the firewood. It’s important to put the materials in this order for the fire to stay lit.
3. Light the Fire
After you’ve set the ground for the fire and placed the burning materials, it’s time to enjoy the fire! Take your matches or lighter and light the tinder on multiple sides to ensure the rest of the materials will catch fire as well. Don’t use any other substances like lighter fluid or gasoline – you could potentially burn yourself and those around you.
As long as you placed the tinder at the base and light from multiple sides, you don’t need any inflammable substances to light the fire.
For maintenance, add an additional log from time to time if you see the size of the flame is decreasing. But be careful not to put too many at once, as it can cause the flame to get uncontrollably big. Place on a log at a time only.
4. Put it out
It’s vital you don’t leave the fire unattended, even if for just a minute. Make sure there is at least one person watching it, and that your fire extinguishing tools are nearby. Even a small change in wind direction could potentially bring the flames closer to branches, and cause a wildfire.
Once the evening is over and you want to call it a night, remember to put out the fire before going to bed. Start by sprinkling water on the flames. Pouring water may flood the fire ring and render it unusable for other campers.
As you sprinkle water, stir the remaining logs with a longer stick to make sure they all get wet. When the steam will clear, you’re pretty much done!
It’s Always Safety First
For whatever reason you’re starting a fire, the golden rule is to put safety first. These tips, while they can help you start a lovely campfire you and your friends can enjoy, also ensure the entire process is safe for everyone involved.
Keep them close by the next time you’re headed for an outdoor adventure.