A Reliable Fire
Posted on May 06 2016
Fire has a primal nature for humans; it creates a sense of home and lifts the spirits. Fire means warmth, food, light and stability as well of course as rescue.
I will show you a reliable means to make a fire even on the wet ground which is just as suitable in your home fireplace as it is in the deep wilderness, there numerous ways to light a fire and many theories on how to do it the correct way. My general method is tried and tested, although if you’ve made positive developments and want to share, that’s grand! Now let’s get started.
Firstly, we only light a fire if it is safe to do so, and only if you are certain that you have the skills and resources to extinguish it fully. You must verify with the landowner that you’ve permission to do so, and if you do, look for a piece of clear level ground with nothing overhead or nearby which could catch fire. Next, clear the ground to exposed earth, so that you can be sure there are no roots that will get damaged or possibly spread the fire. A good rule for newcomers desiring a small fire (no bigger than 30cm in diameter) for a cup of tea is a ground clearing of 1 metre with all flammables cleared within 3 metres of the fire.
Once we have cleared the floor we need first to find tinder. Tinder is any fine flammable substance that will catch light from the dimmest of sparks. There are several varieties of tinder, both natural and man-made. Cherry bark, dry grass, finely shredded birch bark, feather stems of wood, baked spruce needles as well as some man created tinders such as vapor-rub, cotton wool soaked in hand sanitizer or nail polish remover and of course trusty fire lighters.
Look also for your fuel before lighting the fire (otherwise, we will be running about trying to find it). After tinder we need thin matchstick twigs, I like to use handfuls of things around 20cm in length and only a few of millimetres thick. The next size of fuel should be thick pencil twigs, followed by our main fuel, thick sticks. All fuel needs to be as dry as possible (collect dry standing dead wood or things caught up in the branches of trees) try to avoid sticks on the floor as these will hold a lot of moisture.
Next, we need to isolate the ground and stop moisture being drawn up in the beginning stages of the fire and extinguish it.
For this fire, we need the direction of the wind to be coming from behind us taking the smoke away in front of us and driving the flames through the fuel. On top of the bark raft, I place two handfuls of the thinnest twigs one on top of another in an “A” shape. I then lay the thick pencil twigs in the same pattern so that a small void is created at the base of the fire lay where we will place the tinder. Next, the thicker fuel is laid in the same way. Be mindful of leaving air spaces between the fuel this will help the fire spread rather than becoming choked.
It’s time to light the fire. Whether you are igniting with a match, lighter, lens, or a flint and steel, The process of fire lay is the same. Fluff up the tinder and make sure it is as dry as possible we're only going to want to put the tinder in position when we want to start the fire.
In this instance, I’m starting this fire with a Fire Steel. This fire lighter works by stripping off hot sparks onto the finely fluffed up tinder which catches the spark and creates a flame. A few hard scrapes of the Fire Steel and we have combustion!
Let the flame grow in the tinder. If your fire was sound and your preparation was sufficient, you should see a strong little fire which is easy enough to manage and extremely useful!
When you’ve finished, please make sure you douse the fire with enough water that you can safely pick up all the wet ashes leaving no mark of your fire on the ground.