How To Build A Survival Fire
If you ever find yourself in a survival situation, especially in cold or wet weather, few things will be as important to your survival as the ability to make fire. Hypothermia can set in when your body temperature drops by as little as two degrees, and it goes without saying that fire could be what stands between you and freezing to death. Almost as important, a positive attitude is essential to being able to survive and make it home to your family, and a nice warm fire can be the difference between hope and despair. But knowing how to build a fire, especially if you have no matches or lighter, can be difficult at best. If you’ve never spent any time building these all-important skills, mastering them in moments of stress will be almost impossible.
So we’ll explore the basics of how to build a fire in survival situations. Once you’ve got the head knowledge, it’s imperative that you put that knowledge to work in a practical way. You have to practice, practice, practice, until the different ways of building a survival fire become a part of your muscle memory. Only then can you be sure that when it really matters, you’ll be able to call your skills to mind. You can’t save yourself, or anyone else, if your knowledge never makes it off the page.
Where To Build A Survival Fire: Location, location, location
As they say in real estate, it’s all about the location. The same holds true for choosing a place to build your fire. There are several things to consider:
1. Where will your shelter be placed? If you’ve not already erected a shelter, choosing a location for your fire should be made in conjunction with a choice about shelter placement. If possible, choose an area below the canopy of a covering tree where limbs are over 10 feet high.
2. What direction is the wind coming from? This also applies to your shelter location. Selecting a fire site that is out of the wind will help in building the fire, maintaining the fire, staying out of the smoke, and controlling the fire, as well.
3. What are the ground conditions? On wet ground your fire will struggle, if you ever get it started at all. In wet areas, or snow, you may have to build up a base for your fire to sit on. Choose rocks or green bows to build something out of the wet to build a fire on.
4. Identify and protect against wildfire danger: Clear the area of debris and build a Survival Skills containment area. Fist size stones make a good fire ring, a trench or pit can also be used, anything to help ensure that your survival blaze doesn’t become the spark that sets the world on fire.
Fuel To Start Your Survival Fire: Identifying Usable Material
You can’t have a fire without fuel. Best case scenario you’re in a wooded area full of dead, dry wood just waiting to be gathered up and turned into a roaring blaze. Standing dead timber makes the best firewood. If you aren’t so lucky, remember that any items can be used to feed a fire. Dry dung will burn, if you can find it. Grasses, bundled and tied into knots, will burn longer than if it’s loosely piled. Whatever you can find, get as much as you think you’ll need, gathered to the place you’ve chosen for your fire, and then double it. Nobody ever gathers enough firewood.
Finding Dry Tinder: this can be a challenge in wet conditions. Tinder is the fine materials used to catch a spark, and the most basic part of any fire. If you were building a fire at home, in a fireplace, wadded newspaper would be your tinder. But in the wild, you’ll have to carry in, find, or make tinder. A small pile of fire starting material is called a tinder nest. Knowing where to look for tinder can be the difference between getting a spark to catch, and going cold through the night. If you can, locate a fallen tree or limb. Even after days of rain, the underside of the tree can hide dry materials. If there isn’t dry grass, twigs or leaves, take your knife and scrape up into the log, on the downward facing side, to create a bed of spongy dead wood. As long as you’re using your knife, you can shave off the outer wet layer of a good sized stick, to reveal the drier wood underneath.
Making Tinder: Your clothing can also provide you with some usable tinder. Scrape the sharp blade of your knife along a flannel shirt, cotton t-shirt, or blue jeans to create a small pile of made-to-order lint. Use your knife to whittle a stick into a pile of shavings. The outside may be wet, but the wood inside will be much dryer. Cat tails and tree moss, if you can find them dry, also make great tinder for starting your fire. Cat tails go up fast, though, so have your other materials ready before you light it.
Bringing Your Own Tinder: To avoid having to hunt tinder in poor conditions, you could carry some on you. A good wilderness pack should always contain a fire starting kit that would include tinder, among other things. There are several great commercial fire starter kits that would be very handy to have on hand in a survival situation. In addition to your fire starter kit, here are several types of tinder that would be easy to find around the house and put in the bottom of your pack, to always have with you.