Starting the fire is the pinnacle of outdoor survival skills. it is an activity that not only requires knowledge, but largely relies on the ability. The ability to start a fire starts with practice, and grows with every successful attempt. in this post, we will start with the basic building blocks of fire: fuel, oxygen, and heat.
Let’s take a deeper look in the each of these categories and see how we can best build the perfect fire.
- Tinder–The really fine small stuff.
Tinder when teamed with heat will create a nice spark or even flame. Tinder can be a lot of things, but one characteristic that tinder will always possess is fine fiber. It is a fine fiber and ample surface area the lets tinder easily accept the heat that is needed to result in sparks or flames. Some great examples of tinder include dry barks, dried grapevine, cotton, sawdust, and basically anything that is fine, dry, and able to catch a spark.
- Kindling-The twigs and small sticks.
Kindling should be thought of as nothing more than the next step. It needs to be small, and you need to have plenty of it. It’s size should allow the flame to easily engulf it and turn it into the starts of your coal bed. Once a flame burns down a small twig there will not be much coal remaining, and that is why it is important to have plenty of kindling that gradually increase in size. As the flames continue to grow, so can the size of kindling. However, don’t place too much on at once. Too much wood on any fire can crush it and stop the flow of oxygen through the fire (which we will see why that is bad in the next section).
- Fuel-The Big stuff that keeps the fire going for hours.
The Fuel for fires can vary greatly in size. The important thing to remember with fuel is to have dry, none rotted wood. Also, do not burn pressure treated wood, posion ivy, or any other item that you know could kill you – this is just not a smart practice any day of the week! Once you have a great coal bed, just about any size piece of dry wood will work as fuel. If you are planning to constantly tend your fire, you can even take long logs and place them one the fire. The result will be the log can be burnt in half and doubled over into the fire, or you can continue to push the ends in until the whole long log is consumed. Once your fire is started, you will want to make sure that you are constantly replenishing your fuel so that you can stay, warm, dry, and have a great place to cook your food!
Oxygen itself does not actually burn in a fire. In truth oxygen is an agent in a chemical reaction and is needed for the fuel to burn when heat is applied. Most fires are nothing more than Hydrogen and Carbon Atoms rejoining with Oxygen to make more stable substances of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Water (H20). Most burnable substances are made of Hydrogen and Carbon, the air around us contains Oxygen. Without the Oxygen, there would be no reaction and in turn no fire, and that is why Oxygen is so important for fires.
A simple way to describe heat is as an energy that can be transferred from one body to another. Using this simple definition it is easy to see the importance of heat in starting a fire, and the progression of Fuel needed to keep the fire going and growing. The source of a fires heat has to either be very powerful and applied to a large object (think 20 blowtorches soaking a log with flames for 20 minute) or needs to easily producable and applied to a small item that will allow the energy to be easily transferred (think of a match flame and a cotton ball).
The first scenario of heat transfer would be the easiest (and coolest), but also the hardest to reproduce. The second option, it the easiest to produce, especially in situations where your options are limited for sources of heat.
The important thing to remember with Heat in a fire is that if you start with a small source of heat, then it will need to pass that energy to a willing recipient (tinder), which will then need to transfer to another willing recipient (kindling) and this transfer will continue until one of the components is taken away.
Remember to be safe with fire, especially since we are surrounded with Fuel and Oxygen just about every where we go. So use your heat wisely!