Stack the different gradients of burning material in a pyramid structure with the finest at the bottom and the coarser material at the top. Generally for tinder I use old newspapers, cardboard, dried leaves, and small twigs. Above this I use coarser material such as small branches. Above this I place large branches or logs. I generally use wooden matches. When you strike the match it is important to hold the match for a couple seconds to allow the wood of the match to begin to burn and also protect it from the wind. Make sure the area around the fire is clear of combustible debris, such as leaves. Let the fire burn down to hot coals before you place food on it for cooking or food wrapped in aluminum foil into the coals for cooking. Also wet wood does not burn easily, so if you are using firewood, keep it dry such as by covering it with a waterproof canvas tarp. If I burn a large brush pile, I generally contact the local fire department to inform them that I am burning a brush pile. I also stand guard over the fire with a flat shovel while the flames are active. Don’t burn in windy conditions or when fire hazard warnings are in place.
Fireman Bob’s comments reminded me of the time when my beekeeper husband set his (metal) smoker on the ground while he tended hives and the smoker’s heat rapidly started a fire on the dry grass. Fires can spread quickly and unpredictably so we always need to watch and be prepared!
Don’t forget that birch bark is excellent tinder, even when wet.
Excellent tips, Firemam Bob. Building a fire when there isn’t a need not only wastes the fuel and supplies you may need in the future when a fire will be crucial, but can cause huge amounts of damage and put homes, families, and firefighters at risk if it gets out of control.
In anything but a survival situation, be sure the conditions warrant building a fire. Humidity, wind recent or absent rain and overall conditions can easily take your nicely controlled fire out of control before your eyes. Also, have all your safety materials – water, shovel etc. In place first. Likewise, have all you firebuilding materials in place before you need them. Silly to work on getting the tinder to flame up when you have no kindling or fuel nearby.
Great suggestions. Are there any other camp fire safety tips you’d like to share with us?
First thing to gather should be a bucket of water and a shovel. If you’re successful, you want to be able to keep your fire under control. When you’re done, put the fire out cold – literally cold. Warm embers can easily turn to flame when night time breezes come through – I’ve seen this firsthand several times. You don’t want to start a forest fire or burn your own house down.
Use LARGE straws…cut into 2" lengths…stuff w/cotton or lint, mixed w/petroleum jelly. Heat seal both ends of 2" straw…Less mess & more fire starters. Place in zip lock bag, for carry.
Water Proof Matches…Make yer own. Use, white tipped kitchen matches…dip in melted paraphine…let dry…place in water proof container, for future use. Great Article.