Camp Fires – The Art of Making Fire

This article is about how to make a safe enjoyable campfire. What are the right tools to use and how to use them? What is the right wood to burn and where to get it? It covers the  dangers and things to look out for. How to trouble shoot problems and solve them.

Tools – The best campfire woodcutter is a saw, (bow saw is best) collapsible ones for backpackers, canoers and bikers. Second, a firm fixed or folding lock blade knife to make shavings if necessary. Use gloves for safety in case that the saw blade skips the track or grove. Axes and hatchets are very labor intensive, you can cut three times more wood with a saw than you can chop. Axes are very dangerous, but are useful for splitting small logs but be careful, as this is where a lot of accidents occur. Think, where is the axe going to be after you swing or the log has splits. The safest way to split wood while camping is to place the axe blade on top of the piece your going to split and hit the top part the flat head part of the axe with another log about baseball bat size. Tap your blade in at first then hit it harder until it splits.

Safety first, you should have water close by and a shovel. Chose your location carefully, clear all flammable material to a save distance, 5-6 feet from the outside of where you will make a fire ring. Check the ground; do not build a fire on very mulchy ground as fire can travel 20-30 feet under ground and resurface up to a day or two later. Build a fire ring on level ground with rocks, dirt, or sand, even wet wood. Plan your fire ring so that the inside of the ring is 4-6 inches from the outside of your fire. Keep fires small or petite no larger than 18 inches. The bigger the fire the more wood you will need, remember this is suppose to be fun not labor intensive.

Never build a fire in strong windy conditions. Know what the forest fire level is, and act accordingly. Never leave a campfire unattended. Always put out your fire before going to sleep or leaving your campsite. Douse with water and shovel dirt over fire then more water till no smoke. If a thunderstorm is approaching, put your fire out as quickly as possible or shield it. The wind of a storm will blow hot embers as much as 100 feet, 2 to 5 feet off the ground. Think – What is down wind, woods, a dry field, your tent, or your neighbors tent – this is not going to be good.

Do NOT CUT GREEN limbs off of GREEN TREES as this is defacing the campsite and or the forest. They will not burn.

Gather or bring fire-making materials, dry twigs small, med and large. Then sticks like small sticks (3/4 -1″) to larger sizes. Finally, wood from small (1 1/2″) to med size (2 – 4″). Remember: Green or live wood and wet wood will not burn well and just make a lot of smoke at best. Your best wood is dead wood on the ground or bring your own. Do not be afraid to look up in the trees as there is some dead wood up there. Deadwood in trees is usually dryer after a rain. If no kindling is available, split down your firewood to smaller pieces with your hand axe or hatchet. Use caution, as this is where most camping accidents happen, think about what you are doing and the possible results of your actions before hand. Like, where is that axe going after the wood splits or if you miss hit? Even if your 99 percent accurate that 1 percent may end your outdoor adventure and start a whole new one in the emergency room. You can shave down some of them with a knife for quick start shavings or twigs. Having some dry paper or small pieces of cardboard are helpful.

There are two ways to set your fire.

First is Teepee style. Put your paper or shavings down first making sure you have an air hole in which to light your fire. Then start building your teepee with small twigs then larger ones and finally small sticks. Light your fire from the down wind side, it will burn to the wind without blowing out. After it has caught and your sticks are burning nicely start placing larger sticks to your teepee then smaller firewood. As coals to develop add your larger wood.

The second way is the pyre method. Do your paper and shaving the same

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