Every great fire has four requirements: wood, tinder, kindling and a firestarter. The logs you buy from vendors like Lumberjacks are a great start, but they’re not enough. If you want to build a fire outside, you’ll have to build a pit, and remembering to extinguish the fire will be doubly important. Here are a couple items to keep in mind as you clear a workspace and gather materials.
Prepare Your Firepit
You can always make a fire at a public camping site’s designated fire area. Not only are these areas the safest places to start fires, but many of them already have firepits. If a nearby campsite is unavailable, making your own pit isn’t a big deal.
Pick a spot far from trees and bushes, clearing all plant matter and grass. As the driest plant matter is the most flammable, make sure it’s distant enough to avoid contact with the fire. Your firepit should be a mound of dirt that’s about three inches thick.
How to Build a Campfire
After building your firepit, you can start gathering materials. Most likely, you’ve already brought your firewood and firestarter. A firestarter is nothing more than a tool that starts a fire, whether it’s a match, lighter, or flamethrower, but we hope you won’t use that last one. Anything small and highly combustible is tinder, including pine needles and dry leaves. Tinder is distinct from kindling, small pieces of wood that burn long enough to make firewood catch. Once you’re ready to arrange what you’ve gathered, a few effective techniques are as follows.
Novice builders might find this triangular structure intuitive. Arranging wood into a teepee shape is a popular technique among scouts across the U.S. Not only is the building process straightforward, but it’s effective enough to yield a strong fire.
Place your tinder in the center of the firepit. Next, arrange your kindling into a “teepee.” If you’re a real survivalist, make a windward opening in the teepee. This is a great way to fan the flames. Reinforce this teepee with as much kindling as possible before building an external teepee out of your firewood.
When construction is complete, remember to light the tinder (unless you brought your flamethrower). The tinder catches easily and ignites the kindling, then the kindling makes the flame big enough to burn the firewood. You’re done until you have to leave! Sit with your back to the wind.
Building a wooden lean-to isn’t much more complex than building a teepee. Again, you’ll spread tinder across the floor, while kindling and firewood will inform the rest of the structure. Your firewood will form the wall, and your kindling will form the ceiling.
Position a large log along the edge of the pit and place tinder in the center. Lay long pieces of kindling over the tinder and against the log. Place any extra kindling among the tinder or parallel to the log. Once you light the tinder, the fire will work its way up through the kindling to the firewood. As the fire grows, you can add other logs to the roof of kindling.
Since using multiple logs is optional, this is a great way to limit firewood usage. Both lean-tos and teepees are especially good for cooking. Whether you want to make a rustic stew or crisp up some marshmallows, these two techniques are your best bet.
Log Cabin Fires
Arranging logs into a “log cabin” creates the longest and hottest fires. An illustration of a fire might show a giant blazing flame above a pile of disorganized sticks and debris, but campfires don’t behave this way. While it may not seem intuitive, arranging wood into a log cabin is most effective for generating the most durable fires.
As with the teepee, lay a uniform bed of tinder and build a miniature teepee from kindling. Stack your firewood around the kindling in a way that many compare to Lincoln Logs. Put two logs on the ground. Lay another two on those two, and so on until you have a nice burn. Make sure you use the biggest logs for the foundation. While this type of fire can blacken marshmallows, it’s better for comfort and longevity than anything else, especially in comparison to its ephemeral cousins.
How to Stay Safe
You needn’t be a rocket scientist to discern the dangers of fire, especially unattended fire. A campfire is like a dog: It can be great, but you have to care for it properly. Here are a few ways to keep yourself from becoming an accidental arsonist.
- Double-check that the fire is as far from flammable debris as possible.
- Have a bucket of water with you before you light the fire.
- Extinguish the fire before leaving the area.
- If you’re building a fire on a windy day, make sure that the wind isn’t blowing the fire into flammable materials or your friends.
These rules aren’t difficult to observe. You need only remember to follow them.
Distinguishing Campfires from Bonfires
The key difference between campfires and bonfires is size. Small groups of people use campfires for heat, light and cooking, while larger groups might build a bonfire for a celebration. Celebrants construct these burning behemoths in open areas, like beaches or meadows. As bonfires are potentially more dangerous, you may need a permit before building one.
Now that you’ve read about how to build a fire outside, you’ll find that making one inside is a lot easier. The wind works neither for you nor against you, but you need to exercise more caution inside your own home. While you may not need to build a workspace, you’ll have to maintain one. Keep your chimney clear and scoop up the ash when fires burn out.
How to Build a Fire in a Fireplace
A great way to build a fire in a fireplace is to make one “upside-down:” Criss-cross logs upon the grate. Be sure to use only the best wood for an optimal experience! Place kindling on top of the “log cabin,” and spread tinder all over the kindling. When you’re ready to start the fire, light the tinder.
How to Build a Fire in a Wood Stove
A wood stove fire owes its simplicity to the stove’s small size. Lay a uniform bed of tinder. Lay a uniform bed of kindling on the tinder. Lay your logs on the kindling. Whenever you buy firewood for a wood stove, make sure it’s small enough to fit. Light the tinder, and you’re all done. Just give it a minute.
Extinguishing Your Fire
Don’t wait until the end of the event to put out the fire. Leave up to 20 minutes of breathing room because you can’t abandon your fire until the ash is cold. Don’t immediately pour your entire bucket of water over the fire, as this will flood the pit and preclude future use. Splash the fire with water conservatively until the fire’s gone. Stir the ashes as you pour water over them to guarantee that everything gets wet.
If light has left the ashes, touch them carefully. Rest the back of your hand against them to see how hot they are. If they present the slightest suggestion of heat, they’re too hot for you to leave. If they’re nice and cool, disperse them around the campsite. Finally, replace the dirt you used for the bed. You’re all done! You can go to bed and rest easily knowing you’ve taken good care of your fire.
Getting Out There Yourself
We hope this article gives you the confidence to brave the elements. Whether you want to use firewood from vendors like Lumberjacks or search for some yourself, you have a few options for building strong, durable fires. Just remember to follow best practices for fire safety as you enjoy the outdoors.
If you’d like to get started with building great fires, please contact us at 815-337-1451. We can deliver your order, or you can pick it up from either of our locations.