How to Build a Fire


You can build a fire fairly easily with the right materials and tools. Gather tinder, kindling, and fuel wood to start and maintain a warming fire. To keep things safe, remember to always build your fire at least 6 feet (1.8 m) away from your tent or shelter as well as low hanging trees. Take the time to put out your fire properly once you are done enjoying it.

Part 1
Gathering What You Need

Gathering What You Need on How to Build a Fire

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Pre-cut firewood is the ideal option for making a fire at home, and it is also a wise bet for starting a fire outdoors. Having ready-to-use firewood will spare you the time, effort, and uncertainty of searching for usable firewood in the woods. Pre-cut wood logs can be purchased at hardware stores, or from merchants near campsites.[1] If you are visiting a nationalpark and campground, find outbeforehand if they prohibit theuse of outside firewood and selltheir own pre-cut logs on site,or if they forbid the gatheringof firewood on their land.If you are visiting a national parkand campground, find out beforehand ifthey prohibit the use of outsidefirewood and sell their own pre-cutlogs on site, or if they forbid thegathering of firewood on their land.If you are visiting a national park andcampground, find out beforehand if theyprohibit the use of outside firewood andsell their own pre-cut logs on site, or ifthey forbid the gathering of firewood ontheir land.If you are visiting a national park and campground, find out beforehandif they prohibit the use of outside firewood and sell their own pre-cutlogs on site, or if they forbid the gathering of firewood on their land.If you are visiting a national park and campground, find out beforehand ifthey prohibit the use of outside firewood and sell their own pre-cut logs onsite, or if they forbid the gathering of firewood on their land.

Gathering What You Need on How to Build a Fire

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Manufactured logs combine sawdust and paraffin wax for an easy-to-light, clean-burning fire. These logs have the benefit of lighting without any starting material and leaving little mess, but they do not create the same heat as a regular, wood-burning fire would.[2] To make an easy fire when you are not in need of warmth, purchase manufactured logs at hardware stores.

Gathering What You Need on How to Build a Fire

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Tinder is easy-to-light materials that help to start your fire. Find small, dry items such as grass, leaves, shredded tree bark or newspaper are ideal choices. In a pinch, tortilla chips make great tinder if you are willing to spare the snack.[3] Tip: Some stores sell pre-madetinder. you can also make yourown tinder ahead of time.Tip: Some stores sell pre-made tinder.you can also make your own tinderahead of time.Tip: Some stores sell pre-made tinder. youcan also make your own tinder ahead of time.Tip: Some stores sell pre-made tinder. you can also make your own tinderahead of time.Tip: Some stores sell pre-made tinder. you can also make your own tinder aheadof time.

Gathering What You Need on How to Build a Fire

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Kindling is material that burns easily when it comes in contact with lit tinder, but is difficult to light its own. Look for small sticks, twigs, and large pieces of bark. Make sure that the items are completely dry.[4] Cut large pieces of wood with an axe or knife to create kindling.

Gathering What You Need on How to Build a Fire

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Fuel wood should consist of logs that will burn for an extended time and keep your fire alive. Look for dry, brittle wood in a range of different sizes to top off your fire as needed as it burns. Different types of wood burn differently, so keep in mind that:[5] Hardwood, like oak and maple, will take longer to start burning but burn for a long time. Softwood, like pine and cedar, burns fast and crack and pops while burning due to resins.

Part 2
Creating a Fire Structure

Creating a Fire Structure on How to Build a Fire

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Choose a spot that is at least 6 feet (1.8 m) away from trees, bushes, and low hanging branches. Clear the area of dry leaves, twigs, or other items that could ignite and cause the fire to spread. Make sure the fire spot is on dry ground, or build a bed of rocks.[6] Build a circle of large rocks measuring about 3 feet (0.91 m) or 4 feet (1.2 m) in diameter to mark where you are building the fire. Never build a fire anywhere within 6 feet (1.8 m) of your shelter or tent if you are sleeping outdoors.

Creating a Fire Structure on How to Build a Fire

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Place the tinder material at the center of your fire bed. Next, place kindling on top of it in a crisscross patter. Repeat the pattern with the fuelwood.[7] Tip: Be sure to leave gapsbetween the burnable materialswhen you stack them to allow forairflow so that oxygen can feedyour fire.Tip: Be sure to leave gaps between theburnable materials when you stack themto allow for airflow so that oxygencan feed your fire.Tip: Be sure to leave gaps between theburnable materials when you stack them toallow for airflow so that oxygen can feedyour fire.Tip: Be sure to leave gaps between the burnable materials when you stackthem to allow for airflow so that oxygen can feed your fire.Tip: Be sure to leave gaps between the burnable materials when you stack themto allow for airflow so that oxygen can feed your fire.

Creating a Fire Structure on How to Build a Fire

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Bunch your tinder material into a ball that is approximately 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. Stack pieces of kindling together in a teepee-like shape around the tinder, with an opening on one side. Lean pieces of fuelwood against each other to form a frame around the tinder and kindling, leaving a gap in the same spot that you did for the kindling.[8] Note: This is an alternative tobuilding a cross fire structure.Don't do both!Note: This is an alternative tobuilding a cross fire structure. Don'tdo both!Note: This is an alternative to building across fire structure. Don't do both!Note: This is an alternative to building a cross fire structure. Don'tdo both!Note: This is an alternative to building a cross fire structure. Don't doboth!

Creating a Fire Structure on How to Build a Fire

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Place tinder material in the middle of your fire site, then build a tinder "teepee" around the tinder material. Place two pieces of fuel wood on either side of the teepee, then lay two more pieces across them, perpendicularly.[9] Repeat the pattern 2 to 3 times to build a "log cabin." Again, this is an alternative to a cross fire or teepee structure.

Part 3
Lighting the Fire

Lighting the Fire on How to Build a Fire

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The simplest way to light your fire is by using simple fire starters like matches or a lighter. Carefully light matches or strike your lighter and hold the flame to piece of tinder until it starts to burn. [10] Gently blow on the lit tinder to help build the fire. For the best results, light the tinder from several sides to ensure that it burns properly.

Lighting the Fire on How to Build a Fire

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Flint and steel sets are an excellent, lasting, and weather-proof alternative to lighters and matches. Hold the steel and flint close to the tinder pile at the center of your fire bed. Strike the steel against the flint several times to send sparks towards the tinder until it ignites.[11] Flint and steel sets are available at hardware stores, sports stores, wilderness supply stores, or online.

Lighting the Fire on How to Build a Fire

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Dig a groove into a flat piece of softwood with a pocket knife or another sharp tool. Using a stick or small branch, plough up and down the groove to create friction and heat. After a few minutes, the heat will intensify and ignite the wood particles created by the ploughing motion.[12] Other sharp tools that you can use instead of pocket knives include pens, metal skewers, and nails.

Part 4
Extinguishing a Fire Safely

Extinguishing a Fire Safely on How to Build a Fire

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It take a while to fully extinguish a fire and it is dangerous to abandon it before you do. Plan when you want your fire to be out to give yourself enough time to achieve this.[13] Tip: If you have to leave yourfire site at a certain time, setan alarm on your phone for 20minutes prior to remind you.Tip: If you have to leave your firesite at a certain time, set an alarmon your phone for 20 minutes prior toremind you.Tip: If you have to leave your fire site ata certain time, set an alarm on your phonefor 20 minutes prior to remind you.Tip: If you have to leave your fire site at a certain time, set an alarmon your phone for 20 minutes prior to remind you.Tip: If you have to leave your fire site at a certain time, set an alarm onyour phone for 20 minutes prior to remind you.

Extinguishing a Fire Safely on How to Build a Fire

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Tilt a bucket of water over the fire and distribute drops and small splashes of water onto the embers. Do this gently and gradually. A watering can, large water bottle, or other vessel will also serve to distribute water slowly over your fire site.[14] Avoid dousing your fire withwater, which will ruin the firesite if you want to use it in thenear future.Avoid dousing your fire with water,which will ruin the fire site if youwant to use it in the near future.Avoid dousing your fire with water, whichwill ruin the fire site if you want to useit in the near future.Avoid dousing your fire with water, which will ruin the fire site if youwant to use it in the near future.Avoid dousing your fire with water, which will ruin the fire site if you wantto use it in the near future.

Extinguishing a Fire Safely on How to Build a Fire

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Make sure that all the embers in your fireplace get wet by turning them over as you sprinkle water on them. Use a stick or metal shovel to stir them. Be thorough and continue stirring until the fire is extinguished completely.[15]

Extinguishing a Fire Safely on How to Build a Fire

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Place your hand near the base of your fire site to make sure it feels cool. If you do not feel any heat emerging from the ground, it is likely to be fully extinguished. Also check for signs of steam and listen for any hissing noises, which are signs of remaining burning embers.[16] If you do not see evidence of these things, it is safe to leave your fire site. If you see evidence of any of these things, repeat the above steps to extinguish the fire. If you don't plan on using the fire site again, dump water over it.