Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fire Building: Not As Easy As It Looks

When I was in the military I attended an aircrew survival course. I love to camp and the outdoors so this was a fun class for me. At one point we learned about building fires. I kept bugging the instructor about when we were going to learn about fires. There is something about fire that I truly love. Fire is such a versatile thing. It can give you light, warmth, cook for you, purify water, and just give general comfort. Starting fires is a skill that I would recommend. I’ve seen some people who think that starting and building a camp fire is easy. It can be easy, but without the skill you can waste a lot of matches, and go through a lot of butane. I believe in fire starting the easiest way possible but I also feel it’s important to know how to fashion a bow and drill and work it properly too.
Fire requires 3 things to actually be fire. Oxygen, spark or heat, and fuel. Oxygen is all around us (good thing too!). But in building a fire you must have the right amount of air. Too much (wind) and the fire can go out, too little and you smother the fire. Spark or heat can be made in a variety of ways.
Friction (Plough, bow and drill, or piston)
Flint and steel
A battery
Lenses (Water bottle, glasses, ice, camera lens, magnifying glass, reflection)
Reflection (Coke can bottom, mirror, CD, other shiny objects)
Fire building requires 3 types of wood or materials: Tinder, kindling, fuel.
Tinder can be many things. A small pile of scraped magnesium, cotton, twigs, paper, “firestarters”, steel wool, hand sanitizer, char cloth, anything that will hold a spark and give you flame.
Kindling can also be many things. But usually it is something that is thicker than kindling but will burn in a small flame.
Fuel is large logs or pallets or whatever you decide to feed the fire.
Anciently, if you were on the move you may take your fire with you. An ember bundle was a slow burning hot ember that could be transported and used to start a fire at your new camp.*
Fire building is not difficult to learn but it’s not always as easy as it looks.
Learn how to build a fire and then practice. Use different ways to start your practice fires when you don’t really need a fire and when it can be a somewhat controlled environment.
One of the ways I try to stay current is heating our home with a wood stove. We start fires a lot during the winter. I try to experiment with different kinds of tinder and different methods. A good way to practice is in your grill. Most people have some kind of grill so this is the perfect place to practice your fire building skills.
When using primitive fire making techniques a tinder bundle takes the steps from hot embers to flames. I use a tinder bundle even when I’m not using primitive techniques. A tinder bundle can help you start a fire in wet weather. If making a fire from primitive ways a tinder bundle is essential. Using fluffy and fibrous materials is one of the most important elements. Fuzz up the material so it will start easily. Work the tinder between your hands rolling it and shredding it. When I do this I like to do it over something to catch what falls. That way I can add all the residual material to the final “nest”. Make a bundle by tying your material into an overhand knot and tucking in the ends. The bundle should be about the size of a fist. Put in additional tinder making it a true nest to keep the ember or other material you will put in to start your fire.
After you build the fire lay, you can start your tinder bundle. Once it is going well you put the bundle in the lay. This is a pretty sure way to start a fire. There are many other techniques but I like this one.
Find your own way of starting fires. Practice often so you don’t lose the skill. Try it in rain or snow. Try it in wind. Practice until you feel very confident you can start a fire in a monsoon with two sticks.
Semper Paratus
Check 6
*Fire Tube – Find a nearby hardwood tree that has bark. The bark needs to be fresh and pliable enough to roll into a tube shape. Take a long sheet of the bark and place tinder down the middle of it. This would be any dry material, such as dry grass and twigs, which you would normally use as tinder while building a fire. Roll the bark length-wise and secure the fire tube by tying cord pieces (or anything similar) the length of the tube. When the tube is complete, take a few hot embers from your existing campfire and drop them into the end of the tube. As you are breaking camp and heading out, keep the open- end of the cone facing into the wind to allow the embers to have air. If for some reason the contents within the cone catch fire, simply stomp on the flame until extinguished.
Fire Bundle – This method is easily done if you have an empty metal can available to you. Punch several holes into the metal can along the sides. This allows the hot ember to get the oxygen required to keep it burning. Gather up tinder and a handful of wet grass and leaves. Place a few hot embers into the can and surround the embers first with the tinder and then surround the tinder with the damp foliage. The embers should smolder for quite some time allowing you to use it as you fire starter the next time you make camp.
Tree Fungus – If you are lucky enough to find some tree fungus, that’s the white discus looking stuff growing out of the bottom of a tree, they make outstanding fire carrying devices. Break one of the disks off the side of the tree. If you look inside the disk you will notice a spongy inner material. Hold a hot ember to this spongy material until a hot ember is created within the spongy insides. Once this is accomplished, loosely wrap the disk in moss. Make sure to check on the ember every now and then to make certain it is still hot. Give it a gentle blow to help nurse it along.