How To Start A Fire For Survival
Surviving in the wilderness can test your survival skills to the limit. Knowing how to start a fire under any conditions can mean the difference between life and death. Since it is winter in the northern hemisphere this is a good time to cover how to start a fire for survival.
Fire is useful for warmth when it’s cold, cooking food to help you with your intake of calories, and it can ward off predators. Fire is also helpful for boiling drinking water to render it safe if you have to drink from natural sources. A fire is also useful as a signal if you are lost in the wilderness. The uses for a fire in a survival situation are so many that you would be well advised to learn and practice how to start a fire as the first skill to master for survival.
There is a thing called the fire triangle used to assess the risk for fire. It also tells you what you need to successfully build a fire and keep it burning in the wilderness. For fire to exist you need fuel, heat and an oxidizer. For our purposes, the oxygen in the air will be the oxidizer. Now we need to add fuel and a heat source to ignite the fuel.
- Fuel- Fuel for the fire is any combustible material- material that will burn. Dry grass, leaves, and wood are all usually abundant in the wilderness. These materials can be supplemented with dry material you carry with you in your pack.
- Heat- You need a heat source to ignite the fire. This can be a lighter from your pack, a magnesium fire starter or you can even build a bow with some extra string and literally use two sticks and a rock to start a fire.
- Oxygen- The oxygen in the air will be our oxidizer. You want to build the fire so that air can circulate freely around the burning fuel you use. If you pack the fuel too tightly air will not be able to assist in the burning of the fuel, and your fire will go out.
Building Your Fire
Now that you know what you need for a fire, let’s cover how to successfully build a fire in the wild. Knowing what you need to consider and how to start a fire is essential to being successful and surviving. The first thing you want to do is select the location for your fire. Building your fire close to your shelter is important for both warmth and convenience. You want to be able to take advantage of the warmth of the fire by having it close enough to your shelter to radiate warmth to you during the cold night. You want to build your shelter in a place that also takes into account the fact you will be using your fire for signaling if you are lost and hoping for rescue.
To begin with you want some dry tinder. The finer and drier the tinder the easier it will catch fire. Fluff your tinder to help it start burning. You can carry some paper or other material in a waterproof container in your pack in case of emergency. Otherwise, find some dry grass or leaves, or use a knife to whittle off some thin slivers of wood from a branch. You want the tinder to be dry so it will catch fire easily. Smaller pieces of tinder are easier to start burning.
Have some small dry sticks and trigs already broken up to begin adding to the tinder once you get it burning. Don’t add too many and smother your newly started fire. Place the kindling lightly on top of the burning tinder. The kindling should catch fire quickly and your fire is nor slowly getting larger.
Once your kindling has begun burning well you can start adding larger sticks and branches to the fire. Place them in alternating directions to maintain spaces for air to circulate and keep the fire burning. Remember, your fire needs to draw in air to keep burning. Your fire now should be able to be maintained simply by adding more fuel as needed.
Once you have your initial fire it is easy to restart the fire when you wake up. There should still be hot coals remaining from the fire. Simply add tinder and blow the hot coals. Then you can start to rebuild your fire as you were able to do previously.
A Fire Starting Kit
Your pack should include fire starting items when you trek into the wilderness. The kit should include items such as a lighter, a candle, waterproof matches, and some tinder. You can also purchase a fire starter that is a block of magnesium and a flint striker inexpensively. You can have this as a backup should your lighter not work for some reason. You can shave off the magnesium from the block then use your knife to strike the flint to create sparks. The sparks will ignite the magnesium and it burns at 4,000 degrees F. This is hot enough to ignite even wet kindling. You can also purchase magnesium that you can place in a fire and ignite with a lighter. It comes in bags and these are also inexpensive.
Knowing how to start a fire for survival is the number one thing to know if you are lost and have to survive while in the wilderness. Practice these survival skills at home so you feel confident if you ever need to use them. Being placed unexpectedly in an outdoor survival situation can be stressful. Being confident in your survival skills can relieve some of the stress of realizing you are in a survival situation. Having the knowledge that you know how to build a fire to make yourself comfortable and cook warm food can help you keep a clear head in that situation.