How to Build a Better Fire

Some of our best memories involve family and friends huddled around a fire for warmth. They’re great for keeping warm of course, but you can also cook on them which can be a lot of fun when done right.

Who doesn’t love to roast marshmallows over an open fire? When I was a kid my parents used to let my sister and I roast hotdogs on the campfire as well under close supervision.

As far as we were concerned they were the best hotdogs we’d ever tasted. I also remember making popcorn over a fire as well which would probably seem alien to kids these days.

The point is we all have fond life memories that focus around a fire both outdoors and indoors.

We lost our dog to illness a few years back, but the kids used to love snuggling with the dog in front of the fireplace and every time we decide to fire up the living room fireplace it brings back good memories of that wonderful little fury friend that meant so much to us.

I could keep going, but I think these types of stories are quite common in most families and there will likely always be a place for the fire at the center of our life stories.

Considering how central fires are to our lives it’s surprising how few people actually know how to start a fire properly and safely.

There are methods you can use both indoors and outdoors that will have your fire blazing away in not time and without having to risk burning the house down in the process.

We’re going to explain the best ways to start a fire indoors and outdoors and we’ll also touch upon how to do it safely. There’s always an element of risk when building a fire, but as long as you’re prepared the risk is minimal.

Fire Safety

While bonding with the family around a fire can be a great experience you have to take proper safety precautions if you want to avoid injuries.

The average temperature of an open fire is between 1000 and 2000 degrees Fahrenheit and that kind of heat can cause a lot of damage in a short period of time. A fire is simply not something you want to take chances on. Safety has to be your primary concern every single time you light a fire.

There are three main things you need to keep in mind to ensure that you enjoy your fire safely.  First you need to make sure your fire is contained properly. If you’re building an outdoor fire this means making sure your containment wall is fully enclosed and high enough to be effective.

In the case of an indoor fire you need to have a good screen that allows the heat to escape while preventing large embers from escaping and causing injury or damage.

You should also make sure you have an available water source nearby.  Even when you take proper precautions accidents can happen and if you have water on hand you can quickly put the fire out to minimize the damage.

You should also make sure you use water do completely douse the fire when it’s time for bed. It’s never a good practise to allow a fire to run its course when unattended.

Many forest fires have been started because of this exact scenario. Winds can quickly change direction and it only takes a single spark to get things going.

Never start a fire on a windy day and make sure when you do have a fire it’s in a clear and open space away from low hanging branches that can easily catch fire.

In the event that you or someone you love does come in direct contact with the flames from a fire you need to have a good first aid kit on hand to provide treatment as soon as possible.

I know from experience how painful a burn injury can be, but if you act quickly you can reduce the potential for injury.

Things You Need to Build a Fire Outside

While an indoor fire is nice on those cold winter nights, nothing quite compares to an outdoor fire. There’s something about the smell of the smoke combined with the fresh open air that gives the fire a life of it’s own.

We’ve already touched upon some of the things you need to build an outdoor fire including a contained fire pit, an open area on bare earth far away from grasses and overhanging branches, and the appropriate safety precautions you need to take. That’s a great start, but there are a few more things you need to do.

Before you can get you’re fire going you need to have the materials required. Start by gathering some tinder such as dry leaves, grass, bark, and perhaps even some small wood shavings the main thing is to make sure your tinder is nice and dry or it won’t light in the first place.

The next step is to gather some kindling in the form of twigs and small branches. Once you light the tinder you’ll need this kindling to coax your fire into life.

Once you have the fire going you can start to add nice size logs into the mix and then you can kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. So what do you use to light the fire? While the old fashioned way we mentioned above does work there are better methods available these days and we take a closer look at these below.

How to Use a Fire Starter

Believe it or not there are many different fire starters available to you. In most cases a match or a lighter is the simplest method, but what happens if your matches get wet or your lighter runs out of fuel?

It’s always a good idea to have a good back up in survival situations and that doesn’t mean you have to rub two sticks together. One method is the fire piston. This works the same way the pistons in your car work.

As you push the piston quickly into a tube containing a char cloth the cloth ignites. As long as you remove the cloth quickly enough you can use it to light your tinder.

If you want to get really innovative you may want to try a magnifying glass. I’m sure there are a couple of people reading this article right now that have tried to start a fire with a magnifying glass.

The glass acts as a focal point for the suns energy and will quickly heat up the tinder below it. The big problem with this method is that you need a bright sunny day for it to work. It may be something to consider if no other methods are available, but it should never be your first choice.

How to Use a Magnesium Firestarter

One of the most popular fire starting methods for survivalists is the magnesium Firestarter. There are three basic features of a magnesium fire starter: a blade or striking tool, a magnesium block, and a piece of flint.

In modern kits the flint is actually attached to the block. Magnesium is a combustible material and striking metal against a piece of flint creates a spark that can start a fire. The key is to use something that can turn that spark into a flame and that’s where the magnesium comes in.

The first thing you need to do is prepare your tinder and have your kindling close buy. You then use your striking tool to scrape some of the magnesium off the block onto the tinder.

Once you feel you have a healthy amount of magnesium covering the tinder you then have to strike the flint over top of it with your striking tool which will create a spark and ignite the magnesium.

It can be quite an effective method for starting a fire with a little bit of practise. You may someone who’s an experienced outdoorsman that makes this look easy, but believe me it’s anything but at first.

How to Start a Fire in a Fireplace

Starting a fire in a fireplace is a whole different ballgame to making one outdoors. If anything you have to be even more safety conscious to ensure the fire is absolutely contained in the fireplace. Your carpets don’t tend to be very forgiving if they’re struck with a spark from the fireplace.

Normally you start a fire in a fireplace with some of same techniques we’ve already discussed above. Unless you want to practise your survival skills it’s best to use a lighter or matches to start things off by lighting your kindling and newspaper. Once you have enough heat from this initial phase you can throw your first log on the fire.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves though as there are a few things you need to take care of before you light your kindling.

First off you need to make sure your damper is open or you’ll end up pushing smoke into your house making it difficult to breathe and you’ll also create a mess. You also need to make sure your chimney is clear of any blockages or you may run into the same type of problems.

Finally, you need to make sure your chimney flue is warmed up before you start the fire. If you don’t do this the cold air coming down your chimney can blow smoke back into the house as well. Once you’ve followed these steps you’re finally ready to start that fire.

Final Thoughts

We all love a nice warm fire on a cold night and as long as you follow the steps in this article you’ll become a fire starting expert in no time.

With a little practise you’ll get better and you can impress your family and friends. We all know one of those friends that always seems to be the go to fire starter and there’s no reason that can’t be you!