What you need to build a fire:


  • A safe place for your fire. If you are indoors using a fireplace, make sure the flue is open, or you will be in for a smoky surprise. If you're outdoors, make sure you are not under a tree or near bushes or dry grass.


  • Matches or lighters. Stock up! They are cheap and last practically forever. I’ve tried flint and magnesium. Easier said than done. I have heard that if you don't have matches, you can fluff up some steel wool and touch it to both terminals of a 9-volt battery to get a fire. Of course, it’s more likely that you have matches than steel wool.


  • Tinder. The tiny dry stuff that catches fire from the match. Paper is the easiest and most plentiful fire-starter. Small dry sticks or twigs can also be used. Or small pieces of cardboard. Other choices are dryer lint (fill an empty toilet paper roll), steel wool, Vaseline on cotton or use a pencil sharpener to shave branches into tinder. Magazine and junk mail ink sometimes have chemicals in it that could be poisonous if burned on a fire that is cooking food. Keep that in mind. I learned on a field trip with my kids that newspaper is made with nontoxic ink.


  • Kindling. Small pieces of wood. Twigs, small branches, bigger pieces of cardboard. These will burn easily to get your fire going. Make sure this is dry.


  • A Hatchet to cut up wood into firewood, unless you already have wood. BE CAREFUL! A fire is not worth losing a foot.


  • Wood.  Firewood size is best, 1-2 feet long, several inches in diameter. Make sure it is dry. When you have a hot fire, you can put wet logs near the fire to dry out. You can never have too much wood. Painted or treated wood when burned may make toxic smoke. Keep that in mind, especially if you are cooking on the fire.


  • Water. As Smokey the Bear would say, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”


  • Practice. Firebuilding is a skill that takes some practice. But oh what an enjoying skill to practice. What's better than getting together with friends around a fire, chatting and cooking hot dogs and marshmallows?



Building an Outdoor Campfire


  1. First, be safe. Make sure your fire pit is not close to trees, bushes, grass or anything that burns. Try to put it in a non-windy area. You don’t want the wind to blow it out or spread the fire to the nearby brush.

  2. Build a small fire pit. To protect the wood from falling apart into the area where you're sitting, dig a small hole and surround it with rocks.

  3. Put some tinder in the center of your fire pit. Remember, tinder is the small, easy to burn stuff. See above for ideas of what to use.

  4. Stack your kindling on top of the tinder in a "teepee" structure. Leave an opening on the side you're going to light.

  5. Light your tinder in several different places. You may need to add a bit more tinder or gently blow on it to make it catch.

  6. Then as the kindling starts to burn, add your larger firewood. Some people build larger teepees with their firewood over the small one with their bigger logs, while others like to build a square structure around their small teepee. Square fires let out more heat. Teepee fires are easier to make bigger.

  7. Add more kindling or wood as needed. Once you have a good fire, you will just need to add firewood to keep it going.

  8. Grab the chairs and the hot dog sticks and you are ready for dinner.



Building an Indoor Fire


  1. First, check the flue! A house full of smoke is miserable.

  2. If the fireplace is full of ashes, remove them. They can smother your fire.

  3. I am assuming your fireplace has the typical fire grate in it. Place the tinder under the grate. Tinder is the small, easy to burn stuff like newspaper. See above for more ideas.

  4. Stack some of your kindling on top of the tinder. Make sure you leave enough room in there for oxygen to circulate, as your fire will need it to burn. You don’t have to build a teepee like an outdoor fire because you have the fire grate.

  5. Light your fire in a few different spots to get it burning quickly. You can add a bit more kindling once it starts to create a nice coal bed.

  6. Once you've got a small fire going, you can start adding your bigger wood on top of the grate. Start with small wood and work your way up to logs. Stack some lengthwise and some diagonally. Remember: you want to leave enough room for oxygen to flow so everything catches fire easily.

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