Fire basics; tinder, kindling, fuel and ways to lay Your fire.
The ability of making fire is important. It can even save your life.
If you can’t light a fire already, learn to do it.
A fire provides warmth on cold days and nights.
You can cook your food, purify water (if it’s needed), you can signal for help (signal fire), it can help you make tools and it acts as a moral boost.
I’m sure you know the feeling one gets just gazing into the fire at night.
Even the ash has it`s use. One could make Lye from it.
Tinder is any kind of material that takes a minimum of heat to catch fire. Fluffed bark of juniper, birch bark, shaved twigs, dry dung, dry grass or horse hoof fungus (for spark based fire) could be used for tinder.
I always have birch bark in my pockets when I`m in the woods. Collect it whenever you walk by a tree with loose bark.
Although I`ve never tried it I believe old wasps nest must be excellent tinder. It`s all paper.
Kindling is the wood used to raise the flames from the tinder so that ticker and less combustible wood can be burned.
The best kindling is small dry twigs, like the ones found on spruces, or dry roots, preferably of pine (Tyri) like the one on the picture right. The "tyri" or fatwood could also be lighted with a spark from a metal match if you shave off some small slivers from it.
If you don’t find dry small twigs you can make Feather sticks; shave sticks with shallow, long cuts to feather them (the twig gets long, thin curls).
Dry juniper is very hard and keeps dry, even in hard rain.
Excellent for making feathersticks from.
Below is a fire lighted with match and feather sticks.
No birch bark was available.
The curls are made from driftwood I collected at the beach.
Use wood from dry, dead upright trees to start with.
Once the fire is firmly burning you can use green wood or dry out damp wood.
Fresh pine and spruce is inferior firewoods. But they are fairly good when dry.
Don`t use dry spruce inside a flammable shelter though, as it throws a lot of sparks.
Dry pine is better, but it will leave a layer of soot inside your shelter.
Dry pine is an excellent booster.
Use dry pine to get the fire going and then use birch.
Birch is excellent fuel even when fresh or/and frozen.
When burning birch you get a nice hot bed of coals for cooking and frying.
Pine will just leave ash.
High in the Mountains it could be difficult to find fire Wood.
But scattered around you will find patches of willow, and these often have enough dry branches to make a fire or two.
Use the map to find these areas of low growing willow.
They are usually found around Creeks and small lakes.
Before you light a fire you need to find a suitable place for it.
Find a dry place out of the hardest wind with lots of fuel (wood) nearby, preferably a place near your shelter.
If the place has some sort of reflective wall it is great, if not you could make one.
Clear the fire site from debris in a circle with a diameter of at least one meter to prevent fire from spreading to the surroundings.
Forest fires are dangerous.
I have had no problem with this, but better safe than sorry.
Some people make a ring of stones around the fire and I often build a platform of stones for the fire, but this is not required.
In winter, try to dig down to bare earth before making a fire. If that’s impractical, lay the fire on a base of thick logs to prevent it from burning down trough the snow. A layer of live spruce/pine logs are excellent.
When camping on a popular spot use the fireplace witch already exist. Even though the fireplaces disappear (grow over) after some years a camping site with lots of old black fireplaces aren’t pretty.
TYPES OF FIRE
There are several types of fire; tipi, leen-to, log fire or pyramid. Find the one suited for your needs.
I usually begin with a tipi style fire.
First I lay down a ball of birch bark, then laying the kindling criss-cross over it, and when the fire is big enough I add the bigger sticks and logs.
When the fire gets going I stack all the fire wood the same way (picture right), preferably along the wind direction.
This fire will last long (if you use thick logs) and maintain itself.
This is also the way the sami lay their fire in their lavvus.
I usually light the fire after the kindling is in place as I mostly use matches to ignite fires. But if you use a metal match light the birch bark first and then lay the kindling over the flames.
Before lighting the fire make sure you have gathered enough kindling and fuel to keep it going for a while.
In winter all the fuel for the night must be collected during daylight.
Try splitting the logs before laying them on the fire.
They will burn better if you do.
You can split them with an axe or with your knife and a baton (any suitable size log).
If it’s raining and everything is wet (and you don’t have access to birch bark) you will find dry kindling and fuel by splitting thick logs.
The centre of the logs is mostly dry wood.
Another trick is to use piece of a inner tube from a bicycle tyre.
The rubber burns a long time and even i it`s wet.
Or you could light a candle and build your fire around it.
Make the signal fire before you need it. Stack up a big pile of juniper or spruce branches (they light easily and give of a lot of smoke) on a rack about half a meter from the ground. Use lots of birch bark and dry twigs to light it. That way it is quick and easy to light when you need it.