Prometheus was once punished by the gods for providing mankind with the knowledge of fire. Although I should know better than to anger the gods themselves, I will attempt to do the same and educate those who need a refresher on how to build different types of fires for the upcoming July Fourth weekend.
Before getting into the details of fire building, one should know that in order for a flame to survive and flourish, it needs three things: fuel, oxygen and heat. Oxygen is available everywhere as long as your fire has good air flow, and heat will come as the fire grows. What’s really important to prepare properly is the fuel. Good firewood needs to be dry, otherwise your fire won’t catch. You can collect your own from the outdoors — look for fallen trees — or purchase pre-cut wood from the store. Regardless of how you obtain your wood, you’ll need to separate everything into three categories: fuel wood, kindling and tinder. Fuel wood is going to be bigger and this is the type that you will need the most of. Use and small hand axe or hatchet to split wood into manageable pieces that will last longer. These pieces of wood will catch flame and burn after the initial fire has started with kindling and tinder. Small branches and wood chips can be used as kindling, while dry grass or bark makes great tinder. Again, it’s important to keep in mind that everything must be dry for the fire to thrive.
Every single fire is built the same way. Using a match or alternative fire source, light the tinder so that it starts to burn, then add kindling. That small fire is going to be what burns the fuel wood which can be set up in a number of different ways.
Perhaps the most common and most widely associated with camping, the tee-pee fire is easy to set up. Simply arrange the fuel wood in a cone fashion above the tinder and kindling combination, using smaller piece first. As the fire grows, add bigger pieces of fuel wood to the outside, creating a larger tee-pee.
The Log Cabin
As the name suggests, this configuration is going to resemble a log cabin. Lay down two parallel pieces of fuel wood around the tinder and kindling combination, and continue to stack on top and perpendicular with smaller pieces of wood as high as you need. This fire lasts a long time and is great for bonfires.
The Upside-down Fire
A lot like the log cabin fire, you’re going to be stacking fuel wood for this fire. The difference being that in this set-up, wood is laid down in solid layers rather than just two at a time. Once you a have a layered cube of fuel wood, start the tinder and kindling fire on top. As the fire burns downwards, you’ll end up with a bed of hot coals to cook on.
Always be careful and aware of the dangers of fire. Alaska has been suffering from terrible forest fires in the last few years and everyone needs to do their part in making sure fires are put out completely. Keep water nearby and douse the remaining fuel wood. Only you can prevent forest fires.