Most of us have matches and maybe a lighter on our list of emergency supplies, but how many of us would have to scramble for everything else (you know, wood?) if we needed to get a fire going? Here are some things you may not have on that list to help you gather fire making supplies. Tinder –Lots of different things can be used for tinder, and some are easier (and cleaner) to store than others. My personal favorite is dryer lint—I keep a jar in my laundry room and fill it regularly, then transfer it to a plastic ziplock for emergency packs. Discounting what you could Replace in the wild, here are some other easy tinder materials you could collect and store for your fire making supplies: wood shavings or sawdust, cotton fabric or cotton balls, frayed natural (jute) twine, char cloth, paper (Kleenex, toilet paper, newspaper, paper towel), or steel wool. Fire starters – You can’t go wrong with a supply of waterproof matches, like UCO Stormproof. Watch the video below to see UCO Stormproof matches in action. Some survivalists recommend keeping matches in a few different places (emergency pack, car, coat pocket), just in case. A less disposable idea might be getting a more durable fire starter and storing it with your fire making supplies. They won’t last indefinitely, but they’re good for anywhere from a hundred to a couple thousand sparks, depending on the material, and they store a little more conveniently than matches. Another way to get your fire started is using a gel fuel like Utility Flame. Simply squeeze the gel onto your tinder then light using a match or lighter. The gel will heat up and begin to burn your tinder, starting your flame. The gel burns for fifteen minutes, giving you enough time to collect kindling and fuel to keep the fire going. Utility Flame comes in handy little packets that are perfect for backpacks and emergency kits. Fuel – For those of us who grew up without gas fireplaces (what do you mean, ‘switch it on’?), woodpiles were a part of life. They’re a rarer feature these days, but could be a lifesaver in an emergency. Whether you buy it by the cord or cut down your own tree branches and logs, there are important considerations regarding storage. Primarily, you want to keep firewood covered, but not enclosed; good ventilation is key to “seasoning,” or properly drying the wood. Alternatively, if you need to get and keep a fire burning somewhere away from your immaculately stacked woodpile, a firestarter like Fired Up! can save time and space. For fuel in bulk, Fired Up! comes in 12 oz. cans , 2.5 lb. cans, or 13 lb. buckets, and can store for 30+ years. First aid – So, maybe you got that fire burning just a little too hot. Don’t forget burn treatment along with all your other fire making supplies. BurnFree’s comprehensive line of burn treatment products includes everything from a fire blanket to treat full-body burns, to single dose packets of pain relief gel. Burnfree is specifically developed for first aid use on burns and scalds. By storing Burnfree in your camping or emergency supplies, you can begin to care for burns properly before it creates any devastating effects to your body. Burnfree allows you to treat burns in a variety of situations and of various degrees. Any other fire-related storage must-haves? What’s in your supply?
Stack the different gradients of burning material in a pyramid structure with the finest at the bottom and the coarser material at the top. Generally for tinder I use old newspapers, cardboard, dried leaves, and small twigs. Above this I use coarser material such as small branches. Above this I place large branches or logs. I generally use wooden matches. When you strike the match it is important to hold the match for a couple seconds to allow the wood of the match to begin to burn and also protect it from the wind. Make sure the area around the fire is clear of combustible debris, such as leaves. Let the fire burn down to hot coals before you place food on it for cooking or food wrapped in aluminum foil into the coals for cooking. Also wet wood does not burn easily, so if you are using firewood, keep it dry such as by covering it with a waterproof canvas tarp. If I burn a large brush pile, I generally contact the local fire department to inform them that I am burning a brush pile. I also stand guard over the fire with a flat shovel while the flames are active. Don’t burn in windy conditions or when fire hazard warnings are in place.
Fireman Bob’s comments reminded me of the time when my beekeeper husband set his (metal) smoker on the ground while he tended hives and the smoker’s heat rapidly started a fire on the dry grass. Fires can spread quickly and unpredictably so we always need to watch and be prepared!
Don’t forget that birch bark is excellent tinder, even when wet.
Excellent tips, Firemam Bob. Building a fire when there isn’t a need not only wastes the fuel and supplies you may need in the future when a fire will be crucial, but can cause huge amounts of damage and put homes, families, and firefighters at risk if it gets out of control.
In anything but a survival situation, be sure the conditions warrant building a fire. Humidity, wind recent or absent rain and overall conditions can easily take your nicely controlled fire out of control before your eyes. Also, have all your safety materials – water, shovel etc. In place first. Likewise, have all you firebuilding materials in place before you need them. Silly to work on getting the tinder to flame up when you have no kindling or fuel nearby.
Great suggestions. Are there any other camp fire safety tips you’d like to share with us?
First thing to gather should be a bucket of water and a shovel. If you’re successful, you want to be able to keep your fire under control. When you’re done, put the fire out cold – literally cold. Warm embers can easily turn to flame when night time breezes come through – I’ve seen this firsthand several times. You don’t want to start a forest fire or burn your own house down.
Use LARGE straws…cut into 2" lengths…stuff w/cotton or lint, mixed w/petroleum jelly. Heat seal both ends of 2" straw…Less mess & more fire starters. Place in zip lock bag, for carry.
Water Proof Matches…Make yer own. Use, white tipped kitchen matches…dip in melted paraphine…let dry…place in water proof container, for future use. Great Article.