Having a fire in the wilderness will greatly increase your chances of survival. Fire provides warmth from the elements, smoke to help signal rescuers, deters insects, a way to sterilize water and surgical tools if needed, a way to cook, light for your campsite or for igniting torches, keeping animals at bay, drying wet clothing, and keeping your spirits up!
Location – When it comes time to build a fire, location is critical. Start by surveying the land to find an area that is flat, dry, and somewhat wind protected. You also want to insure that it is located in close proximity to your source of timber, water, and your survival shelter.
Preparing for Fire – it’s very important to have the fuel for your fire already collected and some other forms of setup completed before you try to produce fire. You want to ensure that all your hard work will pay off and the last thing you want to do is produce a flame but not have anything setup to burn. Preparing for producing a fire really consists of collecting timber, preparing a fire bundle, and assembling your primary fire setup. When collecting timber, try to gather three different categories. The first is Tinder which is very small and thin items that can be easily ignited by flame such as dead grass, bird nests, old pine needles, feathers, cotton, dried moss, or dried leaves. Regardless of which types of tinder you collect, the main requirement is that it is bone dry. The second type is Kindling which is small to medium sized sticks or twigs that could be ignited by the Tinder. This also needs to be extremely dry as well and usually works best if it’s broken up in lots of smaller pieces ranging anywhere from 1 to 5 inches. The third type is often referred to as Fuel which is large logs, large branches, or large sticks that can burn for longer periods of time and will make up about 75% of your initial firewood collection. If you find larger items that are still wet, try placing them in a circle around the fire once it gets started to help dry them out rotating sides every one to two hours. Try to collect as much wood as possible so that your fire can last through the night. A simple rule of thumb here is collect what you anticipate to use for the fire and then double or triple it. People that do not use wooden fires frequently often underestimate how much firewood is actually used.
Fire Pit – to build a fire pit, dig out the soil about 5 to 8 inches deep in about a 3 foot circle. If large rocks are available then line the outside of the fire pit to prevent any hot coals from escaping. If rocks are not available you can also use leafy greens to line the perimeter which are hard to ignite but will still prevent hot coals from being blown by the wind. Don’t use river rocks which may have the tendency to explode or crack when placed next to a fire. The last thing you want to do is start a forest fire, so take proper precautions to avoid accidents. It’s also a good rule of thumb to try and strip vegetation back about 2 to 3 feet around the perimeter of the pit to reduce the chances of secondary fires.