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How to Build a Campfire

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Before You Start

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The very first thing you should do before building your campfire is to make sure that campfires are allowed in the current conditions. Camp Rangers and those in authority are much more knowledgeable about the area and any potential fire hazards.

Get Organized

To begin building a fire, gather the materials and organize them first, before ever striking the first match. Also make sure to have a bucket of water, shovel, and a fire extinguisher nearby and ready to put out the fire if it should get out of hand.

Stack your firewood upwind and about five feet away from where you plan to build your fire. Use dry wood, not green or freshly cut. It won't burn well.

Types of Wood You'll Need

There are three different types of wood needed for a successful fire:

  • Tinder – small twigs, wood shavings, dry leaves or grass, dry needles, bark or dryer lint. These materials start to burn immediately with a lighted match.

  • Kindling – small sticks, 1 inch around or less

  • Fuel – larger wood that keeps the fire going

Get Ready

Clear the area of excess debris such as pine needles, dried grasses or leaves. Make sure there are no overhanging branches. Splash water around the area – but not in the planned fire pit or on your wood, kindling or tinder.

What Your Campfire Has To Have

There are several elements required for a fire to burn properly, when one of these three things are removed, the fire stops burning.

  • Fuel
  • Heat
  • Air
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Start the Fire

Create a fire ring by placing rocks in a large circle. Start with a couple handfuls of fine tinder loosely piled in the center of your fire ring. (It’s best not to use leaves, since they float into the air very easily.) With your back to the wind and match protected by the cup of your hand, ignite the tinder with the match. Discard the used match into the fire.

Slowly add more tinder. You may need to blow softly at the base of the fire to get it going. Once the tinder has fully started to burn, slowly add the smaller pieces of kindling. Keep them close together, but allow space for air.

Gradually increase the size of the kindling as you add it to the fire. When you have a good fire going, add the fuel one piece at a time.

Type of fires

  • Tepee fire – good for quick cooking since the heat is concentrated in one spot. Lay the fuel over your kindling like a tepee.

  • Crisscross fire – good for a long lasting fire with lots of coals. Perfect for a campfire. Lay the fuel over the kindling in a crisscross pattern.

As the fire subsides, you will have a fine bed of red hot coals. This is the perfect time to really get some serious cooking done. But you need to get started building a campfire early because it takes a while to get to this stage.

Camp Fire Safety

  • NEVER build a fire near tents or flammable items.

  • NEVER use flammable fluids to start a fire.

  • NEVER leave a fire unattended.

  • Only build a fire as big as you need.

  • When done, completely extinguish the fire.

  • Scatter the ashes and/or embers outward.

  • Pour water over the fire pit. Stir with a stick. Repeat.

  • Drench charred logs.

  • Repeat until everything is cold.

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