If there’s one great thing man has done, it has to be learning to create a fire, and harness then learning to harness it for the progression of humanity. Fire has been responsible for providing light in the dark, warmth in the cold, and for allowing us to experience the great pleasure of a cooked meal. Although you probably make most of your meals on an electric stove or grab something in the drive thru on the way home, it’s still important to know how to build a campfire. You never know when you’ll be stuck in a situation where this small tidbit of information is your only chance for survival.
We all know how quickly a small fire can turn into a great flame, so before you start your fire make sure that it has a safe place to be contained. If you aren’t camping in an area that has a bed set up already, you’ll have to build one on your own. Take a look at the overall location of your campsite and decide which spot has the least amount of debris around it. Your bed should be placed away from trees, low-hanging branches, and heavily vegetated areas with lots of shrubbery. You may have put in some extra work in order to make this happen; digging a hole is a great way to keep a fire contained, and quickly put it out if needed. Always place a firebed on top of dirt, and never dry or dead grass.
This is the most essential part of building a fire! Safety should always be your number one priority when building one, carefully planning your fire bed ensures that you don’t become responsible for a raging wildfire. The ground should always be fresh dirt, either in a small hole or a mound, never in a field or grassy area.
The first thing you’ll need is some kind of tinder, so if you did end up having to move some dead twigs, dried leaves, or dry grass, use them to get the fire going. If you want to be extra prepared, bring some of your used dryer sheets in case there’s been rain in the area recently.
Moisture and fires generally don’t mix well, so make sure you have some type of backup material.
Once you’ve got your tinder burning, you need to put it somewhere to keep it going, this is what your firewood is for. You don’t have to be a lumberjack with extreme log chopping abilities just for some wood. Find large sticks and branches that can be broken in half, and collect extra for when your fire needs to be fed. Whatever the amount you’re predicting you’ll need, consider doubling or tripling it depending on how long you’ll need to keep it going.
Any wood that is still green on the inside should be avoided, so don’t break branches off of live trees. Stick to the ones that have already broken and fallen to the ground, these are far more likely to burn for long periods of time. Keep in mind that you can use wood that’s somewhat damp, but wet and fresh wood generally don’t work.
You’ve probably heard the well-known slogan by Smokey the Bear, “Only you can prevent forest fires!” Well, this originated August 9th, 1944 in an effort to raise international awareness on the severity of the damage that these fires produce. During May of 1950, an actual bear cub was rescued from a forest fire in New Mexico; he became the face of the ad campaign that has lasted for over 60 years.
Preventing forest fires really is up to you, so take the necessary steps to putting it out safely. If you’re planning to go to bed or leave your campsite at a specific time, start putting your fire out about 30 minutes prior. Obviously you’ll need water as well, and the best thing to do would be to use the kind of watering canteen you would for your garden. Or, gently splash water over the fire, just don’t try to dump all of it out at once.
As you pour water over it, use a long stick to gently push the charred material around and mix the moisture in with it. Once you think it’s out, place your hand over the char without touching it; if you can still feel warmth, continue to douse the fire bed until it’s completely cool.
Just fill up your hole or evenly disperse the dirt you collected, and you can be on your way!