I woke up this morning to the unmistakable chill of fall nipping at my buns as I peeled myself outta bed. Time to build the first fire of the season. At the yoga conference I attended this weekend, I sat in splendid pure nature and watched some douche light up a chemical gel packet to start the campfire. WEAK SAUCE. One of the many pearls of wisdom we all learned from Troop Beverly Hills is that any good Scout can start a fire without stooping to chemical enhancement.
Here’s h0w I like to catch a fire…
What you must know right from the start is that fire needs to be wooed, romanced, and coaxed into ignition. My good friend Lisa and I lived in the mountains together many moons ago. I would get home from work and she’d be shivering on the sofa under a blanket. She would meekly point to the struggling embers, evidence of her best effort, and say “I’m cold.” Fire-making is an art that requires patience and respect for the process. Feed it too little and it will starve. Feed it too much and it will collapse under its own weight.
First gather your materials. I like shredded paper – why not get rid of it this way? Just keep the glossies out; they release toxic chemicals when burned. Kindling is key. You need a lot of little dry sticks, scrap wood, and dry pine cones. Think small and plentiful when it comes to kindling. You need to build up the heat of the fire before you throw on a big log. Get your logs arranged from small to big and into soft and hard woods. The hard woods will take longer to ignite, but burn longer. Save them until the fire is really hot.
Make a loose pile of paper or shreddings; make sure air can permeate the stack. If you use newspaper, wad it up into tight balls and place them close together in the center of the fireplace. Find your smallest and driest kindling pieces and gently arrange them in a tee-pee shape around the paper creating a cone.
Place the larger pieces of wood to the far outside edge of the inside of the fireplace. These aren’t for burning now, but by lining the edge of the fireplace the wood gets warm and ready to burn when it is time to add it to the fire.
Light the paper with long matches, a lighter, or aim & flame. Get out of the way. Don’t burn yourself. Wear fire safe gloves to be safe. Watch the fire. Coax the fire. Woo the fire. Tend the fire.
Gradually add larger pieces of kindling until a roaring flame erupts. Allow the fire to breathe. If you are creating your flame magic in a wood burning stove, close the door and let the heat build. If you are in a fireplace, don’t over-poke the fire. You constant pokers know who you are.
When the fire is ready for more, usually one of the edges of those larger pieces begins to catch. Use your fireplace tools – pokers here is your moment – to shift the larger logs to the center of the fire. No plopping and one at a time! Adding too much too fast can douse your fire faster than a hose.
Remember fireplaces and campfires shouldn’t be left unattended. If you light the fire you make sure the fire is responsibly extinguished. Don’t be burning the forest down bitches.
Now go forth and impress with your fire making. Mercilessly mock those who require starter logs and chemical accelerators. When the zombie apocalypse happens, thanks to this post and Bear Grylls, you’ll be ready.