The ability to build a fire is paramount. No matter where you are, or no matter what your survival situation, you must be able to build a fire. You must consider fire to be the number two priority of life.
Five basic uses for a fire under survival conditions:
Warmth (warm your body, dry your clothes, cook your food, etc.)
Companionship (you are never really alone when you have a fire)
Signaling (ground to air and ground to ground)
Lighting (we are a light-oriented society)
Protection (it protects us against all those wild beasts that are not out there)
Choosing the right spot to light your fire:
Do not build a fire under a tree as it may catch fire.
Heat may also melt snow from the branches and make everything wet.
Avoid wet, porous rocks as they may explode when heated.
If the ground is dry, scrape down to bare dirt to avoid starting a grass or forest fire.
Build the fire against a rock or wall of logs which will reflect heat into your shelter.
Most fuels cannot be started burning directly from a match. You will need some easily inflammable tinder such as small twigs, wood shavings, bark, dead pine needles, dry leaves, grass or tissue paper to get the fire going.
Place the tinder in a low pyramid. Powder from a cartridge may help ignite the tinder. For fuel, gather dry standing dead wood or dried dung. The inside of dead tree trunks or large branches may be dry even if the outside is wet. Have all materials (tinder, kindling, and fuel) on hand before attempting to light your fire.
Your ability to build a fire improves if you prepare in advance. The individual who has given fire building some thought or has already had to start a fire under adverse conditions is usually better prepared to meet an emergency.
In addition to carrying a viable fuel supply (Butane lighter, metal match or wooden matches in a waterproof container) we recommend carrying tinder such as:
Cotton balls or 0000 Steel Wool
Carry in a suitable, water resistant container like plastic baggies
Fluff by pulling the strands apart gently
Will ignite readily from a spark
Steel wool burns brightly after ignition if you blow gently upon it
Sawdust saturated with paint thinner
May be carried in a plastic pill vial, or a handy container may be fashioned out of spent 12 and 16 gauge plastic shotgun hulls. Merely fill the 16-gauge hull with the saturated sawdust and cap it with the 12-gauge hull. Tape can be used to seal the joint.
This device will enable you to start many fires with a match or spark.
Although they may last longer than a year, we recommend replenishing the thinner and sawdust annually.
A candle may also aid as a fire starter and provide heat and light.
We strongly recommend experimentation with various methods and any starting materials before going into the field.
Other Useful Hints
Store kindling and fuel in as dry a place as possible.
Don’t waste matches by trying to start a poorly prepared fire base.
Build a small fire to conserve fuel and energy.
Stay away from waterproof, windproof matches. They are a safety match requiring a striker. If the striker gets wet (same as a paper matchbook) it may not work, and then all your matches are useless.
Always build your fire before it gets dark and be sure to gather 10 times the amount of fuel you think you will need.