Wilderness Survival: How to Build a Fire

Wilderness Survival: How to Build a FireFire can save your life in a survival situation, but if you are not prepared it will be difficult to get the fire started. A fire can be started from scratch, but you should always carry a fire starting tool. Waterproof matches, lighters, fire starting squares or magnesium fire starters are all helpful for starting a survival fire. The materials used to start the fire should be dry, and the fire structure requires airflow. The survival fire can be used for warmth, water purification, cooking and light, as well as signaling for help.


Difficulty: Moderate

Preparing the Space

Things You’ll Need:
  • Tinder
  • Knife
  • Kindling
  • Fuel wood
  • Sock lint
  • Fire starting tool
Step 1
Dig a small fire pit using your hands, a rock or a stick. Dig the pit away from flammable ground materials but in a location that is within a few feet of natural shelter or the shelter you have built. Line the edge of the pit with rocks to contain the fire.
Step 2
Gather tinder by scouring dry areas of the ground. Tinder should be fine, dry material that will easily ignite. Use a knife to shred the tinder into fine particles. Clump the tinder into a fist-sized ball and put it into your pocket.
Step 3
Gather kindling by looking in wooded and shrub-rich areas. Kindling should be small-diameter, dry sticks and shrubs that will ignite easily. Extra small kindling will be used for the initial fire starting process, and larger diameters will be used to create heat once the fire is stable.
Step 4
Gather fuel by again looking in wooded and shrub-rich areas. Fuel includes larger dry material, such as logs and dead tree branches. Gather as much fuel as you can without moving far from your fire pit. Gather living branches if you plan on using a signal fire.

Igniting the Fire

Step 1
Stack the smallest diameter kindling into a pyramid shape. Stuff a small amount of tinder into the center of the kindling. Add lint from your socks to the remaining tinder, and use the fire starter to ignite the tinder. Place the tinder under the pyramid structure and blow softly until the pyramid ignites.
Step 2
Slowly add kindling, beginning with the smallest diameter sticks and gradually working toward the larger sticks. Monitor the fire constantly or you risk losing the flame.
Step 3
Add kindling to the fire until a layer of red coals is visible in the fire pit. Add larger fuel to gain heat and continue burning the fire. If the larger fuel does not ignite immediately, continue to place kindling on the fire.

Tips & Warnings

Starting a fire is extremely difficult with wet materials. Use the driest materials possible, and always start with a small fire before adding larger fuel.
Fire is dangerous and should be avoided in dry areas where wildfires are a risk. Contain the fire by digging a deep pit and lining the pit with extra rocks. Avoid building a fire in a windy zone to contain sparks.

Article Written By Zach Lazzari

Zach Lazzari is an outdoor writing specialist. He has experience in website writing as well as standard newspaper writing. He wrote an outdoor column for the Silver World in Lake City, Colo., and articles for Colorado-mountain-adventure.com. Lazzari is currently completing his bachelor's degree online through Arizona State University and lives in southwest Montana.

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