How to Make a Fire Without Matches or a Lighter

How to Make a Fire Without Matches or a LighterAlong with food and water, fire is the lost hiker's essential ally. Fire provides warmth and comfort, and can make food edible and water potable. Smoke from a fire can serve as a signal to rescuers. Knowing how to make a survival fire can mean the difference between life and death. While there are devices available for starting a fire, such as matches or a lighter, these may not always be available.


Difficulty: Moderate

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Tinder, kindling and logs
  • 10 to 12 inch long stick
  • 15 to 20 inch piece of wood
  • Knife (or sharp rock)
Step 1
Find a spot that is out of the wind and where there is ample fuel, such as dry tinder and logs. Building a fire beside a large boulder is ideal. The boulder reflects back heat and can serve as a windbreak.
Step 2
Clear leaves, grass and any other brush from the spot you have selected for your fire. Scrape the topsoil from the area. The soil beneath will be moister and will help prevent the spread of any fire.
Step 3
Collect tinder, kindling and logs. Examples of tinder include birch bark, fine wood shavings, straw and dead grass. Kindling includes small twigs and strips of wood. Find the driest pieces.
Step 4
Arrange bits of tinder and kindling into a small tee pee. Keep other pieces of both materials nearby in order to feed the fire as necessary.
Step 5
Locate a thick, sturdy stick about 10 to 12 inches in length. This stick will serve as the shaft portion of what is called a "fire plow." The fire plow method of fire starting relies on friction between a shaft and base.
Step 6
Choose a second piece of wood to serve as the base portion of your fire plow. The wood base will be about 15 to 20 inches long, or about the length of your forearm. Look for a thick or wide piece of wood, which will give your shaft a larger platform on which to work.
Step 7
Use a sharp rock or knife, if you have you one, and cut a deep groove down the center of the base. The groove will serve as a track for your shaft.
Step 8
Kneel on the ground close to the tinder and kindling tee pee. Place one end of the base on the ground and the other end on your thigh.
Step 9
Use the shaft to plow up and down along the track in the center of the base. Continue rubbing vigorously in this manner. The friction will ignite small particles of wood near the bottom of the base.
Step 10
Place some pieces of tinder against the burning particles, and immediately transfer the lighted tinder beneath the tee pee. Blow lightly onto the burning tinder. Add more tinder and kindling to the tee pee as flames increase.
Step 11
Place dry logs carefully on top of the flames to increase the fire. Begin with smaller logs so as not to smother the flames.

Tips & Warnings

Be extra cautious when using fire in wooded areas. When departing, be sure your fire is no longer burning. Cover the fire entirely with moist dirt.

Article Written By Matthew Ferguson

Matthew Ferguson is a writer living in Savannah, Ga. He has been writing for over 10 years and his work has appeared on various online publications. A collection of his short stories was published in spring 2010. He is a graduate of Appalachian State University.

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