Fires made for cooking need to focus on burning down the fuel to a hot bed of coals. One great way of getting a glowing bed of coals is to build the fire materials in the fire-pit in a conical, triangular shape. Take mid size twigs or sticks and arrange them so they look like a teepee in the center of the firepit. In the middle of the teepee shape, place larger, thicker pieces of wood. Use paper or brush to surround the bottom of the teepee twigs. Light up the paper and let the teepee twigs begin to burn. As they burn, heat ignites the larger wood in the interior. By the time the teepee twigs burn up, the larger wood has slow burned into a bed of coals prime for cooking.
If you are building a fire for the social and gathering point aspect of your camping area, build it in a rectangular shape. The idea behind building a rectangular shape fire is to stack the wood, Lincoln Lg style, so air and oxygen gets between the wood sources allowing for a consistent burn. With the shape of the fire, it is easy to continue to add new pieces of wood and fuel, keeping the fire burning evenly and making a rosy glow for everyone to sit around and enjoy. Keep a stack of extra wood and fuel about ten feet from the fire pit so you can reach over and add new pieces throughout the evening.
Before starting any type of fire pit campfire, look around the fire pit, or if building a fire pit, clear out all the green grass and brush in the fire pit area, for brush, dry twigs, pine needles or anything else that is incendiary and remove. Don't build the firepit under any overhanging tree branches, as errant sparks could ignite the tree, causing a forest fire. Find locations with no obstructions overhead. Keep the firepit away from tents or other materials that melt or could go up in flames. Don't use gasoline or liquid fire starters--the exception being starter fluid sold for the sole purpose for fire starting. Take advantage of the fire building process to educate children on the dangers of fire. Let them help put the firepit up and gather wood.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.