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Chapter 7 - Page 1



In many survival situations, the ability to start a fire can make the difference between living and dying. Fire can fulfill many needs. It can provide warmth and comfort. It not only cooks and preserves food, it also provides warmth in the form of heated food that saves calories our body normally uses to produce body heat. You can use fire to purify water, sterilize bandages, signal for rescue, and provide protection from animals. It can be a psychological boost by providing peace of mind and companionship. You can also use fire to produce tools and weapons.
Fire can cause problems, as well. The enemy can detect the smoke and light it produces. It can cause forest fires or destroy essential equipment. Fire can also cause burns carbon monoxide poisoning when used in shelters.
Remember weigh your need for fire against your need to avoid enemy detection.


To build a fire, it helps to understand the basic principles of a fire. Fuel (in a nongaseous state) does not burn directly. When you apply heat to a fuel, it produces a gas. This gas, combined with oxygen in the air, burns.

Understanding the concept of the fire triangle is very important in correctly constructing and maintaining a fire. The three sides of the triangle represent air, heat, and fuel. If you remove any of these, the fire will go out. The correct ratio of these components is very important for a fire to burn at its greatest capability. The only way to learn this ratio is to practice.


You will have to decide what site and arrangement to use. Before building a fire consider —

Look for a dry spot that —

Tinder Kindling Fuel
  • Birch bark
  • Shredded inner bark from cedar, chestnut, red elm trees
  • Fine wood shavings
  • Dead grass, ferns, moss, fungi
  • Straw
  • Sawdust
  • Very fine pitchwood scrapings
  • Dead evergreen needles
  • Punk (the completely rotted portions of dead logs or trees)
  • Evergreen tree knots
  • Bird down (fine feathers)
  • Down seed heads (milkweed, dry cattails, bulrush, or thistle)
  • Fine, dried vegetable fibers
  • Spongy threads of dead puffball
  • Dead palm leaves
  • Skin like membrane lining bamboo
  • Lint from pocket and seams
  • Charred cloth
  • Waxed paper
  • Outer bamboo shavings
  • Gunpowder
  • Cotton
  • Lint
  • Small twigs
  • Small strips of wood
  • Split wood
  • Heavy cardboard
  • Pieces of wood removed from the inside of larger pieces
  • Wood that has been doused with highly flammable materials, such as gasoline, oil, or wax
  • Dry, standing wood and dry, dead branches
  • Dry inside (heart) of fallen tree trunks and large branches
  • Green wood that is finely split
  • Dry grasses twisted into bunches
  • Peat dry enough to burn (this may be found at the top of undercut banks)
  • Dried animal dung
  • Animal fats
  • Coal, oil shale, or oil lying on the surface
Figure 7-4 Materials for building fires
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Updated: 12 January 2008
Born on October 1999