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Fire thoughts

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  • Fire thoughts

    I have some real expertise in fire. Not just spraying water on it like the local fire department, but actually in the chemical process of combustion, especially as it relates to different ecosystems in the natural environment.

    Fire has to have 3 primary things to exist, Heat, Fuel, Oxygen. There is a 4th that is a sustained chemical reaction, but that is more for theoretical debate than practical use in making fire.

    If you are having trouble getting fire, you should consider it on this level:

    Is there sufficient heat? (are you making a good spark? etc)
    Is your fuel correct? (dry tinder of a type of wood that burns easily)
    Is there sufficient oxygen? (This can be you blowing on the tinder, or can be a function of how big your sticks are, more about that later)

    So as I started to practice making primitive fire today, I thought of a couple things related to this topic that are usually not discussed often, if at all.

    Humidity and the Receptive fuel bed.

    Humidity is the measurement of the water content of the air. It can keep you from achieving fire when you are doing everything right, and help you get fire, even when you didn't mean to, even if you are doing everything wrong.

    So knowing how "wet" or "dry" the air is can help you decide whether to waste a bunch of time and effort striking sparks, or to wait. As a general rule, humidity goes up at night, and drops through the morning, hitting it's lowest point around 2pm. Of course weather fronts can change this, but it is a good guideline. So knowing that your best bet to start a fire will be the afternoon, it might be better to time your fire attempt for this time period.
    Also knowledge of local weather patterns can help you know if a thunderstorm might mean moist air for a week, or if it means that the clouds will burst, and shortly afterwards the air will dry out.

    I know experts can make fire even in the rain, but understanding how normal humidity patterns work can help you pick the best time to practice.

    A Receptive Fuel Bed
    is a technical term for that fire bundle that the survivalists show you to build. At it's simplest, it is making sure that the spark has something to touch that "wants" to burn. I think that often primitive fire fails not because of a lack of spark, but because of the spark not having anything easy to ignite. In general, smaller pieces of wood ignite easier than large. For example, you could hold a lighter against the side of a 2X4 for 5 minutes, and except for a scorch mark, you probably wouldn't get much results. And a 2X4 is probably kiln dried, so it isn't that the fuel is wet. It is just arranged in a way that is hard to ignite. But if you split that 2X4 into splinters and shavings, then the added surface area in addition to better air flow will allow it to catch easily. This is what I meant earlier when I mentioned Oxygen.
    And some fuels have a different chemical make-up than others. I would challenge anyone to pick oak leaves, let them air dry. Do the same with pine needles. Then try making fire with each of the two. The pine needles will almost always ignite more easily, simply because they are pine.

    This isn't just an idle thought either. There is a real science to how poorly or how well different trees and plants burn. There are people who study this, called Fire Behavior Analysts, or Geospatial Fire Analysts who use this information to predict the speed and intensity of wild fires. I have been fortunate enough to work with and for some of the guys who are pioneering this field.

    So I know this has been a long read, but I would encourage you to mull it over, and try to apply some of this to your primitive fire attempts, and see if it connects for you. The time to practice, make mistakes, and learn is when you are doing this for fun, not when you are actually in peril.
    "Oh, America. I wish I could tell you that this was still America, but I've come to realize that you can't have a country without people. And there are no people here. No, my friends. This is now the United States of Zombieland"

    "The constitution does not guarantee our safety, only our liberty!" Robert Steed before congress 3/2013

    Skills Beats Stuff

  • #2
    I myself, rely too much on modern tools and techniques for building a fire. I have trained years ago on building a primitive fire. Currently I carry many different types of tools to make them. Your standard strike match in waterproof containers, flint and steel, petroleum soaked cotton and even a magnifying glass. I keep them all in different levels of kits. (BOB, personal carry, Etc.)

    This is a good post. I will also go out and make fire using none of the above listed.

    Fire is as you all know, crucial in surviving - Warmth, food preparation and even morale.

    Good stuff.

    I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.


    • #3
      Excellent points. I have been working on improving my fire making skills with limited success but I have been making positive progress.

      IMHO this is one of those skills that an individual needs to practice. Like you mentioned above time to learn and improve fire making skills should be during fun times not when you are in peril.


      • #4
        Good post. All very helpful info. Thanks for breaking it down.
        The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

        Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you are stupid, and make bad decisions.


        • #5
          This is great information, with your permission, I would like to copy and paste this on my facebook so some of my friends can read it also.


          • #6
            No problem.... Thanks for the good feedback.
            "Oh, America. I wish I could tell you that this was still America, but I've come to realize that you can't have a country without people. And there are no people here. No, my friends. This is now the United States of Zombieland"

            "The constitution does not guarantee our safety, only our liberty!" Robert Steed before congress 3/2013

            Skills Beats Stuff


            • #7
              Myakka, great post. Our annual normal humidity is between 60-70%, so dealing with humidity is a really big issue. We have oak, and pine, which work great, but I have tried using popcorn tree (Chinese tallow) leaves and small branches and it just won't do much at all.
              One suggestion that the survivalist taught us was to have a small piece of candle, and light it and keep it as your base source of fire in case your main fire gets extinguished. He suggested cut your large candle into smaller pieces and put them into your BOB.
              “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”~Dietrich Bonhoeffer


              • #8
                I have been teaching some local groups different survival techniques, primitive fire starting using a bow drill is one. I credit this thread for getting me out there and going hands on.

                I will be teaching a class tomorrow, most of what I am teaching are skills learned from this forum.

                I'll try to post some pics later. Keep up the good work and thank you all for sharing.


                • #9
                  I have used magnifying glass and flint to start a fire and had no problem though it took longer using the magnifying glass it does work great. This is great info Myakka.