Minnesota Hunter Safety Course


Building a Fire

Building a fire is a skill of paramount importance if you plan to spend any time outside, since there is always the possibility of getting lost in the wild. Every hunter should practice this skill before heading out on a hunt. Building a fire is not always as easy as one might think.

You will need material that will easily catch fire to start. Birch Bark is arguably the best substance to start fire. It is loaded with oil and will burn hot and fast even when wet. Thin dry print paper (like newspaper) will also do the trick. Some people prefer to carry fire-starting aids on their person, such as cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly or candle wax.

IMPORTANT! Always carry a few different means of starting a fire, such as waterproof matches, lighters or a magnesium fire starter, all in individual waterproof bags. That way if something happens to one, you'll have a spare.

First, gather some small dry wood as tinder. Look on the ground for twigs and frayed bark. Good dry wood will snap when you try to bend it. You'll need at least 2 or 3 good handfuls of tinder, but the more the better!

Try to find some medium-sized pieced of wood (the width of a pencil or a finger) that are also dry. You'll need a few good handfuls of this wood as well. Finally, gather progressively larger pieces of dry wood, up to some that are about six inches in width.

Crumble up your bark or paper and set it down on the dry ground along with some tinder on top, and light it. Once you have a small flame, add a little more tinder to help it burn, and quickly add some pencil-sized sticks once you have a nice flame or two. Then, add larger pieces of wood as your fire builds up.

The trick to a good fire is to build it in such a way that air can flow through it. Try to build your fire in a tee-pee shape, with the smaller wood in the middle and the larger wood on the outside. When starting your fire, be patient and don't add too much large wood too fast. Use plenty of small wood until you start to have some embers, then slowly add larger pieces. Going too fast, especially with large wood, will only smother the fire.

Safety First! Ensure the area where you will build your fire is free of roots and dead plant matter. Try to chose an area where the winds aren't too strong!