How to Start a Woodfire
There is nothing quite like the crackling warmth of a wood fire. A blazing fireplace can add heat and ambiance to a room. Campers can rely on the bounty of dead wood in most forests to cook or heat with. Wood is a sustainable alternative to other fuels used for heating or cooking. Learning to utilize wood by building a woodfire is an important skill for anyone that wishes to move away from petroleum based fuel.
It isn't hard to start a fire, though quite a few people become frustrated when their fires do not blaze instantly. With the right materials a fire can be started by anyone.
A dry spot
Thin sticks (kindling)
(The directions for creating the fire will be the same for a fireplace, woodstove, or a campfire. A campfire will require a bit more work, as you will sometimes need to clear out the spot for the fire. This is accomplished by raking the area clear of leaves, pine needles, or other debris that is flammable. Clear at least a 5 ft by 5 ft area around the place you plan to build the fire. If possible, dig a small pit – it can be only a few inches deep. Try to have the pit at least 6 inches deep. Ring with dry stones, never use stones from a creek. As the rocks heat up the water content inside of them can cause the rocks to explode. When you have finished camping, you can use the stones to place inside of the small pit, covering your traces.)
My favorite method for setting up a fire is to use a 'tee-pee' type structure. Use the small sticks you have, called kindling, to build the first part of the tee-pee. Leave a small opening in one side, enough to place your tinder inside. Use larger wood to create a second tee-pee around the first, again leaving a small opening.
Place your tinder inside of the opening. Tinder is fluffy, dry material that catches fire easily. This can be old punky wood, cotton balls soaked with vaseline, or any other dry, light material.
(For a fireplace, do not place the larger wood in yet. Wait until the kindling is burning well and place larger wood on top of the fire.)
Using a match, light the tinder. You may light it in several places to speed along the burning. This will also help the fire burn evenly around the edges. As the fire becomes larger, feed small bits of kindling in through the opening until the fire becomes large enough to catch the tee-pee of kindling.
Once the fire has reached the kindling and is burning well, begin to add large wood. For a campfire this will be thick branches (usually). Woodstoves and fireplaces will take split wood. Each time the fire catches the next level of wood size you may progress further. The last step would be to add log size chunks.
If the fire seems to die down, you may always add small wood or kindling to feed the coals or small flames. Once you get the hang of it, these steps will go by very quickly. Enjoy your wood fires!