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Your Fireplace: How to Easily Start a Fire Without a Gas Starter

Updated on January 7, 2014
Pine cones and seasoned wood are the secret to a perfect fire.
Pine cones and seasoned wood are the secret to a perfect fire.

Energy Savings and Ambiance

In our household, lighting a fire in our family room is 50% warmth and 50% ambiance. There's something magical about the warm glow of a wood-burning fire! My husband always likes to see how warm he can get our family room from the fires he builds.

Speaking of my husband, he is usually the one who is in charge of starting a fire in our household, but when he recently traveled, I was left with the option of either freezing or giving it a go. Let me say that if you follow the following steps, you will succeed beautifully just like I did.

The Wood Matters

I'm not sure if you're aware, but you can't use just any type of wood for successful fire.

First of all, the wood must be what is known as "seasoned." Seasoned wood is a log that has aged after it has been cut. Part of that aging is a drying out of the inside of the log. As it ages, the wood becomes more porous, letting oxygen into the inside portion of the wood. This process quickens if you split the logs. I highly recommend using a mechanical log splitter if you are using a felled tree.

To the right, I show the difference between seasoned and unseasoned firewood.

Another important part of choosing the right wood is in choosing the type of tree. The best fires are burned with hardwoods. Examples of these are maple, birch, and oak. Soft woods like pine, are not the best for fires. They are a knotty wood and tend to pop a lot when burned.

Seasoned Vs. Green Wood

You can see a big difference in color between the seasoned wood (left) and the green or newly cut log (right)
You can see a big difference in color between the seasoned wood (left) and the green or newly cut log (right)

The Prep

It always a good idea to have a clean fireplace. If you have a large amount of ashes, the fire will not burn well. Clean them out for the best results.

The second step to my prep work might surprise you. It involves the collecting of pine cones. While some people like to be all fancy with their kindling options, I have found that pine cones work better and are easier to light. And best of all, pine cones are free! If you have small children, this is a great activity for them to help out with as well.

Simply stack your small to medium, split and seasoned fire wood on your metal grate. Now take your dried pine cones and fill the area randomly all around the wood. You're going to light the pine cones and those pine cones will light your logs. For a quick start to the fire, make sure that pine cones are lit in many different areas.

Sweep It Out

Clean out old, unburned logs and thick layer of ash from the bottom. Your fire needs oxygen to burn well and that oxygen needs to come from the bottom as well as the top.
Clean out old, unburned logs and thick layer of ash from the bottom. Your fire needs oxygen to burn well and that oxygen needs to come from the bottom as well as the top.
Once I lit a tolled up piece of newspaper, I tried to spread the flame and light the various pine cones.
Once I lit a tolled up piece of newspaper, I tried to spread the flame and light the various pine cones.

After you have cleaned the space, it's time to choose the logs. I like to choose logs of differing sizes. The reason? Of course smaller logs catch fire more quickly; but they won't burn as long. Conversely, the larger logs catch fire more slowly but will keep burning for a longer time frame. In fire management, it's important to stay on top of your fire, turning the logs, stoking the coals, etc. I want to sit back and relax as much as possible. This means getting up less often to fetch more wood.

Simply light the pine cones in several places with a lighter. This is important in order for all of the logs to catch on fire.

Pine cones catch fire quicker and burn longer and hotter than paper or traditional kindling. This intense flame is what will quickly light the larger logs. You need a log that will catch fire quickly. Hence the reason for using season or dried out wood.

If you look closely in my photo, you'll see a long piece of newspaper. The newspaper was twisted into a rope-like fashion so that it would take a little longer to burn. I then took a handheld lighter and lit the newspaper and then lit the pine cones in several places.

Simply Beautiful!

You'll have a hot fire going in no time!
You'll have a hot fire going in no time!

In less than five minutes, I transformed my pile of wood and pine cones into a roaring, beautiful fire. Ahh. And I did it all without the use (and wasted cost) of a gas starter!

Starting a fire at home has so many advantages:

  • Energy savings because you don't need to run your heater so much
  • Wood and pine cones are a renewable resource that is readily available to all
  • A feeling of coziness in the room coupled with warmth
  • A beautiful, mesmerizing fire at home never gets old
  • It's a fun way to stay warm on a cold night!

Comments

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    • my_girl_sara profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia Lyerly 

      4 years ago from Georgia

      Yes a fireplace is nice and there's nothing better than a nice roaring fire but I think I'd like to be where you are right now. Seventy degrees sounds perfect! Thanks for the comment.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      4 years ago

      You make me want a fireplace. I guess I wouldn't use it that often though considering it's above 70 degrees here almost year round. But they look so cool. Nice work on this hub.

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