So, we’ve discussed the WHY. Now, let’s talk a bit about the HOW. There are…
Since the time of the Caveman, Fire has been essential to our survival.
Fire has encouraged the improvement of our diet. It provides light and warmth, protects us from wild animals, welcomes others into its light and provides psychological comfort to humans. Unfortunately, as necessary as it was, it may also be the instrument of our destruction. We are at a breaking point where fire has become more of a danger than the lack of it used to be. Unless it is an absolute essential, do not consider lighting a fire in the wilderness.
Starting from the assumption that we should not start one, there may be life-threatening circumstances where fire is a necessity. The circumstance that most frequently comes to mind is where an individual is hurt to the point where self-evacuation is impossible. You are stuck out overnight, unexpectedly. If environmental circumstances are favorable, it may still be possible to get by without a fire. But if the weather turns against you it may be important to maintain body temperature and vital signs with a fire.
Choose a safe location, be sure the area is cleared and the fire can be contained and protected from the wind. Lighting a fire is a task requiring skill and preparation. You probably are not going to be able to throw a couple of sticks together and light a match. Select dry wood or tinder. Shave off thin pieces that will burn most easily and have larger pieces nearby to feed the beginning fire. If you carry a candle, light it first and light the fire from that. Survival candles come in 4 and 8 hour sizes but must be protected carefully so they don’t go out with a gust of wind.
Waterproof matches have always been a contradiction. They may be able to light after, or while, they are wet but they have always been hard to strike. Lighters are easier to light but if they have been in your kit for some time, the fuel may have leaked out. Like the batteries (and extras) in your pack, make sure they work before heading into the wilderness. Another option is the technological equivalent of flint and steel: magnesium and a steel striker. In this case you shave off thin pieces of magnesium into a pile and strike a knife blade across the steel into the pile. It is assumed that the magnesium will start easily. Regardless of the method used, once you have the embryonic fire started, feed in the larger pieces. Have someone assigned to make sure the fire does not die out. The same person is also responsible to assure that it does not spread. It is not unknown for a fire to reach a root system and spread underground. Once the fire is no longer needed, make sure that it is completely out and spread the ashes to take away the fire’s fuel.
A better, and safer, way to employ fire is to use a modern stove system. They have become so compact and complete that they can easily fit all the needed components into your pack. That way you not only have the psychological lift of a fire but you can also boil water, melt snow or cook a freeze-dried meal for an injured person.
Fire can be a life-saving tool in some instances but it can also be a prelude to a disaster if not treated with the utmost care.