More often than not I've seen people preparing to light a fire with a little bit of birch bark, a couple of sticks and their lighter. Well folks - there's more to it than that.
Whether you're camping, hiking or in the throws of a winter emergency - you must know a little bit about fire preparation. If you expect to succeed you must plan.
When we instruct fire starting and fire care we often talk about the 10 minute fire. This is very simple to explain and important for many reasons. When I strike that match to my tinder I want to able to sick back and watch my fire without having to get up for more supplies for 10 minutes.
In order for this to happen you must prepare. Rather than striking the match to your birch bark and placing a few twigs on the top and then running around collecting materials unsure of your fire's status, hold off a minute and think.
Prepare. You require three sizes of fuel. Tinder, Kindling and larger fuel.
Identify your fire location and prepare that area removing debris and equipment. Travel through your area collecting that tinder, kindling and larger fuel.
Tinder being your natural accelerators such as birch bark, pine resin (sap), cattail and wood shavings.
Kindling being your dead twigs, lower dried branches of evergreens and split wood.
Larger fuel being a diameter greater than your thumb. The drier the better and is usually best found from dead fall in your area.
Take 10-15 minutes collecting at least an arm full of kindling and two arm fulls of larger fuel. Return them to your identified fire site and place them into two separate piles.
At this point you've collected enough fuel for approx. 1-2 hours of fire.
Depending on your preferred method of fire laying, whether it be teepee or log home, you're ready to construct the structure.
Once you've constructed the structure you will place your tinder on the bottom side ensuring that there will be enough oxygen passing through and that your fuel is close enough for contact.
When all of these items are in place it's time for you to strike that match.
With all of your preparation, two good piles of kindling and larger fuel you are well on your way to a successful fire. With that successful fire comes heat, a cooking source and just as important as any of those, it will provide a psychological boost.
If you are in the throws of that winter emergency and you have a limited supply of lighting equipment you may only get one or two chances to successfully make fire. This is no time to screw around. If that match lights your tinder and you don't have enough fuel to support a fire because you rushed you will lose that fire. If you lose that fire it may cost you your life.
Don't take the chance. Prepare your location, collect tinder, kindling, and larger fuel, prepare your structure with tinder accessible. Once that is all in place, take a deep breath, light that match and sit back and enjoy the heat produced from your 10 minute fire !
Practise. Prepare. Succeed !