Fire is the most tolerable third party. - Henry David Thoreau

The knowledge to create fire is a critical capability to have in your survival skill set. It could make the difference between surviving or not in many situations. There is no enviroment on earth where fire would not have an impact on your survival.

Fire can give us the ability to manage many important issues during survival situations including:

  • warmth
  • sanitation
  • light
  • cooking
  • communication
  • drinking water
  • security

When building a fire, location should be a primary consideration. A well placed fire should be placed out of the elements and free of the wind. Build a 1-by-1 square foot of green bark, sticks, or nonporous rocks like clay or shale. An adaquate fuel supply should also influence your decision on location. You will also want to make sure the location poses no danger to you (wildfire, smoke inhalation etc.).

Feed the flame -Slowly surround the tinder in a teepee shape of kindling. If your fire smokes excessively, blow gently into it. When the flames last five minutes without tending, add larger fuel.

The 3 stages of building a fire

  • Tinder
  • Kindling
  • Fuel


Tinder is the foundation of starting a fire. Even in ideal conditions tinder is important to starting a fire. Tinder is a material that is ignited easily by a spark. Some materials that make good tinder are:


  • Cottonwood,Cedar, and
    Pine Tree Bark
  • Cat-O-Nine Tails
  • Fatwood
  • Birch Fungus
  • Dry Grass & Leaves

Man Made

  • Vaseline Cotton Balls
  • Char Cloth
  • Steel Wool


  • Hexamin Tablets
  • Trioxane Bars
  • WetFire
  • Coghlan's Emergency Tinder


Kindling is the material used to raise the flames from the tinder so that larger and less combustible materials can be burned. Wood that contain resins burn much easier, and make building a fire less difficult. Collect dead sticks (finger-width and thinner) for kindling from atop undergrowth. Some materials that make good kindling are:

  • Small Twigs
  • Pine Branches/Cones
  • Tree Bark


As a general rule, the heavier the wood the more heat it will give, this applies to both dead and green woods. Mixing green and dry wood makes a long lasting fire, which is ideal for fires at night. Damp wood can be used also, the smoke it produces can keep away flies and Mosquitoes.

Conifers trees which include pines, cedar, spruce, fir, hemlock, and other trees with needlelike leaves contain a pitch or resin. The wood from these trees burns vigorously when dry, but the resins give off a dense smoke and can shower sparks. They are good for starting fires and some can give off alot of heat, but they will black up cooking pans.

Broadleaf trees commonly called hardwoods which include oaks, maple, birch, beech, hickory, poplar, cottonwood, and others. These trees do not contain resin and do not give off as much smoke. Among the hardwoods there is a big difference in the amount of heat they can produce, some hardwoods like cottonwood are light woods and others like oak are heavy. Again as a general rule the heavier the wood the more heat it will produce, and longer the coals will last.

For more information and to view a chart on some types of firewood and its properties, click the link: Firewood Ratings


One of the most important components of a fire, stack or position your wood to enable air flow around the fire.

Campfire Types


The most basic campfire design. It is often used as a starter upon which bigger, longer-lasting fires are built. This fire uses mostly kindling, but larger teepees can be created by adding larger logs vertically to the fire.


A fire that is built between two long logs. Lay two green logs side-by-side about 7 inches apart at one end, and 4 inches at the other. The two logs serve as a stove where you can place pots and pans. Spread or pile coals to create hotter or cooler cooking areas.It also has the advantage of prolonging a fire since the insides of the log are burning too.


Logs laid out like the spokes of a wheel. A fire is started at the center and each log is pushed towards the center as they are consumed. It can be kept burning all night long with little maintenance.


A reflector fire is a fire that has some sort of flat surface behind it, to focus the heat back directly at you. A back reflector can be made out of large slabs of bark, logs stacked against supports, a boulder or even large rocks. When using rocks, be sure they are free of moisture. Trapped moisture can cause them to explode.

Fire Starters

NATO Survival Matches

Once ignited, these windproof survival storm matches are more like small flares than matches and burn intensely for approximately 12 seconds. They cannot be blown out. Even if dropped into water these matches will continue to burn. They come in a small, watertight, plastic bottle that has a match strike surface on one end

StrikeForce Fire Starter

The StrikeForce fire starter will produce a shower of hot sparks that will ignite dry tinder. It works when wet. To use, simply scrape the striker down on the alloy flint bar that provides thousands of ignitions. The large steel striker is permanently mounted on the cap.

Windmill Delta Stormproof Lighter

The Windmill Delta uses butane gas burns for over 30 minutes per premium butane fill and has an easy to read fuel gauge, is windproof to 80 mph, has a Piezo electric ignition good for over 30,000 instant ignitions. The lighter is built around a rubberized case with a water-resistant O-ring sealed gasket.