Survival Manual


In most survival situations the ability to start a fire can save your life.

Jump Down To Fire Starting Methods

Learn to make various kinds of torches here!  Torches

To make a fire, it helps to understand the basic principles of a fire. Fuel in the form of wood does not burn directly. When you apply heat to a fuel (wood) it eventually produces a gas. It is this gas that actually burns and not the solid fuel from which it originated. This gas is very hot and when it meets oxygen (air) it burns.

To have fire you must have three things. Fuel, heat and oxygen. The easiest to get is the oxygen as it is in the air around us. Fuel is second as usually there is fuel available anywhere there are trees or brush. It is the heat part that can be the gotcha in a survival situation but we will get to that later. First lets look at where to build the fire.

The area (terrain and climate) in which you located.
The materials and tools available.
How much time you have?
Why you need a fire?
Security, how near or other potentially unfriendly people.

Look for a dry spot.
A spot protected from the wind.
Location of shelter in relation to fire.
Is wood or other fuel available close by?

Clear surrounding leaf litter etc to prevent fire from spreading.

CAUTION: Wet porous rock may explode when heated.

In some situations, you may find that an underground fireplace will best meet your needs. It conceals the fire and serves well for cooking food. Simply dig a hole for your fire material. On the upwind side of this hole dig a large connecting hole for ventilation.

If you are in a snow covered area, use green logs to make a dry base for your fire and don't built a fire directly beneath overhanging limbs with snow on them.

You need three types of materials to build a fire, tinder, kindling, and fuel. Tinder is dry material that ignites with little heat only a spark. The tinder must be absolutely dry to be sure just a spark will ignite it.

Kindling is easily ignitable material (twigs/bark) that you add to the burning tinder. This material should be dry to ensure rapid burning. Kindling increases the fire's temperature so that it will ignite less combustible material.

Fuel is less combustible material that burns slowly and steadily once ignited. Usually bigger material... you know firewood.

OK now that you have all site selected and all of the materials needer lets talk about how to actually arrange the wood for your fire. There are several different methods for laying a fire, each of which has advantages.

To make the tepee fire, arrange the tinder and a few sticks of kindling in the shape of an Indian tepee. Light the center. As the tepee burns, the outside logs will fall inward, feeding the fire. This type of fire burns well even with wet wood.

To use this method, scratch a cross in the ground. Dig the cross an inch or so deep. Put some tinder in the middle of the cross. Build a kindling pyramid above the tinder. The shallow ditch allows air to flow under the tinder to provide a draft.

To build this fire, place two small logs or branches parallel on the ground. Then place a solid layer of small logs across the parallel logs forming a low platform. Add three or four more layers of logs or branches, each layer smaller than and at a across the layer below. Make a starter fire on top of the pyramid. As the starter fire burns, it will ignite the logs below it. The pyramid fire advantage is that it will burn for a long time without any attention from you in the form of adding more wood to the fire.

Always light your fire on the upwind side. Make sure to lay your tinder, kindling, and fuel so that your fire will burn as long as you need it.

Modern Methods
Modem igniter's use modem devices, items we normally think of to start a fire.

Make sure these matches are waterproof. Also, store them in a waterproof container along with a dependable striker pad.

Convex Lens
Only effective on bright sunny days. The lens can come from a magnifying glass, binoculars, camera, telescopic sights etc. Angle the lens to concentrate the sun's rays on the tinder. Hold the lens over the same spot until the tinder begins to smoke. Softly blow on the tinder and apply it to the fire lay. You can even use a block of ice formed into a lens to start a fire when you have no lenses available.

Metal Match
Place a flat, dry leaf under your tinder with a portion exposed. Place the tip of the metal match on the dry leaf, holding the metal match in one hand and a knife in the other. Scrape your knife against the metal match to produce sparks. The sparks will hit the tinder. When the tinder starts to smolder, proceed as above.

You can use a car battery to generate a spark. Attach a wire to each terminal. Touch the ends of the bare wires together next to the tinder so the sparks will ignite it.

Often, you will have ammunition with you. The powder in ammo can be extracted from the shell casing, and use the gunpowder as tinder. Any spark will ignite the powder. Be extremely careful when extracting the bullet from the case.

Primitive Methods
Primitive igniter's are those attributed to our early ancestors. These methods aren't easy and you should practice these techniques now. Learning in a survival situation is not ideal. Remember it isn't going to happen quickly and as soon as you stop to study where you are in the process means you must start over. So don't stop until you have succeeded and don't start until you are ready to give it a real go.
Fire Plow
The fire-plow is a friction method of ignition. You rub a hardwood shaft against a softer wood base. The plowing actions friction ignites the wood particles.

Bow and Drill
The Bow Drill method of starting a fire as the name implies utilizes a small bow and drill to start a friction fire. but you must exert much effort and be persistent to produce a fire.

Pump Fire Drill
The Pump Fire Drill is an improved... much improved friction fire making method. It is an upgrade much glamorized stick and fire board method that tends to destroy your hands as you unsuccessfully try to start a fire! This Pump Fire Drill is very useful and serves other purposes beside just starting a fire.

Fire From Ice
Yes you can even make fire from ice! You have to take this ice chunk and shape it either by melting or chipping into a lens. Then...

How to make Charcoal! Easy to make and very nice to have available.

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