I have a passion for the subject of survival and take the topic very seriously. I served 3 years as an instructor in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (S.E.R.E.). I have had several opportunities presenting survival lectures to the Boy Scouts. One was helping scouts during a summer scout camp. I assisted them in their quest to obtain a wilderness survival merit badge. During a tour of duty in Sicily, I was an Assistant Scout Leader. Over the years, I have given several presentations to interested groups on survival topics.
This topic is about fire. Fire can be used for purifying water, signaling, cooking, and as a weapon. It can keep you warm in cold situations. It can also just plain keep you company if you are alone.
Understanding fire and its capabilities is priceless in a life and death situation. Knowing what you will need to start and build a fire is very important. Survival situations generally do not allow for last minute preparations. Each situation determines what is most important. I recommend that everyone have at least a general understanding of all basic survival skills. The most common topics are Shelter building, Water Purification, Water Procurement, Signaling, Snare Building, First Aid knowledge and the basics items needed in a good Survival Kit.
Lighters are the perfect survival fire starting devise. You can start hundreds of fires with one. Almost anyone can start a fire with a lighter. I recommend putting one in your tackle box, car glove box, hunting jacket, camera case, and purse. Put one in your pants or shirt pocket if you are setting out to hunt, fish, bird watch, and hike. Lastly, it is a must for any Survival Kit.
Fire needs three things, fuel, heat and oxygen. Fuel is any material that takes to a flame or heat source easily. Some examples are, dry grass, dry leaves, dry cat tail tops, cotton, dryer lint, and thin flaky dry bark. You can even use fine steel wool. Gather you’re tinder. Shape your tinder so that it looks like a nest. There are elements and a progression of steps in starting a fire. Having a waiting pile of paper and or small twigs right next to your nest is a must. Progressively increase size and quantity of fuel for a bigger fire.
Does your fire need to be near your shelter for warmth? If so, you will need to apply a reflector shield. A shield helps direct the fire towards you. If building a fire for signaling you will need it in an open area for visibility? Green wet wood, pine or wet grass would be nice for adding to your larger fire for signaling. They produce lots of white smoke. If you’re in your car it may be possible to substitute tinder with oil or gas. Apply gas or oil on any flammable object. Insect repellant can also be used as an accelerant. If you have a candle, you have a fire source that will just keep on giving. Surviving is usually just a matter of taking advantage of what you have on hand.
A lighter will start fire in no time. Matches are the next best thing. Although with matches wind is a bigger factor. I suggest learning how to start a fire with only one match. It will take a little practice. Protect the flame until that flame reaches your tinder. That and having the right tinder are essential.
Always pack fire starting materials in your survival kit. Matches (strike anywhere type) should be covered with wax, it is flammable and it keeps them water proof. Put a candle in your kit and you can have a continuous flame from one match. Having a flint and steel and a magnesium block are great backups too. When used with char cloth they are highly effective. It takes practice to use these items. Take the time to learn how to use them if you put them into your kit.
There are other ways to start a fire. The friction type (bow and drill), magnification and heat reflection fire are nice to know skills for building a fire. However, they take time to learn. If you plan on teaching fire building or are an avid outdoors type, it is worth learning, other wise I suggest it is best to carry a lighter.