Knowing how to make a quick fire is an essential skillset to master. Fire is one of the most important elements of survival. It slots in very closely behind food and water; and rightly so. Fire serves a multitude of purposes. Each purpose is just as important as the others, depending on the circumstances that lead you to needing to build one in the first place. For example, fire helps to keep you warm and it provides you with light and/or a location beacon. It also enables you to cook and it can serve as a deterrent to insects and animals.
There are going to be times where you find yourself needing the help of a fire. You DO NOT want to be caught out wondering how to get one up and roaring when you have your back against the wall. That’s why this guide has been carefully considered and constructed. It offers all the skills that you need to know about how to make a quick fire. Read on to find out how to make a quick fire using 3 of the best and most trustworthy methods. Before we dive into the methods, we need to go over a few basics.
How to Make a Quick Fire – What You Will Need
If you’re seasoned when it comes to prepping, you should be able to find most of the following materials required to build a quick fire around you. There are a few essential items on this prepper kit though, that you definitely should pack in your survival bag before you even leave home. It’s well worth taking a trip to your local survival shop for any survival supplies that cannot be found around the home.
Items to Make Sure That You Pack in Your Survival Backpack
- Windproof lighter and/or matches, preferably waterproof or at least packed in a waterproof case/bag
- Flint and steel set or a decent fire starter
- Knife or survival axe (cutting away materials to use)
- Water (to extinguish the fire)
- Homemade tinder – You should pack your own homemade tinder if possible. Cold, wet environments won’t provide usable tinder. This could hinder your ability to start a fire. (see below for tips on making your own)
- A 9 volt battery and some fine steel wool (optional)
Materials That You Should Be Able to Find Around You
- Large Rocks to create fire pit/fire ring if possible
- Platform materials – Smaller logs to build a platform to allow for airflow. Airflow is a key element to building the perfect fire. (If using this method, there are more details further into the post)
- Tinder – The best tinder for fire starting should be a fine, dry, fluffy (if possible) material that is easy to set alight by an ember or spark. It should be highly flammable and super combustible. You only need the tiniest of sparks to set it on fire. You then use the lit tinder to ignite your kindling to then get your fire started. Tinder can come in many shapes and forms. They can include natural materials and/or man made materials.
- Kindling – Generally small sticks and branches that you should be able to break with your bare hands. It’s the next stage of your fire’s fuel that the tinder flame can easily light and continue to burn. The main role of kindling is to burn wood logs and keep the fire going after it starts. You want these materials to be completely dry, otherwise they won’t light properly, if at all.
- Fuel – Usually larger pieces of dried out wood, logs or branches are the best type of long, slow burning materials. (As thick as your wrist and as long as your arm). Stick to dry materials, as freshly cut materials will take longer to ignite and hiss due to moisture. Different kinds of wood burn at different rates. Eg: hardwoods, like maple or oak will take longer to start burning but last longer. Softwoods, like cedarwood, burn faster.
Tinder Sources – Natural Tinder Materials
There are many forms of natural tinder that you can find out in the wilderness. They will all differ, depending on your location. The best tinder for fire starting can include:
- Dry/dead grass
- Dry leaves
- Shredded or shaved wood and/or bark. (Birch, Cedar, Sagebrush, Palm, etc)
- Fat lighter or fat wood
- Punk wood
- Dry pine cones and/or pine Needles
- Very tiny twigs
- Coconut husks
- Natural kapok
- Old Man’s Beard
- Dandelion head/seeds/fluff/clock (call it what you want)
- Dry cattail fluff/Leaves
- Poplar cotton
- Milkweed fluff
- Thistle seeds
- Flower head pods
- Bird nests
- Husk from hornets’ nest or beehive
- Hanging moss
- Dead Spanish moss
- Coal fungus
- Tinder fungus
- Bird down/feathers
- Animal fur
- Dried animal dung
Tinder Sources – Man Made/Homemade Tinder
As mentioned a little earlier, tinder is the most important element to getting a good fire up and going. The flame for tinder is essential. If you don’t have some kind of tinder, you are going to struggle to even get the smallest of embers alight. We already went through a list of natural tinders above. But if you know in advance where you are going and what you are doing, you can prepare some man made tinder to give yourself a good head start.
Here is a list of some man made tinders that are either already ready to go in their form as they are, or you can put some materials together to create the ultimate fire starters!:
- Lint – From your clothes dryer. Bag a decent sized ball of this wonder fluff up and keep it dry. Or even fill a toilet paper roll up with it. It’s lightweight and free!
- Potato Chips – Serious? Ah… yeah. These bad boys are packed with fatty oils that can create a flame. You can light them up and they will give you enough ember to give your kindling the needed time to catch on fire. You can even try stacking a few on top of each other once one is alight. This will give you even more time to ignite. Who woulda thought eh?
- Newspaper – This one is a no-brainer. Roll a few pages into a tube and tie a knot in them. The knot will help to slow the burning process. Magic!
- Cotton Balls: Either cotton balls on their own or soaked in petroleum jelly. Both variants make a great fire starter. The dry balls can burn for 20 seconds or so. The soaked balls can burn up to 5 minutes.
- Any scrunched up paper products. Including newspaper, scrap paper, toilet paper, paper towel, etc
- Cotton gauze from your first aid kit
- Tampons (Ripped apart)
- Dry cotton, linen and other plant based clothing/cloth (Ripped up/shredded)
- Strips of cardboard (soak in melted wax or grease for longer burn time)
- Plastic fiber rope
- Wadded paper
- Wood shavings from your garage woodwork projects
Tinder Sources – Accelerants
Accelerants with high alcohol content are also a great last resort. You may have some packed away in your survival bag without even knowing. Although they are not exactly “tinder”, you wouldn’t knock them back if you were desperate for warmth and light. Items can include:
- Hand sanitiser
- Sanitising wipes
- Lighter Fluid
- Bug sprays
Tinder Sources – Other
Other honorable mentions go to a multitude of waxy or fatty substances which can be found in the home:
- Bacon grease
- Paraffin Wax
- Shoe polish
- Bowstring Wax (Crossbow hunters will have this stocked up)
- Small Dry Branches/Twigs (eg: spruce forest)
- Outer layer of bark (Birch, Cedar trees, etc)
- Dry Tree Sap
- Birds Nest
- Dried Animal Dung
Choosing the Right Area
No matter when or where you find yourself needing to start a fire, the site itself is very important. In some cases, you won’t even be able to assess the area. This could be due to things like poor light, snow, mud or even exhaustion could be an issue that can make it a bit tricky. If you do happen to start a fire in the wrong area, you may face even bigger problems! When choosing a spot to start your fire, you should try to avoid areas that are vulnerable to fire. This includes trees, plants, bushes, fences, sheds, cables, telephone wires, etc. Pretty much anything else that can set alight.
Don’t forget to keep it away from any flammable items that you may have brought with you on your trip.
You should choose a dry open area (if possible) but still somewhere that is sheltered from the wind. Aim to build your fire on bare ground. If you can’t find a spot that is bare, do your best to dig away any vegetation in a circular shape. Once you have an area cleared and ready to set up, try to find some large rocks to create a fire pit/fire ring. Simply create a ring or circle with the rocks. The rocks will help insulate the fire from wind. They will also contain the fire within the circle, as well as hold heat for a decent period of time.
Once you have your location sorted, you can now begin to build your fire.
Building the Fire
As mentioned in the materials section, there are 3-4 stages of materials that all serve a specific purpose. Platform/Foundation log (If using certain setup methods), tinder, kindling and fuel wood. All of these materials can be built in specific ways to achieve different fire styles depending on your needs. Your location, the conditions and of course, availability of materials will also determine the style of fire you can create. In most styles, fuelwood isn’t added to a fire until the kindling is burning strongly. Here are 3 trustworthy methods that you can choose to build your fire:
How to Make a Quick Fire – 3 Methods
Tee Pee (Tipi)
There are some pretty neat ways to make fire that you could master. The teepee style is one of the fastest and easiest designs to build and light up. This design radiates some serious heat due to the angles that the tee pee is built with. It’s a really good design for cooking your campfire style meals. Including skewers, tripod grills, hotdogs and everyone’s favourite, marshmallows! The only downside could be that because this style requires you to stack your materials in the shape of a teepee, the wood will collapse on itself as the fire burns down. This is just something to keep your eye on but of course, fire should always be respected.
To build a teepee fire, follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Grab some dry tinder whether it was made from home or found on the spot. Arrange it so it sits loosely in the middle of your fire pit, Make sure it’s not tightly compacted.
Step 2: Grab some of your kindling and arrange it around the tinder in the shape of a teepee. Make sure you leave a bit of a gap in a spot that you feel comfortable lighting your fire after you have built the teepee.
Step 3: Take some of your fuel wood and start building a larger teepee shape around the outside of your kindling teepee. Leave a bit of airspace in between each piece of kindling and fuel wood. You don’t want to deprive your fire of oxygen as it will choke out.
Step 4: All that is left to do now is get your lighter, matches or flint set and create a spark or flame to get your tinder glowing. Once the tinder is alight, the oxygen will fuel the fire. This will then catch onto the kindling, Which will then, like dominos, catch onto the fuel wood and start giving you some well deserved warmth!
Notes: As mentioned earlier, this design will collapse over time. When that time arrives, just add more fuelwood in a criss cross pattern over the coals and your fire will continue to blaze away well into the night!
The log cabin style is well.. shaped like a log cabin. It’s designed to be built sturdy and can last quite a long time. This is awesome for those long, cold nights under the stars! The design itself is similar to the teepee in the beginning with some extra added stability. It also contains cheeky little stoke and poke holes. These enable you to add extra kindling and fuelwood without any trouble at all.
To build a log cabin fire, follow these simple steps:
Step 1: When beginning to create the log cabin structure, you want to begin by using the same principle as the teepee. Grab some dry tinder and arrange it in the centre of your fire pit.
Step 2: Take some kindling and build a teepee structure around the tinder. Again leaving a gap at the bottom to light it up.
Step 3: Take some of your bigger pieces of fuel wood and arrange it so you have one parallel piece on each side of the teepees base. Then grab another 2 pieces of fuel wood and also arrange them parallel across the base pieces. This time though, in the opposite direction.
Step 4: Keep adding more layers of fuelwood around the tee pee. Build the structure upwards in a pyramid type shape to around knee height. This creates a log cabin which keeps the heat roaring inside.
Step 5: Once you have built your log cabin, go ahead get some sparks onto your tinder and light it up!
The idea of the lean-to style of fire is that your materials are placed leaning over a larger foundational piece of wood. This larger piece acts as a windbreak/shield. The shielding allows the fire to get going even in the nastiest of conditions. This style is a great option for cooking as the larger piece also shields the coals for long periods of time. Of course, the hot coals are usually what you want when you cook over a fire, unless you’re just roasting marshmallows…
To build a lean-to fire, follow these simple steps:
Step 1: To build a strong lean-to style fire, first grab a bigger piece of fuel wood. Place in the middle of your fire pit making sure it’s facing the up-wind side. The aim is to build the rest of the fire on the other side where your materials are protected from the wind.
Step 2: Take some of your tinder and place it tight against the wind break log.
Step 3: Take some of your kindling and create a run from one end to the other end of the large windshield log over the top of the tinder (Like a slanted roof). Leave a few gaps for air to get in there and give it a boost. The gaps can also be used as lighting points.
Step 4: After that, take some of your fuel wood and create another run over the top of the kindling. Again, making sure to leave some gaps for air. It should resemble a cave of sorts, under the materials.
Step 5: Now, go ahead and give your tinder some spark. Your work is done, enjoy some long lasting warmth!
Extinguishing It Safely
When you have finished with your fire, it is in everyone’s best interest as well as your duty of care to extinguish it properly. Extinguishing a fire is not a fast process. So if you decide to pack up and leave the area or go to bed, make sure that you begin the process around 30 mins before. This 30 mins will be known as ‘fire watch’ time. It’s not ideal to just throw water over the whole fire and drown it out. Just sprinkle the water over the fire and coals gently. This will ensure that you can still use the fire put again if you need to.
Give the ashes a bit of a stir with a stick and wait until the hissing sounds and steam begin to settle down. Have a bit of a feel to see if the majority of the heat has disappeared before you go ahead and leave the fire pit. Always leave the area as you found it, clean up any area of mess that you may have created and be on your merry way!
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider and a lot of elements when deciding how to make a quick fire. The fire itself can be made reasonably fast. As long as you know what materials to look out for, how to build the right fire for your needs and how to actually light your fire. It’s all about the preparation! Speaking of preparation, always remember to have the best bug out bag with bug out bag essentials packed and ready to go on demand! Hopefully this guide has given you the confidence to get through any situations that may have seemed tough without the information. If there are any other methods that you have tried and tested, let me know in the comments so we can also give them a go and get them out to the people.