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Fire Building 101

You can be the campfire hero this summer! You know. The one that knows how to get the fire going in almost any condition. Whether you want to build a fire in your fireplace/woodstove, or in a firepit, there is a simple science behind successfully building a fire. Once you understand the science behind building a fire you can be the campfire hero!

High quality firewood that is dry is the first key ingredient to building a fire of course. The next key ingredient might surprise you – it’s air! Arranging your firewood so that there is proper air circulation is critical to whether your firewood will ignite or not. You want to arrange your firewood in such a way that the air drawn to feed the fire is drawn from underneath and funnels up through the center of the firewood arrangement. The flame will then run along the firewood pieces reaching more surface area enabling all of the wood to catch fire.

Now that you understand the science, follow these steps:

Kindling Teepee with Tinder Underneath

Have your firewood, including tinder and kindling ready to go. Tinder is anything that is highly combustible that lights easily and quickly but will only burn for a shorter period of time. Tinder can be newspaper, drier lint, birch bark, dry grass and twigs or something like a firestarter candle or stick (these are particularly handy as they burn longer than regular tinder). Kindling refers to very slender pieces of firewood usually not more than 1” diametre. You should have at least five pieces of kindling ready to go. Your tinder and kindling must be dry in order to have success.

Place a piece of firewood at the bottom of your firepit or ring. This piece should not be big. No more than 4” diameter. Place some of your tinder just to the side of this piece.

Now you want to arrange your kindling pieces in a teepee format over top of this piece of firewood and the tinder. It is this teepee that creates the air funnel that will draw air from beneath and funnel it up the length of the kindling pieces. You want some space between the bottom ends of the kindling pieces but not too much.

Reach into the teepee with your match and light your tinder. If you have created that funnel affect with the arrangement of your kindling pieces, your flame will now run the length of the kindling touching more surface area and giving the wood a greater chance to ignite.

Teepee Air Funnel

Once your kindling has ignited, place some pieces of firewood (3-4” diameter) over the kindling pieces also in teepee format. As these smaller firewood pieces ignite, you can now add larger pieces of firewood. Once all your firewood pieces are burning, you can use your fire poker to knock the pieces down flat. This will slow down the burn so that your firewood will last longer. Make sure you don’t knock it down too early or your fire will peter out.

Note: the process is the same in a fireplace or woodstove. The teepee is just one sided. You will place the initial piece of firewood against the back of the firebox and fan the kindling pieces over that like a half of a teepee.

Use dry tinder and kindling and quality firewood along with this teepee method and you will sure to have success in getting your fire going. Enjoy!

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