As the colder nights of winter set in man people will want to enjoy the comfort and warmth of a fire1. But how to start that fire? There are many methods – and here are some of the most effective and safest.
It doesn’t matter what type of fuel you choose these methods will allow you to get that blaze going in next to no time. These tried and proven methods have stood the test of time and remain popular. We will be looking at wood kindling, as well as the various ways to ignite a gas-powered pit.
Safety should always be the priority, even before the ignition of the fire. By following some common sense rules you can ensure that you, your friends and your family stay safe while enjoying all the benefits of your pit and that you avoid damaging any property features.
Here are some essential tips.
- Make sure that your fire is situated on an even surface in order to prevent accidental spread.
Make sure that your pit is situated at least 10 feet from flammable features such as trees, bushes, fences, and other structures.
- In windy conditions avoid lighting the pit at all.
- Make sure that children and pets are kept well away from the fire.
- Never use accelerants or propellants to light the pit – also avoid other potentially toxic substances.
- Keep an eye on your fire. It should be monitored at all times from lighting to the final extinguishing of the blaze.
- For further useful tips make sure to take a look at Nationwide’s exhaustive fire safety guide.
Once you are familiar with all the safety precautions that need be taken then it’s time to get that comforting blaze started. Follow these tips and tricks and you’ll be enjoying the comforting sounds of crackling wood and that soft comforting glow in next to no time.
How do you start a fire and keep it going?
Tinder is the foundation of your fire. It can be made with any fine, dry and easily combustible material. That material should burn quickly and as hot as possible. Some excellent choices include dry leaves, paper, or wood shavings.
Once the tinder has been set in place then it’s time to lay your wood. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use the time-proven ‘teepee’ layout. The larger firewood pieces should be placed over the tinder and above this a collection of small twigs and sticks. Be sure that the ‘teepee’ has sufficient gaps to allow for airflow – this is essential for optimum combustion.
Once the teepee has been assembled, use a lighter or matches to ignite the tinder. This should begin burning easily and the fire will spread rapidly upwards through twigs and smaller pieces of wood the firewood. Once the fire has caught it is simply a matter of sitting back and enjoying the wonders of natural warmth and the flickering flames. Your original teepee structure will eventually fall in on itself – however, it should be burning strongly enough to allow you to add firewood when required.
Maintaining the fire.
Keeping an eye on the fire in order to ensure that it burns strongly throughout the night is essential. If it starts to gutter or seems in danger of going out simply add more tinder and kindling. Keep an eye on individual pieces of firewood and rotate frequently to ensure that it is burning evenly on all sides.
So keep feeding your fire, adding tinder and kindling if that should be required. However, don’t overdo it as you then run the risk of suffocating the fire. ad wood at regular intervals – not all at once.
The best wood.
When selecting which wood to use in your fire it is important to take into account factors such as burn time, heat output and the amount of smoke that will be generated – as well as the scent of the wood. Many people enjoy hardwoods due to the fact that they last longer on the fire and generate superior heat. But they are also dense which makes them difficult to ignite. Great hardwoods include hickory, ash and maple. Softwoods such as pine, cedar, and fir are easier to ignite, but burn faster and emit large amounts of smoke. If you have access to both hardwoods and softwoods consider using the softwoods at the base of the fire where they will ignite quickly and allow the hardwoods to catch fire more easily.
Another important point to consider is moisture content. Damp wood that has not been air-dried for a sufficient period will pop and crack and produce both more sparks and smoke. This is primarily due to steam pockets in the wood which inhibits effective and efficient combustion. The steam builds up and the pockets burst, leading to crackling. The use of kiln or air-dried wood that has been specially selected for use in pits will eliminate this problem.
How long does wood last in a pit?
Just how long your firewood will last in the pit is dependant on the type of wood that you select. As above hardwoods will burn for longer and softwoods will require more frequent replacement in the pit. In hardwoods the wood fibres are more closely knit – and that density contributes to a slower burn.
If you use softwood as a fire starter and then keep it going with hardwood, you will enjoy a fire that will burn for an extended period of time. The ideal is 12 to 14-inch logs with a diameter of around four or five inches. This will usually mean that your fire will consume around four or five logs every couple of hours. However, this calculation is based on a pit of fire that is between three or four feet in diameter. As the size varies so will the consumption of logs.
Extinguishing your fire.
Always have a bucket or two of water close at hand and a shovel. The shovel can be used to add dirt to the water you will be using to extinguish the fire. the magic formula for putting out a fire safely and effectively is water + dirt and stir. Add water first, then dirt, and mix until there are no embers visible. Make sure to turn over the mixture enough times to ensure that the fire has been properly extinguished. Put your hand just above the surface of the mixture. you should feel no heat.
Once you have performed these tasks your fire should safely be out. However, be aware that some embers may linger and can reignite during the night if the steps taken to properly extinguish the fire are not strictly followed. An unattended fire where embers are still present is incredibly dangerous. Putting out your fire is a job that must be done with care and dilligence.