Letter Re: David in Israel on Fire Starting

Mr. Rawles:
David from Israel wrote in with some interesting suggestions on fire starting. The method that I use in severe weather conditions is to first dig a small hole, about 6 inches in diameter and about 8 inches deep. Facing into the wind, I dig a small channel into the side of the hole, about 2 or 3 inches wide and sloping up from the bottom of the small hole, about 6 inches long. Then I put tinder in the pit and arrange short twigs around the tinder so that the twigs look like a teepee. To make tinder you can use cotton balls dipped in paraffin wax, or take a small block of resinous wood such as yellow pine and cut slivers and shavings off of it, then cut the block making slivers still attached to the block. You can also use straw or dry grass for tinder – if the grass on top is wet usually you can find dry grass below. I cover the circular hole with twigs and tinder, leaving the channel open, and then put small (1 inch diameter) sticks on top arranged ends inward, in a circle. If the wind is blowing hard, it’s a good idea to make a windbreak so that the hole does not have wind blowing directly into it. Sticks, grass, and rocks make a good windbreak – place it about a foot away from the hole. Now take a match and strike it in the channel and put the flame on the tinder, or take a piece of flint and rub it against a piece of steel to produce sparks and make sure they land on the tinder. You’ll see the tinder catch, and then blow carefully on the tinder so as not to put it out. It takes a bit of practice, so try this when your life doesn’t depend on it (surely people camped out when they were growing up and know about all this?) When you see a flame, put sticks and dry grass in the channel, and soon you will have a good fire. I used this method to start a fire in a blizzard where the snow was blowing straight across (and made a six-inch layer on my sleeping bag in the morning) and the fire was really hot, but there was still six inches of ice around the fire, then snow. BTW, if you want to sleep soundly in such a situation, make sure your head is covered. – H.L.