How to Start a Fire: Successfully Build and Maintain a Fire in Your Backyard or Campground Flame Pit

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Whether you are camping or just enjoying an evening in your backyard, a fire is a cozy part of a great evening. Providing light, warmth, and ambiance, a well-built fire is a highlight of any outdoor party.

Setup and Safety

Before starting the fire, make sure that the area around your fire pit is safe. If you are using a purchased item like a fire bowl, follow all the directions regarding setup and use. If you are building a traditional campfire, be sure to clear the ground around it and surround the fire area with non-burning materials such as rocks. For safety purposes, make sure that all flammable items such as fabrics and upholstery, dry plants, and clothing are clear of the fire, and have a bucket of sand, some water, or a fire extinguisher available always.

Building the Fire

The key to a well-burning fire is building it properly, before lighting it. Gather your tinder, kindling, and fuel. Examples of tinder include newspapers, dry pine needles and straw, which catch the fire from your match or lighter. Kindling generally consists of thin sticks or twigs, which will catch fire from the tinder and pass it on to the fuel. Fuel is the larger firewood that will keep the fire burning. The fuel must be dry and not green, or it will not burn well in a fire. You will need about one armful each of tinder and kindling and enough fuel to keep the fire burning if you desire. One dry log will burn for an average of 45 minutes.

To build a fire, place the tinder in a small pile in the center. Then use your kindling to create a cone or “teepee” shape around the tinder. Use a match or lighter to set the tinder on fire and watch as the fire spreads to the kindling. Add the smallest pieces of your fuel to the fire, around and over the kindling. Gradually work up to larger pieces as the fire grows stronger, adding kindling if necessary to build the flames.

Maintaining the Flames

While the fire is burning, do not wander off! You will want to add fuel every often to keep the fire at your desired level, and make sure that it does not grow larger than you feel comfortable with. Allow your fire die down gradually as your evening dies down, to make it easier to extinguish. Use water or dirt to thoroughly put out the flames and be very sure that it’s completely extinguished before leaving the area or going to bed.

A great fire isn’t difficult to build, but impressive to all your guests or fellow campers. With just a little safety precaution and these quick tips, you’re sure to have a great outdoor experience.