Safety First !

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pour flammable fluids onto a flame or source of heat. The fluid can ignite and the flame can (and probably will) run right up the stream of fluid to ignite the container in your hand, with explosive and extremely harmful (if not fatal) results.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER leave a fire unattended in any stage between lighting and extinguishing. DO NOT go to bed while there is any fire or glow visible in your pit or ring. Left unattended, open flames or glowing coals (even ash-covered embers that don't appear to be glowing) can very easily lead to a spreading fire.

ALWAYS be aware of your hair or clothing when working with a fire. Tie your long hair back securely and roll up loose sleeves.

ALWAYS be aware of the prevailing wind or gusty weather. Watch to make sure that the wind doesn't blow your campfire flames dangerously close to flammable materials - Your tents !

ALWAYS be aware of the presence and actions of others around your campfire, especially small children or inebriated adults. :-~

Click here for a list of wood and it's burning properties.

Making fires

There are many ways to build a fire. Which style you choose depends on what you ultimately wish to have a fire for; cooking, companionship, celebration, and so on. Here are three basic styles that lend themselves well to a variety of campfire situations: A-frame, Teepee, Log Cabin.

Image of a firepit using stones

DO NOT just pick a spot and build a fire. Fire safety demands a fire pit ringed with metal or stones and cleared of flammable material to a certain distance. Many campgrounds will provide established fire rings (often a car or truck wheel rim on its side) or fire pits (often a shallow hole surrounded by fist-sized stones or concrete). Most campgrounds don't appreciate campers digging a lot of shallow pits throughout their nice green grass.

image of a teepee fire

The picture below shows how to build a small teepee of tinder and kindling to use in lighting a larger fire. It uses a ball of fibrous tinder, which is just another tinder option.

Click here for a list of wood and it's burning properties.

Lighting Fires

When your campfire is laid out and ready for lighting, try to position yourself or a friend between the prevailing breeze and the fire. Light the fire by applying your flame source to the tinder. It's helpful to light the tinder at several points, but don't feel you have to use lots of matches to do so.

One-match fires are the norm for the experienced campfire builder. As you improve your techniques for gathering and preparing fire materials and laying out your fire, you will find that you need fewer and fewer matches to actually light your fire successfully.

Once the tinder is burning, gently and carefully add more tinder to the flame one piece at a time. Add pieces as rapidly as the fire grows. Don't add a new piece until the previous piece has caught. Make sure you allow plenty of space between pieces to maintain good ventilation. If you add too many pieces too quickly or too closely together, your fire will smother from lack of oxygen. As you add pieces, gradually work your way up in wood size. Add pieces in a lattice pattern, place several pieces parallel to each other on one layer, then add the next layer perpendicular to the previous one. Don't add your largest pieces of wood until the fire is very well established.

Click here for a list of wood and it's burning properties.

Maintaining the fire

Whenever you add wood to the fire, DO NOT toss it on, place it carefully. Throwing or tossing wood onto a fire produces sparks, which can land on something flammable and start another fire. Placing wood carefully also gives you more control over where the wood ends up and helps prevent undesired firewood shifts or collapses.
Keep your fire small and contained. Most of the time, there's absolutely no need for a roaring bonfire. :-(
If you need to re-ignite the fire from embers, or encourage more flame, blow gently and steadily on a focused area from the side of the fire (NOT from above). Don't huff and puff and expend great gusts of unfocused air, and don't use a fanning device. As you blow, be aware of sparks and ash and where they're landing.
Think carefully before adding more large pieces of wood to your fire. Plan ahead as to when you wish to put the fire out and let it begin to die down at least one hour before that, longer if you have a well-burning fire full of large pieces of wood.

Click here for a list of wood and it's burning properties.

Extinguishing the fire

When you.re done with a fire that still has flame, glowing embers or smoldering chunks of charcoal, douse it. Sprinkle (don't pour) enough water to quench all embers and charcoal, but don't flood the pit. Remember that another person is likely to need to fire pit within a few days (such as yourself the very next day). Use a stick to stir the embers and ashes to get them all wet; turn charcoal over and wet it down on all sides. When nothing hisses anymore as you pour water over it, and you can comfortably place your hand on ashes and charcoal, the fire is sufficiently doused. DO NOT go to bed while there is any fire or glow visible in your pit or ring. Left unattended, open flames or glowing coals (even ash-covered embers that don't appear to be glowing) can very easily lead to a spreading fire.

Click here for a list of wood and it's burning properties.