The Art of Fire Making

The Art of Fire Making

Robbie Baldwin


How do you start a fire safely? What kind of materials do you want to burn? How do you control fire while leaving no trace behind?

A fire is a combustion of substances with oxygen, giving off bright light and heat. This is all easy fire science. For a fire to burn, you shall need fuel, oxygen, and heat.

Without all of the three things, you cannot make fire. A lack of oxygen would not make a fire. This is true for those who are in high to very high altitude, such as Mount Everest and the Himalayas. If you are on a slope of a mountain at least 10,000 feet and planning to make a warm fire, there is approximately 65 percent of oxygen available. Not to mention the heat, the higher you go, the colder the environment is. If you were climbing on Mount Everest in the Death Zone, it is very difficult or near impossible to make fire due to 33 percent of oxygen available and extreme cold temperatures. The Death Zone (at least 26,000 feet above sea level) refers to at least a certain point that the amount of oxygen is not sufficient to sustain human life. To sum all things up, any chance of making a fire greatly diminishes from very high altitudes and cold temperatures. The formula for measuring oxygen in respect to altitude is O = 1/(e^(A/22965.879)), where O is the amount of oxygen available and A is the altitude measured in feet. The e is a constant of approximately 2.7181.

Do not forget the fuel. A small fuel makes a small fire. A large fuel makes a large fire. Do not play with fire, and do control fire. A fire is considered a raging beast. In metaphysics, a fire is your anger. A controlled anger is a small fire. A rage, however, is a large, raging, uncontrollable fire. This can lead to a wildfire, destroying anything in fits of rage.

How do I safely start a fire without leaving a trace behind? You do need adequate oxygen, some heat, and very small amount of fuel. Be careful with wind. Do not make fire while the weather is very windy; this is true for campfires as you can increase the risk of wildfires. If you have a fire pan, the pan has to be very large in size for you to watch the fire. By very small amount of fuel, I use only a couple to three pieces of any organic substances (cotton balls, dead pieces of wood, matches, torn papers in small sizes, dead leaves, etc.). Use a match to begin with, until you feel comfortable with a swedish fire steel. Light the match aflame and set fire to the top of the substance, not the bottom (due to lack of oxygen). It may take seconds for all the material to burn. If you want to maintain the fire, add only a small amount of fuel. If you are tired of maintaining the fire, you have to extinguish the fire by using either water or sand (if you are extinguishing a campfire, use a bucket of sand or water). Stir the ashes, and touch the ashes to make sure that the ashes are completely cold before leaving. If not, repeat the process until the ashes are completely cold.

If you are making a campfire, use the same method above; however, you do not use a fire bowl. You have to use a prepared pit or make one. Clear a 10 foot diameter area around the site and remove any potential fuel within the area. Dig a pit at least one feet deep. Circle the site with rocks, and you are ready to make a campfire. Keep a bucket of water nearby, start slowly with small fuel, light the fire, and keep adding small fuel at a time only to keep the fire small and controllable. Do not burn hazardous material (such as aluminum can, plastic, pressurized containers, glass) that can cause fumes or explosion that can cause wildfire. Add controllable fuel to maintain the fire. Always keep fire under control. If you are ready to extinguish the fire, use water (or dry ground if water is not available) to drown the fire. Be sure that all of the ember has died out. If not, use a shovel to remove any embers. Repeat the process until all the ashes are completely cold. Always remember: If the ashes are too hot, you cannot leave. If the ashes are completely cold, you may leave the site.


I have witnessed a couple cases of big fire while I was biking around my neighborhood and a couple neighborhoods nearby, and I want to conclude this essay with a few useful advices. Do not make a big fire, and do not leave the fire unattended. A big fire as high as 15 feet tall carried by very strong winds can cause wildfires. Always keep the fire small and manageable. Always watch the weather, and watch out for strong wind and gust. And, please, attend the fire. Leaving a fire unattended can also increase the risk of wildfires. Always watch the fire. Do not allow children to play with fire, and do not allow children to play with matches, lighters, or any other flammable liquids. If you follow these guidelines, I guarantee that you shall prevent wildfires. As Smokey the Bear commercials always say, “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires.”



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