Jump to content
Stosh

Fire Building

Recommended Posts

There's a lot of talk on the forum about the boys' ability to struggle with fire building.  Other than the obvious techniques described in the Scout Handbook, what other techniques does one use to get the boys excited about their pyromania tendencies in the woods?

 

I have dissuaded the boys from using rope and twine because of the amount of herbicides and pesticides use to grow those fibers, using paper towels and newspapers is another because those are not readily available in the outdoors.

 

I use my 2' copper tube with one end flattened to intensify the bellow effect and bring a spark or coal from another fire to start a second fire.  Bark, grass, milkweed and such also work well. 

 

Most boys have magnesium starters but don't know how to use them properly.

 

Making bow and drill is also fun for the boys.  Some have even gotten a fire started once they figure out the system.  In competitions, any boy who starts a fire without a match or other modern conveniences always gets placed ahead of those who use them.

 

I also give extra credit for those who, start a fire, get a 2' flame without having to "play" with it to keep it going.

 

I once experienced a pyro-pro who started a council fire, producing 10' high flames with no matches, just a flint and steel.  Really impressive.

 

I have also experienced scouters who could produce eye-brow reducing fires using white gas.  Not a pretty sight.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem I've found with my scouts is that they are quite good at getting a fire lit, but the problem is then building it. They have a tendancy to ignore the preparation part of getting twigs of different sizes ready to feed it with the result of it then going out.

 

In terms of tinder the preferred substances are sliver birch bark and for those who prepare before hand getting the fluff out of the tumble drier filter at home to bring with them. You get a pretty decent long last flame out of that.

 

Incidentally while being a long way from natural I've found pringles make great fire lighters! There's such a huge amount of fat in them that they act like a candle with the potatoe part of it acting like the wick. 

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah. Tinder is usually not a problem, neither is ignition. A lot of folks seem to focus on these aspects as it is kind of fun to try different ignition systems. But ignition isn't the goal. As was stated, the problem is often moving from ignition and tinder to a sustainable and controlled fire.

 

IMO, too much focus is placed on different ignition and tinder methods and not enough on the next stages.

 

Use matches until they are proficient with building, sustaining, and using the fire. Then, move to different ignition and tinder.

 

One method is to use a single pole, 12 feet in length with a 4 inch diamter. Scouts use axe, saw and knife to prepare tinder, kindling and fuel to boil water for cocoa all from that one pole, and using a single match.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not gonna pretend to be a firemaking guru, especially with primitive methods

but I think tinder is a HUGE variable when it comes to trying to light with spark or friction..... 

 

not to disagree with this statement my any means though....

IMO, too much focus is placed on different ignition and tinder methods and not enough on the next stages.

 

But in a competition using spark, flame aint gonna happen if you don't have good tinder.... no matter how long you have.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nothing more frustrating than to get the fire built with extreme care only to have the impatient scout who shows up with a handful of pine needles to help speed up the process.  :eek:

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ever notice how hard it can be to get a handful of pine needles on fire.... or almost anything else for that matter..... but yet 1 loose tiny ember gently landing someplace in the forest without any help from a person blowing or tending....can burn hundreds or thousands of acres

One of life's little mysteries....

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think most scouts and/or scouters have any problem igniting fires, it's the 3 hours of blowing, tossing in sticks and repeated snuffing it down, turning it into a signal fire instead of a cooking fire. 

 

I find that boys who have been taught the how have never been exposed to the why.  Why pine and not oak?  Why does the dutch oven need more coals every half hour and charcoal goes a full hour?  Why is a belt ax more useful than a full or 3/4 ax?  Why make all those fire starters when a candle stub works just as well.  Why does Mr. Stosh have a walking stick with a hook on the end.  What's that go to do with fire building?  Why is wood lying on the ground not as good as breaking off branches.  Why do those branches have to snap to be useful?

 

None of this is covered in the Scout Handbook.  The mechanics of fire building is a good start, but the art of fire building his a skill that will be far more useful and interesting to the older scouts, especially the Eagle scouts that can't get up in the morning and get a cook fire going for breakfast.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not gonna pretend to be a firemaking guru, especially with primitive methods

but I think tinder is a HUGE variable when it comes to trying to light with spark or friction..... 

 

not to disagree with this statement my any means though....

 

But in a competition using spark, flame aint gonna happen if you don't have good tinder.... no matter how long you have.

Gotta teach the boys how to make char-cloth.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm having the opposite problem ... Teaching boys to put a fire dead out.

Last week, I was last to leave the site because I was rigging the dog's pack as well as mine. I stopped to check the fire circle, and smoke was rising from one corner. I thought I 'd have to unrig my gear to put it out. Then lo and behold, on the edge of the ring was someone's ozark bottle and just enough water to put the remaining coals dead out.

 

The boys were late to the extraction, so I saved the stern lecture about paying closer attention and how the dog carried more water because I had to carry an somebody's empty empty bottle.

 

At least the ASPL owned up to it once we got home and sorted gear. I told him no worries, I needed to slow the dog down anyway, and am looking forward to the boy's song at the next meeting. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Coming from the era when all the cooking was done over a fire, and the  ability to start a fire anywhere, any time and tailor it however the cook wanted it ( high hot flame for boiling, low flame for frying, coals for the dutch oven ) was the hallmark of any first class scout.  We read the handbook then the fieldbook on types of woods, types of fires tipi, log cabin ,a frame ,lean-to. keyhole.    I remain puzzled and saddened by todays scouts seeming inability to master firebuilding.   

 

At the last few Klondike Derbys one of the stations involves building a small fire and cooking one small pancake on it, in 30 minutes.  the patrols all know this is coming, we do it year after year.  They can use anything but K1 or gasoline.  wax fire logs? candle stubs? pitch pine?  poplar shavings from woodshop class? " Sure thing scout go ahead".    Still only about half manage to pull it off.  

 

About five years ago I was watching a bunch of older scouts " building " a fire for an Ordeal ceremony. Their technique was to pile a bunch of logs in a heap, douse it with kero and hope for the best.  I resisted the urge to jump in and do it for them .  I suggested we needed a council type fire.  They looked at me with blank puzzled expressions.  and these were mostly life and eagle scouts.

 

A what?

 

Like a log cabin fire, but with solid layers,  Oak or hickory in the lower layers, poplar on the upper two or three, and a pine tipi on the very top

 

A log what?   

 

 

How do we tell oak from pine?

 

Ummm can you show us how?

 

So I held an unplanned class on wood id, fire building, and how to saddle notch a log.   I didnt mind the teaching at all, I was just surprised that none of them from five or six different troops had ever had any training at all, in what I thought was a basic scout skill

 

Perhaps we use stoves a wee bit too much?

Edited by Oldscout448
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I cook on a propane stove every day.  Why would I want to do it again in the woods, when I can do it for fun with a campfire.

 

Nothing can beat a campfire cooked meal, not even a Dutch oven.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Make it a game.  Water-boiling (add soap).  String-burning.  Balloon-popping. Signaling. 

 

Try starting the educational part with the importance building starting very small and working up in size from there.

Add the triangle.

 

Teach good fire lays, most of which were misplaced by BSA decades ago. E.g. Log Cabin;  Hunter's Fire.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I cook on a propane stove every day.  Why would I want to do it again in the woods, when I can do it for fun with a campfire.

 

Nothing can beat a campfire cooked meal, not even a Dutch oven.

 

Stosh, I think you inadvertently hit the nail on the head there. Fires are fun, but not necessarily essential.

 

Once upon a time being able to light a cooking fire in any conditions was an essential outdoors skill because back packing stoves were either too expensive for most people to buy or too heavy to want to carry. So fire was often the only option.

 

Now though stoves are extraordinarily light. My scouts use these. At 220g it's amazingly light! And at £25 its pretty cheap as well.

 

That doesn't mean we don't ever use fires to cook on. We do regularly, but it's because it's fun, not because it's essential. And I suggest the same goes for scouts throughout the developed world. When something goes from essential to fun its importance in the skill set naturally slips with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stosh, I think you inadvertently hit the nail on the head there. Fires are fun, but not necessarily essential.

 

Once upon a time being able to light a cooking fire in any conditions was an essential outdoors skill because back packing stoves were either too expensive for most people to buy or too heavy to want to carry. So fire was often the only option.

 

Now though stoves are extraordinarily light. My scouts use these. At 220g it's amazingly light! And at £25 its pretty cheap as well.

 

That doesn't mean we don't ever use fires to cook on. We do regularly, but it's because it's fun, not because it's essential. And I suggest the same goes for scouts throughout the developed world. When something goes from essential to fun its importance in the skill set naturally slips with it.

 

220g for the stove, how much does the fuel and fuel container weigh?  How much fuel does one need to cook for the 9 days of Philmont.  BWCA uses wood but the canoe handles the load..  I don't know what Sea Base does, but they aren't backpacking.

 

I have a small rocket stove that cooks very nicely and burns wood, works just as well as a backpack stove, weighs about the same and fuel is found in the woods, not the backpack pocket.  :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stosh, is your stove the type with a little battery powered fan? I almost bought one when my trusty old 8R died. I liked the idea of not hauling fuel but I worried that the fan would malfunction at the worst time. So I ended up buying a whisperlite.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×