Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Firebuilding When the Weather Sucks

There's a theory in survival called the Rule of Three. Basically, you can live three minutes without air, three hours exposed without shelter and heat, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Today, we'll look at part of the three hours exposed.

Last Friday, Scott gave a pretty good breakdown of how to make a fire.  If you haven't read it yet, do so, as it gives a lot of background that we're going to build on.

Miserable weather (rain, snow and the like) complicates firebuilding, when you need that fire the most.  However, they don't always make it impossible to start a fire, it just takes a little more than on a warm clear day.

  1. First, when the weather sucks, plan ahead and start gathering materials early.  You don't want to be scrounging for materials and trying to get your fire to start when you're already cold and your hands are going numb. 
  2. Dry tinder/kindling is vital.  I keep a pill bottle in my manbag at all times with enough material to get several fires going.
  3. Wood that is damp (not wet, but possibly rained on) can be made to burn far easier if it is split open.  The outside will be wet, but the inner wood is very likely dry enough to burn readily.
  4. Another source for drier wood is under some sort of cover.  Look for fallen wood underneath a tree  or bush (also, pine needles that have fallen and are sheltered under a tree can be wonderful for starting a fire), sagebrush from the bottom or interior of the plant, etc. The natural cover will leave your wood far more burnable than exposed wood.
  5. Consider, if you have the room, keeping a small amount of wood in your Car Survival Kit, if it's appropriate.  It's almost cheating, but chance favors the prepared.
  6. Elevate your fire.  Use a pair of logs to lift the beginnings of your fire off the ground.  This not only keeps your fire dry and above the damp ground, it also gives it additional air, which fires need to burn.  DO NOT use rocks for this purpose.  Water that has soaked into rocks can turn to steam in the pores of the stone and cause it to shatter or explode.  This is potentially very hazardous, and can layer yet another concern onto a survival situation that doesn't need any more concerns.
  7. Smaller fires are far easier to tend, consume dramatically less fuel, and if there's something to reflect heat back at you, can warm almost as well as a big bonfire.

There you have it.  Seven tips for making a fire when you need it the most.


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