The Fire Structure

(As featured in the June 2007 issue of Practically Seeking)

Burning Fire How big a fire do you need to keep warm?

How about one small enough to fit under your blanket with you?

Here are some principles to keep in mind when building a proper fire structure:

The Fire Triangle (Heat, Fuel, Oxygen)

Each layer serves to ignite the next:

Tips & Tricks for a Better Fire

Step-by-step instructions for building a proper fire:

  1. Collect your firewood and sort it into piles based on diameter, starting with toothpick and working up to wrist-sized. Make each larger diameter a couple of inches longer than the last so you will end up with a perfectly conical structure. All wood should be dead and dry, and snap easily and cleanly. You will also need to collect enough dry, fibrous material (such as cedar inner-bark, dry grass or pine needles) for an apple-sized tinder bundle and a tinder blanket of (approximately) 4x6 inches.
  2. Firewood

  3. Select a well-drained area of ground and excavate a shallow, sloping depression about twice the diameter of the future structure, and only a couple of inches deep. Place three thumb-diameter sticks in the ground to form a pyramid, about half the height you want your finished structure to be. If you plan to light your fire by friction, your doorway should be facing the prevailing wind, whereas if you have a single match, face that opening to the leeward side.
  4. Pyramid

  5. Place a row of thumb-diameter sticks on the ground within your pyramid with the ends facing the doorway, with another layer on top of that, perpendicular to the first. This will keep your tinder bundle off the ground as well as provide good air flow for combustion.
  6. Pyramid with Base

  7. Working clockwise from your doorway, lay a few of your pinky-diameter sticks into your pyramid base. This will serve to support the next layer -- the tinder blanket.
  8. Base for Tinder Blanket

  9. Create a loose blanket of dry, fibrous material and drape it over your pyramid, starting at one side of the doorway, all the way around and back to the other side of the door. It should resemble the covering of a teepee, but be light and airy.
  10. Tinder Blanket

  11. Starting at the door and working clockwise, place several layers of your thinnest material on top of your tinder blanket. Repeat this process, using progressively larger diameter sticks for each layer, until your desired size is reached. Save a few sticks of each size to close your doorway after ignition.
  12. First layer of sticks Additional Layers Completed Fire Structure

  13. Ignite your tinder bundle and place it in the opening. Once the initial layer begins to light, use the sticks you have set aside to close the doorway opening. Now get those marshmallows ready!
  14. Placing Your Tinder Bundle Your Beautiful Fire

The Scout Fire

Like the student in the photo I have spent several nights in cold weather with just a blanket and a fire smaller than a peach, and remained more than adequately warm.
You can learn more about how to build this virtually invisible fire at our upcoming Fire by Friction workshop.

The Scout Fire

(REMEMBER that Fire is Dangerous! Please do not try to construct the Scout Fire yourself without proper instruction. You could be seriously injured, and we don't want that!)