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Firewood and the Emerald Ash Borer in Indiana DNR Campgrounds

If you plan to camp in Indiana this season, please take note:

You cannot bring firewood from that county to any Indiana state park, reservoir, or state forest. These counties currently include Adams, Allen, Blackford, Brown, Cass, Carroll, Delaware, DuBois, DeKalb, Elkhart, Floyd, Grant, Hamilton, Harrison, Hendricks, Huntington, Jay, Kosciusko, LaGrange, LaPorte, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Miami, Monroe, Noble, Orange, Porter, Randolph, Ripley, St. Joseph, Steuben, Tippecanoe, Wabash, Washington, Wells, White and Whitley.

You can check IDNR’s up-to-date interactive map of affected counties on the web at before you load up your vehicle. Firewood may not be brought from Michigan, Ohio or Illinois or from parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, West Virginia and Virginia. There are some limited exceptions.

Campfires are one of the really enjoyable parts of the camping experience.
The scent of wood smoke, the warm glow, hot dogs or marshmallows

 roasting over the coals, 
the trance we all seem to fall into when we watch the fire in the evening.

Campfires may not always be allowed, so be sure to check with the campground manager or the local forest service about any possible restrictions due to forest fire hazards.

[Campfire Safety]  [Tips & Tidbits]   [ The Dangers[Acquiring Firewood]   [Where to find FREE wood
 [Storing Your Firewood]
[Preparation before building your fire
[Making a Fire Ring]  [How to build your fire[Types of Fires]

[Make & Maintain A Fire in The Rain]     [Banking the fire to preserve fuel]
[Extinguish your Fire]
  [Emergency Fire Procedures
Fire & Tents
Cooking in Your Tent
Gas Appliances

[Colorful magic Campfires]  

16 Steps to Build a Campfire

1. Split dead limb into fragments and shave one fragment into slivers. 
2. Bandage left thumb. 
3. Chop other fragments into smaller fragments. 
4. Bandage left foot. 
5. Make structure of slivers (include those embedded in hand.) 
6. Light Match 
7. Light Match 
8. Repeat "a Scout is cheerful" and light match. 
9. Apply match to slivers, add wood fragments, and blow gently into base of fire. 
10. Apply burn ointment to nose. 
11. When fire is burning, collect more wood. 
12. Upon discovering that fire has gone out while out searching for more wood, soak wood from can labeled "kerosene."
13. Treat face and arms for second-degree burns. 
14. Re-label can to read "gasoline." 
15. When fire is burning well, add all remaining firewood. 
16. When thunder storm has passed, repeat steps 1 - 15

Introduction to Fire

This intro goes through the various steps of building, lighting and using a fire.

Each section can be read by itself but for beginners it may be best to start at the very beginning,
its a very good place to start.

Elements required for a fire to burn properly.
When one of these three things are removed, the fire stops burning.
 Example -- Water cools fuel below ignition point, dirt cuts off the oxygen supply.

Fuel- material that will burn
The most common fuel used is wood

Heat - enough heat to bring fuel to ignition
Heat from the smaller fuel should ignite the next size up which should be arranged around it

Air - to provide oxygen to burning process
All surfaces that are trying to burn need oxygen. Make sure that the fire is kept loosely packed to allow in as much air as possible.


To make a fire we need wood of all sizes.
 There are three different kinds of wood needed for a successful campfire

Tinder - Tinder is material that catches on fire easily, such as dead twigs the size of a match, shavings of soft woods, peelings of cedar, birch bark or pine splinters, small twigs, dry leaves or grass, dry needles, bark or dryer lint.

This should start to burn immediately with a lighted match. 

This is what you actually set fire to and it will have to generate enough heat to set your kindling on fire.
You will need a loose bundle that would over fill a large mug.

Kindling - Kindling is the next size up, it needs to burn long enough and hot enough to set fire to the fuel around it.
small sticks 1" around or less, twigs between the size of a pencil and a Twix bar or larger wood that has been split down.

The guitar of the noisy teenager at the next campsite makes excellent kindling.

Fuel- Fuel is larger wood that keeps the fire going. Generally hard woods such as hickory, oak, maple and ash. These woods make steady, hot fires and burn into good hot coals. Fuel ranges in size from good size branches to logs.

 The thicker the wood the longer it will take to catch fire but once burning will last longer.

How much you collect will depend on the type of fire you are building,
these are covered in the following sections.

Always have plenty of wood before starting your fire. 
Pile wood where wind will not blow sparks toward it. 

The gathering of fuel in natural areas is often restricted.
Cutting of living trees is almost always forbidden -
 but neither is it very useful, because sap-filled wood does not burn well. 
Squaw wood (dead parts of standing trees) may also be prohibited.
Wood lying on the ground is usually permitted. 

Campfire Safety

The center piece of any campsite is your campfire. 
Whether you plan to cook your meals by campfire, with a propane camp stove or by other means the campfire is traditionally the center of camp. Your campfire is also the most dangerous activity on your camping trip if not planned and handled properly, especially if you are not camping in a developed campground.

If you are camping in a developed campground most Forests and Parks do not require a campfire permit. If you are camping in a dispersed area, Wilderness area or undeveloped Forest or Park lands check and make sure you have the proper permits. Also check and make sure there are no fire restrictions issued. Many times during the year high fire danger conditions exists and all campfire permits are canceled. This is especially of concern if your camping trip is in a dispersed area, Wilderness, or undeveloped Forest or Park lands. The best approach is to make a point to stop by the nearest forest ranger district office, visitor center, ranger or fire stations to check on current fire conditions just before you plan to depart on your camping trip.

If you are camping in a developed campground the chances are there will be some type of campfire pit or developed area for your campfire. This is the best place to build your campfire. Building a campfire more conveniently located will only scar the campsite for future users.

The dangers

A campfire may burn out of control in two basic ways: 
on the ground or in the trees. 
Dead leaves or pine needles on the ground may ignite from direct contact with burning wood. Alternatively, airborne embers (or their smaller kin, sparks) may ignite dead material in overhanging branches. This latter threat is less likely, but a fire in a branch will be virtually impossible to put out without firefighting equipment, and may spread more quickly than a ground fire.

Embers may simply fall off of logs and be carried away by the air, or they may be ejected at high speed by exploding pockets of sap. With these dangers in mind, some locales prohibit all open fires, particularly during times of the year particularly prone to wildfires.

Campfires are prohibited in many public camping areas. Public areas with large tracts of woodland usually have signs indicating the fire danger, which usually depends on recent rain and the amount of dead growth; when the danger is highest, all open fires are prohibited. Even in safer times, it is common to require registration and permits to burn a campfire. Such areas are often viewed by rangers, who will dispatch someone to investigate any unidentified plume of smoke.

Acquiring Firewood

It's probably a good idea to bring your own wood!

Small town general stores & National Park services are out to make their money off of seasonal campers buying wood & forgotten personal items. These places tend to be extremely overpriced.
This is where your so called "cheap camping trip" ends up costing a lot more than you expected.
 Plan ahead. 
Buy lots of wood for a better price & have some left over for the next trip.

Finding wood in the wilderness can be a rough job.

National Parks will not allow you to cut or even gather down wood.
You must bring your own.

National Forests allow cutting of wood with a permit in posted areas. Campers can usually collect down wood unless otherwise posted.

State Parks - check with the rangers on fire regulations.

BLM - fires are allowed just about anywhere safe in a rock ring, always use good judgment. Check with local officials for exact regulations.

Good Campfire Wood

Hard Wood
burns longer


Soft Wood
burns fast & splits easier



When you need to cook or simply want to relax around a campfire, knowing what kind of wood to use can eliminate frustration. 

The Burning Properties of Wood 

Wood from an evergreen tree, called "softwood," burns quickly, lets off lots of heat and dies leaving no coals.  It makes a colorful bonfire, but you will need lots of it for a whole evening.

Deciduous or "hardwood" takes longer to ignite, burns slowly and turns to glowing coals.  It is perfect for a cooking fire.

Remember that good firewood is always dry.  Rotten, crumbly, wet or green wood will make a smoky fire.  Poplar can smoke even when it is dry.  Avoid softwood with balls of tree gum attached, as this will cause a fire to spit.

For a great firestarter, use "fatwood" or dry wood from an evergreen tree that is streaked with resins. Pine needles and Birch Bark (never peel from a live tree) also work well.  Don't try to start a fire with other kinds of bark though, since bark does not burn well.

   Note: Never collect wood near Poison Ivy or Poison Oak.  The smoke from burning any part of the plants can cause an allergic rash      

Below is a list of the most common woods for burning, there are more.
  It is worth remembering that ALL wood will burn better if split.

There is an old saying, "before starting a fire - collect the right wood."  It is worth learning which wood is best for your fires as it will make life a lot easier. A natural result of tree recognition is to learn the burning properties of their woods

Alder:  Poor in heat and does not last, to be seen growing beside ponds

Apple:  Splendid - It burns slowly and steadily when dry, with little flame, but good heat. The scent is pleasing.

Ash:  Best burning wood; has both flame and heat, and will bum when green, though naturally not as well as when dry.

Beech:  A rival to ash, though not a close one, and only fair when green. If it has a fault, it is apt to shoot embers a long way.

Birch:  The heat is good but it burns quickly. The smell is pleasant.

Cedar:  Good when dry. Full of crackle and snap. It gives little flame but much heat, and the scent is beautiful.

Cherry:  Burns slowly, with good heat. Another wood with the advantage of scent Chestnut. Mediocre. Apt to shoot embers. Small flame and heating power. Douglas Fir. Poor. Little flame and heat.

Chestnut:  Mediocre. Apt to shoot embers. Small flame and heating power.

Douglas Fir:  Poor. Little flame or heat.

Elder:   Mediocre. Very smoky. Quick burner, with not much heat.

Elm:  Commonly offered for sale. To bum well it needs to be kept for two years. Even then it will smoke. Vary variable fuel.

Hazel:  Good.

Holly:  Good, will burn when green, but best when kept a season.

Hornbeam:  Almost as good as beech.

Laburnum:  Totally poisonous tree, acrid smoke, taints food and best never used.

Larch:  Crackly, scented, and fairly good for heat.

Laurel:  Has brilliant flame.

Lime:  Poor. Burns with dull flame.

Maple:  Good.

Oak:  The novelist's 'blazing fire of oaken logs' is fanciful, Oak is sparse in flame and the smoke is acrid, but dry old oak is excellent for heat, burning slowly and steadily until whole log collapses into cigar-like ash.

Pear:  A good heat and a good scent.

Pine:  Bums with a splendid flame, but apt to spit. The resinous Weymouth pine has a lovely scent and a cheerful blue flame.

Plane:  Burns pleasantly, but is apt to throw sparks if very dry. Plum. Good heat and scent.

Plum:  Good heat and aromatic.

Poplar:  Truly awful.

Rhododendron:  The thick old stems, being very tough, burn well.

Robinia (Acacia):  Burns slowly, with good heat, but with acrid smoke.

Spruce:  Burns too quickly and with too many sparks.

Sycamore:  Burns with a good flame, with moderate heat. Useless green.

Thorn:  Quite one of the best woods. Burns slowly, with great heat and little smoke. Walnut. Good, so is the scent.

Walnut:  Good, and so is the scent. Aromatic wood.

Willow:  Poor. It must be dry to use, and then it burns slowly, with little flame. Apt to spark.

Yew:  Last but among the best. Burns slowly, with fierce heat, and the scent is pleasant.

Where to find FREE wood:

Behind your local Home Depot, old lumber . . .
ask when garbage day is & get there the night before 

At Construction sights, scrap piles, 
but don't be jumping any locked gates or fences 

Inside Industrial Parks, palettes & such can be found in abundance behind these commercial concrete alleys

Local Parks & Recr -
 near maintenance buildings, whenever they just trimmed the trees 

Vacant lots being cleared, real estate land that is recently under development, trees being thinned out

Amount :

super market bundles - 

Approx. one cubic foot. 
Small wrapped campers packs. 6-10 pieces. 
Sold in grocery & general stores. 

Overall price per piece is expensive.

If you have space for storage in the backyard, shed or garage, consider buying larger quantities, such as:

cord - size 4' x 4' x 8', will fill up 2 standard pick up truck beds.
(level w/ sides) 

half cord - size 4' x 4' x 4', will fill the back of a standard pick up truck bed (level w/ sides)

1/3 cord - size 16 cubic feet -
will fill the back of a mini pickup truck bed. . .
perfect for 2-3 camp trips ! 
- $25 -$35 (usually it is a mix of hard / soft woods) 

1/8 cord - equal to 12-16 supermarket bundles

Storing Your Firewood

Wood Piles

A wood pile is exactly that - a pile of wood! 
It is used to keep your fire going for the length of time you need it, by having a supply ready on hand to add to the fire when needed rather than having to go and get, then chop more wood whilethe fire slowly goes out.

Place two poles parallel on ground and stack firewood on poles to protect it from dampness

Stack wood at least 10 feet from fire 
Cover with a tarp or plastic poncho 

Remember to care for the environment -
do not drag a log out of a hedge if it means destroying the hedge.

Before you begin, choose the site of your wood pile. 
This should be between the fire place and chopping area so that the wood is within reach but not close enough that it will set on fire or you will fall over it, and close enough to the chopping area so that you are not carrying the wood to far but not too close that you are in danger from flying bits while someone is chopping.

 To keep everything neat, you need to mark out your woodpile so different sizes of wood can be collected together neatly, so when you need to add wood you don't have to search through a great big heap to find what you want.

Different sizes of wood should be grouped together.

The first should be kindling, the small thin bits to start the fire with. This will be mainly small twigs, which can be found at the bottom of hedges and in undergrowth. This should always be dead wood - it should snap easily with a sharp 'crack' when broken.
You can also collect the 'bits' from the chopping area that an axe will produce.

The next section is the slightly thicker (around 5-15mm diameter) wood to place on top of kindling to get the fire going. These can probably be jumped on and snapped, or even broken by hand rather than sawn or chopped (much easier) - these should be kept quite short so they can lay on the kindling without being 'up in the air' when placed together.

The next two sections are your logs, the real burning bits. How thick these will be is for you to decide as to the type of fire you want, fast and flames (thin, 15-30mm diameter) or slow and hot (thick, 30+mm dia). Chop the wood into lengths about the length of your fire pit/altar fire.

You may have more or less sections if you wish, but these are probably all you will need for most fires.

The pile should be kept dry at all times, as wet wood is very difficult to burn. 
The best way is either to pitch a shelter, a tarp or old tent over the pile, or at the very least drape an old groundsheet kept over the top of the pile when it is not being added to or used. This will, of course, not help if your campsite floods -
but it will keep off most things except torrential downpours. 

A supply of kindling and newspaper should be kept somewhere dry (such as in the trunk of your vehicle) so if everything gets completely soaked there is still a chance of getting a fire going.
You will find you need much more kindling with wet wood as it has to dry before it burns.

Softwoods, like pine, fir and cedar, are best for starting a fire.

Dry hardwood, like birch, maple and oak, is best for making a bed of hot coals.

Preparation before building your fire

Clear area of all debris
avoid areas with overhanging branches.

Always use an established fire ring if available!

Try to use an area that has already been used for a campfire. You will be able to tell where someone has built their fire previously due to the ashen and scorched area of the fire.

Making a Fire Ring

Ideally, every fire should be lit in a fire ring. If a fire ring is not available, a temporary fire site may be constructed.

One way is to clear a circle 10 feet across down to bare dirt. Hollow out a fire hole two feet across, and five or six inches deep. Pile the soil around the edge of the fire hole.

Construct a fire ring surrounded by rocks. 
This will help contain the campfire's ashes. 

Another is to cover the ground with sand, or other soil mostly free of flammable organic material, to a depth of a few centimeters. The area of sand should be large enough to safely contain the fire and any pieces of burning wood that may fall out of it. Sand piles should be scattered after the fire has been put out. If the topsoil is moist, it may suffice to simply clear it of any dead plant matter.

Fire rings, however, do not fully protect material on the ground from catching fire. Flying embers are still a threat, and the fire ring may become hot enough to ignite material in contact with it.

No fire should be lit close to trees, tents or other fire hazards. 
This includes overhanging branches; some carry dead, dry material that can ignite from a single airborne ember. In addition, a fire may harm any roots under it, even if they are protected by a thin layer of soil. Conifers run a greater risk of root damage, because they lack taproots and their roots run close to the surface. Fires also should not be lit on bare rocks, because the ash will leave a black stain.

An additional safety measure is to have sand, a bucket of water, shovel and a fire extinguisher on hand to smother and douse the fire if it does get out of the fire pit.
It is wise to gather these materials before they are actually needed. 

 Gather wood and stack in separate piles away from fire area.
Do not use green or freshly cut wood. 

Many parks and forest forbid gathering fallen branches. 
It plays an important role in the ecosystem of the wilderness. 

Keep your fire small.

These days a large fire in any wilderness area is frowned upon. Large fires take more fuel to generate which means you will be using more wood. Large fires can also easily become out of control. Keep it small and to a minimum. By doing this not only can you save disaster from happening but other campers in the area will not become annoyed by the large fire.

Building your fire

There are several different types of fire, some are good for keeping you warm, others are better for cooking,
however they all follow the same design principals listed below. 

Start with: 

10-12 sheets of newspaper
other means of a fire starter.
I haven't tried this one yet, but someone suggested I use a Duraflame Log.

Learn to start a fire simply with paper, matches and kindling.


I advise against using charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline or kerosene. 


Place your tinder in a small pile in the middle of the fireplace.

Crumple the sheets of newspaper loosely and individually. 
Mound them in the fireplace, ring or pit.
 Distribute the kindling above the paper. 

Fuzz Stick

Sometimes there are not enough small twigs and sticks around to start a fire with. You can always make a 'fuzz stick' which, because of their curls of wood, catch fire more easily than a solid stick.
 Something for whittling away those spare moments of 'nothing to do'.


Build the kindling around your tinder,
making sure that you do not pack it too tight,
as the fire will need oxygen to burn well.

Stack loose enough to allow air flow but close so it catches fire

Light - Ignite the fire at the bottom of tinder pile

you may need to blow or fan the flame gently to encourage it to light.

Make sure that you have plenty of kindling available, so that you can add more as the fire becomes established.

Once the kindling starts to burn, gradually add more until it is burning nicely.


Gradually add the fuel into the shape that you want. Don't rush this stage and make sure that the wood you are adding is less than twice the size of that which is already burning.

Larger sticks & logs should be added as the fire is going well

Set the firewood on top of it all.
Never throw wood onto a fire, always place it carefully

Remember do not try to compact your base materials because you must leave them loose to allow for proper air passage. Any fire requires oxygen and by leaving materials loose this allows for oxygen to pass through the materials and ensure a good fire.

Once it's going good add more firewood, 2-3 pieces at a time going up in size and towards hardwood such as oak, ash and maple if you have it. They will burn longer.
Aspen, birch and poplar are quite common and they make good fires as they burn hot 
but fairly fast. 
 Before you know it you will have a campfire.
Once a coal bed has been built add the logs in a crisscross pattern and they will catch and burn nicely.

This is all fine and good if you have primo wood to work with. 
Unfortunately if you're are relying on buying your wood at the campground store you may very well end up with fairly green (wet, fresh cut) softwood. The softwood part is OK, you'll just go through more. But what do you do about the green part?
 Start by taking your camp axe and shaving a piece or two to get a mound of chips or shavings. Then split a piece or two into small sticks. You can substitute local twigs and sticks if they are around. Kid's love rounding up that stuff. Finally split a few pieces into a 1 inch size range.

I've also found that there are often folks selling firewood near campgrounds. Sometimes they have great dry wood all split and ready for a reasonable price, keep your eyes open when you're near your destination.
Just fill the back seat floor and let the kid's put their feet up on the stuff. 

Now build your fire. 
Newspaper, Shavings, sticks, split pieces. 
The trick here is that almost anything will burn if it's cut small enough.
 Light it off and away you go. If it stalls fan it with a sheet of newspaper a little extra oxygen can also do wonders for a slow starting fire.
Building the fire in a teepee shape is also helpful since fire loves to follow the grain and move upward.
Now just add wood, working your way up in size.
Before long you will be able to burn anything you have.

The use of fluids to start a fire:

The use of gasoline or kerosene can be like poking a Bull Moose in the nose with a sharp stick.
It is just not smart and could be deadly. 

Gasoline should NEVER be used under any circumstances.

 Kerosene on the other hand has been used to start fires without any problems.
But, extreme care must be used. 
Do not use this method if there are flames or hot coals. 
You may get the same effect as if you tossed a lit match into a keg of gunpowder.

I have used charcoal fluid to start fire in desperation and even that can flare up if hot coals or flames exist.

Make it a habit never to use fluids to start your fires. 
Be safe and learn how to build fires using paper and wood. 

If you want to cheat, buy a box of fire starters. 

Types of Fires 

There are many different types of fires to construct. 
Some are more suited for cooking, some for burning overnight, some for warmth.

Fire's for Cooking

When building a cooking fire you need to make sure that the heat is directed towards what you are cooking
 and not lost to the outside world. 

The normal way of doing this is to build a basic fire and surround it with something that will reflect the heat back in and support a grid above the fire on which you can put your pots.
 You can try any of the following as fire surrounds:

Bricks are good because they will keep the grid you cook on, level 

You can use two thick logs but soak them first to make sure they don't burn down too fast

Rocks, but never use ones that have been in water as they could explode when hot

Star Fire

This is basically one of the simplest fires to make.

A star fire is formed by making a small fire and arranging logs around the outside facing inwards to form the points of a star.

The logs are fed in lengthwise and be drawn apart to leave glowing embers and ash 
(for cooking)
 in the centre. To start the fire going strong again simply push the logs together again.

This type of fire is very useful for conserving fuel. It produces little flame or smoke when required and can be easily 'stoked' by sitting back and pushing one of the logs inwards occasionally.

Trench Fire

The heat will be reflected up by the sides which will also provide a really solid support for your grid and pans. This type of fire is especially good in exposed or windy site. Try and keep one end open towards the direction of the wind to make sure that the fire gets enough air.


Altar Fire

One of the most popular cooking fires is called an Altar fire, which is made of a raised platform on which the fire is lit. These can be made from wood, but quite often metal is used, and half an old metal drum used to hold the fire. This is very similar to a domestic barbecue.

This type of fire is ideal for long stay camps as it helps eliminate the-need for turf removal and low-level cooking. Watch the height you build to. It is much safer to have it too low than too high.

Teepee Fire - good for quick cooking since the heat is concentrated in one spot.

There are many tricks and myths on the proper way to build a fire, however, the best way is still how Native Americans have been doing it for centuries. The Teepee fire is the most efficient camp fire possible, it lights easily and burns well. The reason for this is the large amount of air entering the heart of the fire which allows the fire to burn easily and without fuss. Although some other fires are better suited for cooking or heating, the Teepee fire is the easiest to start, even in wet conditions. Always start with the "Teepee", then make it into any fire you like, such as the "Log cabin" fire better suited for cooking.

Lay the fuel over your kindling like a teepee. 

First of all, stick a thin branch (1cm diameter) into the ground as above
 Put waded-up newspaper tightly around the base, or any of the things mentioned above, but most importantly of all it should be dry.
Don't use firelighters, that's cheating! 
NEVER be tempted to use meths, petrol or otherwise to get a fire going.
Then, build up your fire using progressively thicker twigs as you build outwards, making sure you have a gap you can put the match in.
 Before you light the fire, make sure you have a good supply of small logs and thicker wood to hand, as the thin wood burns very quickly.
Continue to add more and more larger pieces as the fire burns. 
Always make sure that plenty of air gets into the heart of the fire.
 At this stage, one oversized log can snuff out the fire.

 Sort the wood into piles of similarly sized bits so you can get the right wood to build the fire up just when you need it, rather than sorting through a big heap.

Follow the link to the topic on woodpiles and chopping areas
for further information on this subject.


Keyhole Fire

The secret to successful cooking is to build a good fire that will provide hot embers, 
for it is on embers that we cook - 
not flames.
One of the problems with embers is that they tend to become cool after a short while. The keyhole fire solves this problem. Build the fire in a large circle area and pull the hot ashes through into the smaller circle where the cooking takes place, as they are needed. A two inch bed of ashes is required for successful backwoods cooking, use beech or oak logs, as these will give longer lasting embers.
Charcoal can also be used and it will hold the heat longer than wood embers.

1. Prepare the Site 

- Select a fire site at least 8' from bushes or any combustibles. Be sure no tree branches overhang the site.

- Make a U-shaped perimeter using large rocks or green logs. If using logs, they'll need to be wet down from time to time. If breezy, have back of firepit face the wind.

- Put a large flat rock at the rear of the firepit to act as a chimney. The "chimney rock" will direct the smoke up and away from the fire area.


2. Lay the Kindling 

- Fill the fire area with crumpled paper or tinder.

- Lay kindling over paper in layers, alternating direction with each layer. Use thin splits of wood or small dead branches. Do not put kindling down "teepee style". The whole fire area should be covered with the kindling stack.

- Set a bucket of water near the fire area. Light the paper to start your fire.


3. Build the Fire, Grade the Coals

- When kindling is in full blaze, add firewood. The wood should be all the same size, as much as possible. Use hardwood or hardwood branches if available. Distribute wood evenly over fire area, not just in the center.

- As soon as the last flames die down leaving mostly white coals, use a flat stick to push the coals into a high level at the back end and low level at the front. This will give you the equivalent of 'Hi', 'Med' and 'Lo' cook settings.


4. To cook, set the grill on rocks or green logs. Put food directly on grill or in cookware and prepare your meal. If cooking directly on the grill, a small spray bottle or squirt gun is handy for shooting down any rogue flames, usually caused by food drippings.

As the fire diminishes, bank the coals to get the most heat from them.

After cooking, throw on a log or two for your evening campfire. Before retiring, extinguish thoroughly and soak with water. Turn rocks in on fire bed. It will be easy to reassemble the next day if required.


Pyramid Fire

You will need 10 or 12 large logs 
(4+ inches diameter, about a yard long - the exact size doesn't matter) for the framework of the fire, plus lots of thinner wood to stack and stuff it.

Stack the larger logs into a pyramid, alternating the logs two by two and starting with the biggest at the bottom and sloping the sides inwards
 (see diagram below)

When your framework is as high as you want it, give it a lil shove to make sure it is stable -
you want the wood to collapse INWARDS as it burns but just in case, 
it is a good idea to construct a safety ring of rocks or logs outside the fire and a little way away, to trap any errant logs which try to escape.

When you are satisfied, begin to insert long thinner branches downwards into the heart of the pyramid -
at this point it is a good idea to smuggle in a box of firelighters or stuff the center with home-made fire starters and dry kindling, to prevent embarrassment at the crucial moment. Continue filling the pyramid with smaller branches and twigs, then finish it off by lightly stuffing any cracks around the bottom of the fire with DRY newspaper or any available dry paper, cardboard etc.

Providing you have constructed the fire with plenty of dry wood and spaces for air to enter, it should blaze away merrily for quite some time. Keep it going by adding logs from time to time, although if you intend cooking in the embers the original fire should be sufficient and will provide charcoal embers that will continue to glow well into the night. 

Reflector Fire
Lean To Fire

A good simple fire. 


Drive two stout sticks into the ground so that they are leaning backwards slightly. Lay some logs on top of one another against the sloping back. Form a rectangle on the floor at the base of the slope as your fireplace. By lighting a fire in the middle most of the heat will be reflected back to the front of the fire, making cooking easy. Be sure that you build it so the 'grate' or fireplace faces the wind.

of A Reflector Fire

A good, solid reflector can be made by driving four uprights into the ground a few inches apart. Then you simply pile sticks in between the uprights to build up a "wall".
 Ideally you will want to fill the space in between with earth. 

These walls can be used for a variety of things, here as reflectors but also as dams and shelter walls.

of A Reflector Fire

In this section I am only interested in using these walls as reflectors. 

A good reflector close to the fire will help reflect the heat back towards you.

Not only this, but it helps to draw the smoke upwards instead of getting in your eyes.
You can use this to your advantage by also reflecting heat into your shelter.



No we don't mean an actual cabin that you live in, it relates to the position of the firewood. Once you have a good teepee fire going, you can begin placing logs in a log cabin formation. Two to three logs per layer, with each layer being perpendicular to the next.

The slow efficient burn makes this a great cooking fire, it generates a good amount of heat and coals without much flame. Using smaller sized wood, you can create a low fire with uniform heat over a large area, great for grilling large amounts steaks. The log cabin fire allows air to enter over the entire area which the wood occupies. The smaller the pieces the more control you have over a larger area.

In the backcountry you can use oversized logs letting the fire burn them in half for you and still plant your frying pan right over the heat. Actually you don't really need a grill for your pots and pans, when built correctly it's like cooking on your stove at home. Use two thick logs to create a level platform for your pot, slide some smaller pieces of wood into the crevasse created between the logs. Keep adding small wood under the pot, which water will be boiling in no time. When the logs begin to burn down, add another two logs perpendicular to the ones underneath. This is very similar to a long fire but can be done in a standard park fire pit.

 Crisscross Fire

Good for a long lasting fire with a lot of coals.
Excellent for a campfire. 
Lay the fuel over the kindling in a crisscross pattern. 

Excellent for use after a rain . . .

Anyone can start a fire on a bone-dry day, or when they're armed with dry newspaper, kerosene or charcoal lighter.
 But let the day deteriorate to persistent rain,
 and where there's smoke there won't be fire!

Learn how to make and keep a fire in the rain, Click Here!

Make sure someone is responsible for the fire at all times, and a bucket of water
 (and fire extinguisher if possible)
 close by in case of any emergency. 
Make sure that you are all aware of the fire procedures, should any accident occur, such as grass, trees and tents catching fire.

Make & Maintain A Fire in The Rain

Here's how to make and maintain fire
 when foul weather comes to stay:

 You'll need a sharp knife, hand axe, and a saw (folding saws are highly recommended). Contrary to the ravings of some "authorities," it is nearly impossible to make fire in prolonged rain without all these tools.


1. In an evergreen forest: Collect several handfuls of the dead lower branches of evergreen trees (commonly termed "squaw wood"). Wood should grade in size from pencil-lead thickness to no bigger than your little finger, and it should break with a crisp, audible snap. If you don't hear the positive "snap," the wood is too wet, in which case proceed directly to step 3.

If "squaw-wood" is suitably dry, it will burst into a bright flame the moment a match is applied. Use a small candle to provide sustained heat to your tinder ball if the bark of the squaw-wood is wet. 
From this point on, it's simply a matter of adding more wood and  protecting the developing blaze from rain.
(see To maintain fire in driving rain).

2.Look for resin blisters on the outside bark of balsam fir trees. Break a few blisters with a sharp stick and collect the highly bile resin. Use the resin as a "chemical fire-starter" to propel your tinder to flame.

3.Locate a dead, downed tree and saw off a portion which does not touch the ground. Grounded wood rots quickly, so is apt to be unsound. Especially search for deadfalls which overhang into Un-lit clearing or waterway. These are almost certain to be rot free, as sunlight kills microorganisms which cause decay. If you cannot find a dead downed tree to saw up, look for any floating log. If the log "floats," the center is dry. Splittings taken from the heart will burn.

4. When you have completed your first saw cut through the Wall, check the center of the cut log with your hand. Is it bone dry? It should be. Even a month long rain will seldom soak through a six inch log!

5. Saw the deadfall into 12 inch sections then split each with your handaxe by the method illustrated in the AXE page.
  It should require only a few minutes to reduce each log chunk to half inch diameter kindling by this procedure

6. Cut wafer-thin tinder from a few splittings with your pocket knife. The key to producing long thin shavings rather than little squiggly ones is to use a sawing, rather than whittling action with your knife. Even a small dull knife will produce nice shavings  if you persistently saw the blade back and forth.

Build a well-ventilated platform fire of logs, thick sticks or flat stones. 

Step 1

Establish a fire base of one inch diameter sticks as illustrated. Place pencil-thin "support" sticks at right angles to the fire base.

Step 2

Meticulously stack wafer-thin shavings on top of the kindling to a height of about one inch. Place the shavings so that plenty of air can get between them.

"Smoke" is nature's way of saying you're smothering the flame!

 Next, put two half inch diameter "support" sticks at right angles to the fire base. These will support the heavier kindling you'll add over the tinder in step 3.

Step Three

Now, pile on fine split kindling above the tinder box to lock the tinder in place. Again, leave space between the splittings so your fire can "breathe."

Your fire is now ready to light. Apply flame directly below the tinder (shavings). A small candle will furnish the sustained heat necessary to ignite damp wood.

Hand feed shavings (not kindling) one at a time into the developing flame.
Don't heap kindling on until you have a bright reliable blaze.

Other Platform Styles:

Rock Style Platform

Hints: Carry strike anywhere matches in addition to a butane lighter and candle. Keep matches in a plastic jar with a cotton wad on top. A spent 16 gauge shotshell nested inside a 12 gauge case makes a tough watertight match safe.

Some campers' waterproof matches by painting on nail polish, but this causes match heads to deteriorate. A waterproof match case is a better idea.

An effective method of drying matches is to draw them briskly though your hair. Don't use your clothes; they are too abrasive.

"Fire-Ribbon" - a semi-liquid fire-starting paste is available at most camp stores. Just squeeze it on like toothpaste. A summer's supply will fit in a 35 mm film can.

You can make your own fire-starters by soaking miniature logs" of rolled newspaper in paraffin.

Cotton balls dipped in Vaseline make wonderful fire-starters!


Banking the fire to preserve fuel:

Use this procedure when you have a good hot fire but little wood to maintain it.

"Bank" your fire by setting small logs, parallel to one another, across the top. Rule-of-thumb for a smoke-free flame is to allow a "radius width" between parallel pieces of wood. Thus, a pair of two inch thick logs should be separated by a full inch to ensure equate ventilation. "Banking" will reduce this distance to a mere (though identifiable) slit, which will naturally diminish use of oxygen and slow combustion. You should also shut off any breeze coming into the fire. A large flat rock or a tier of logs will work fine.

Extinguishing the fire:

 Throwing water on a fire is not good enough. You must ascertain it is out by checking the fire bed with your hands. If water is in short supply, use the "stir/sprinkle/stir" method outlined below.

1. Sprinkle a handful of water on the flames with your hands.
Continue to sprinkle until the fire has gone out.

2. Stir the fire with a stick and sprinkle some more.
Repeat as needed until the fire is DEAD OUT!

Even if you had a fire the night before & the fire seems out. 
The coals are still cooking way underneath. 
Pour water on it & hear the sizzling. 
Put your fire dead out at least 1/2 hour before you start to break camp.
 Let the coals die down, then pour water over the ashes, and spread soil over them.
 Mix soil, water, and ashes until all embers are completely out.

Fire used haphazardly can not only cause damage but can cause death.
 It creates death to animals, people, and an environment that took billions of years to create and none of these things can ever be replaced.


 "Only you can prevent forests fires!"

Before you turn in for bedtime, make sure there are no flames, 
windy conditions 
 remember to fold up your camp chairs & lay them down.
Winds have been known to blow them into the fire & ignite. 

Emergency Fire Procedures

Thankfully, serious fires on camp outtingss are relatively rare. 
However, fire is a potentially dangerous thing, intentional or otherwise, and this section is designed to give suggestions on how to prevent such accidents from happening.


Open wood fires are actively encouraged wherever possible, and as long as people do not mess about there is no real danger.
However, there are a few things that should be borne in mind when using an open fire:

If the fire does not seem to be catching, NEVER be tempted to throw some flammable liquid on to try and get it to light. It will break up into little drops, and the smaller drops will ignite easily. This can easily turn into a fireball with serious consequences.

While waiting for the fire to burn up efficiently, kids often want to poke the fire with sticks, then when the end catches wave it around like a sparkler. Apart from the fact that poking doesn't help it start, there is a danger of burning people by hitting them with a stick, and also burning clothes.

 Although there should be no risk if you have dug your fire pit big enough, grass around the edge of the fire pit can catch fire, and if the ground is dry it can quickly spread.
 You should always have a bucket of water, and a beater if possible, next to each fire. 
This is one of the reasons why a fire should never be left unattended.

When you have finished with a fire, such as last thing at night, 
make sure that the fire is fully out before going to bed. Give it a good poke and rake the ashes, but if need be throw some water on it.


In theory, tents should never catch fire. 
However, accidents or stupidity can cause this. 

There are several points to be aware of:

Make sure that all fire pits are well away from all tents. This may sound obvious but it is surprising how often it is forgotten!

A cigarette is sufficient to ignite a tent -
 especially if you have just sprayed deodorant or hairspray and some insect reppellants
inside a tent! 

 Regardless of the weather, you should never be tempted to cook on a small gas cooker inside a tent.
If the door flap blows into the flame, the tent could catch fire, and you could get trapped inside.

Rather, set up a 'fire shelter' type tent outside, and put the cooker on a table underneath it. Proprietary fire shelters can be bought, but in their absence it is possible to tie an old flysheet between trees
 (make sure it is a good distance above ground).

When tents do catch fire, they do ignite very quickly.
 Below are some photos of a typical nylon hike tent and canvas patrol tent which have been purposely set on fire -
within 2 minutes of ignition there is nothing left, and anyone trapped inside will almost certainly have been very seriously burnt or killed.

A-Frame Tent in first 9 seconds

A-Frame Tent in 1 minute

A-Frame Tent after 2 minutes

Family-Size Tent in first 9 seconds

Family-Size Tent in 1 minute

Family-Size Tent after 2 minutes

Photos courtesy of Scouting Magazine


Cooking on gas and reasons not to cook inside a tent are covered within this site.
However, similar safety procedures cover gas lamps. 
You should never have a gas lamp inside a small tent,
although it is permissible to have a large gas lamp on a table inside a dining tent.

never change a gas bottle inside a tent -
 any gas that leaks while changing the bottle will linger, and possibly ignite from a nearby source of ignition.
 Also be aware of any naked flames nearby - 
this may be sufficient to ignite gas escaping from a bottle as you change it, and possibly cause the bottle to explode with disastrous consequences.

For further information on safety with gas,
 click here.


From time to time, large forest fires start, and there is no way to do anything about it except get away from it as fast as you can. Make sure you know of at least two escape routes by road in all directions. If a large forest fire is heading your way, never stop to 'strike' your site -
if there is time gather up personal kit and get away as soon as possible. 

Please ensure that your campfire is completely out before leaving.
Douse with water, scatter cinders and cover with dirt.
 Check it at least twice by pouring water and checking for "hisses".



Circle the pit with rocks or be sure it already has a metal fire ring.

Clear a 10 foot area around the pit down to the soil.
Just a Little Common Sense
Situate your fire at least 10 feet away from tents, trees, roots and flammable items.

Keep plenty of water handy and have a shovel for throwing dirt on the fire if it gets out of control.

Stack extra firewood upwind and away from the fire.

Keep the campfire small.
A good bed of coals or a small fire surrounded by rocks give plenty of heat.

  NO bonfires please!

Build a fire only as big as you need.
Small fires are easier to tend, you can sit closer to them without getting a tan, and the wood pile will last longer.

 Besides, you don't want kids roasting marshmallows or wieners over a bonfire.

After lighting the fire, make sure your match is out cold.

Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could quickly cause the fire to spread.

When extinguishing the fire drown the fire with water.
Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. 
Move rocks, there may be burning embers underneath. 
Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. 

Feel all materials with your bare hand.
 Make sure that no roots are burning. 
Do not bury your coals - 
they can smolder and break out.

fire restrictions

Before building any fires outdoors, check to be sure there aren't any fire restrictions.
 Ask the attendants when you arrive at the campground; or, if primitive camping, call the local forest district for information.

Fines are heavy in any area that has fire restrictions
 so it is always in the best interest of everyone to check the situation out first.

Supervise children at all times when fires are burning or when grills are in use.

Make sure everyone knows how to put out a clothing fire - 
See Emergency Fire Procedures


 first aid for burns

The first response to a burn should be to apply ice or cold water.
 And it's also good advice to include burn ointment and bandages in your camping first aid kit. Sparks and dust flying around campfires can get into the eyes, so include saline eye wash in your kit too.

See more on First Aid for Burns by Clicking Here!

  cooking over a campfire

Unless you are experienced, campfires don't make very practical stoves.
 Sure, some foods taste good and are fun to cook over the campfire, 
but without appropriate utensils and a proper fire, the food will not cook correctly and you'll likely wind up with blackened cookware.


Do not build a fire on top of pine needles

Dig down to the bare soil. Clear fire (sparks fly out) radius at least 8 feet around pit. 


Burnable's Only

Do not throw plastics, glass or aluminum into the campfire.
It is very difficult to clean up.  


Use only dead and down wood
 Never break branches from standing trees, even if they appear dead. 

Bring along a small amount of firewood.
 The understory might already be picked clean of wood from earlier campers.
Be prepared.


bring on the marshmallows

But what's a campfire without the marshmallows? 
Just be careful to supervise young children and remember that marshmallows and other foods cooked over a campfire will be very hot at first.



Little Tid Bits

In the absence of wind, smoke will always draw toward the nearest large object. 
This is why the person sitting closest to the fire may have the smoke follow them no matter where they sit.
To avoid this effect, try building your fire close to a large immovable object such as a rock.


Have you ever found your hands, hair or clothes covered in sticky pine or evergreen sap, when you've been searching for your firewood in a forest?
 Washing the affected areas with baking soda instead of soap, really helps to remove the sap effectively!

Campfire Magic

Here are some nifty little chemical additions you can use to add a little magic to your next campfire. 

The above is only a guide, and is not an exhaustive list and we can not be held responsible for any consequences of lighting a fire.

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