How to Build a Fire with Just One Match

Ever try to get a campfire going, only to be constantly frustrated by lots of smoke and absolutely no flame or heat? Ever use about a gallon of charcoal lighter fluid, creating a fire that could be seen from space, only to have no visible flame and blackened, smoldering logs left after a few minutes. Here are some tips for building a great campfire (or fireplace fire) on the first try.

Step 1

Preparation is the key. You must make sure you gather all the fuel you will need so you don’t have to leave your fledgling fire, even for a minute or two.

Step 2

First, gather a wad of dry paper, toilet paper, cash, dead grass or some other flammable material that will loosely crumple.

Step 3

Go to the nearest conifer (evergreen) tree. If you look closely at the branches and near the trunk, you will find small branches that are dead, but still on the tree. First break off a bundle of the smallest, not much bigger than a match stick. You will need a bundle about the size of your two fists, more if things are a little wet.

Step 4

Next break off some bigger dead branches, ones about the size of a pencil. If you are dealing with wet conditions, look carefully around the tree. You can usually find some that were more sheltered than others. You will need a large double handful of these about a foot long, again, more if conditions are wet.

Step 5

Now you will need to find several pieces of dry wood about the size of your wrist and about 1 to 2 feet in length. A good armload of these will get you started.

Step 6

Now you must lay your fire. I will not be covering a proper fire pit here. I will trust you have already constructed one or are using a pre-constructed one. I prefer to position a short piece of my wrist sized wood in the pit.

Step 7

Lay a fist sized wad of your loosely crumpled paper, et cetera, next to the piece of wood. Paper that has been crumpled too tightly will not take a flame well.

Step 8

Place one of your pencil sized pieces perpendicular to the wrist sized piece of wood and over, just barely touching your paper. This piece of wood will serve as a support beam for a little roof we are going to build over your paper.

Step 9

Put the match stick sized pieces of wood some directly on the paper, being careful not to crush it. Place the rest over the paper, leaning on the pencil sized piece of wood. These pieces need to be close enough together to readily share heat and flame, but far enough apart to allow for plenty of air flow.

Step 10

Add several more pieces of pencil sized wood, leaning them on the pencil sized support piece directly over the paper.

Step 11

You are now ready to start your fire. Take your one match and light your paper in two or three locations. The flames should readily catch the small pieces, then the larger pencil sized pieces.

Step 12

Now, simply add additional pieces of wood, in growing size until your fire reaches the desired size. Soon, you will have a bed of coals that will form the foundation of your fire. Remember, to always keep in mind as you add wood, to never smother, leave plenty of room for airflow, but keep things close enough together to share heat and flame.

Step 13

Finally, when you are done with your fire, always put it out until it is cold to the touch.

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