Fire lighting is an important basic skill in Scouting. It is vital forcooking, keeping warm, camping and as a focal point for various activities.People have needed and congregated around fires since man lived in caves!
Knowing how to prepare, lay andlight different sorts of fires, therefore is very important. It is equallyimportant to know how to extinguish a fire and to clear the fireplacecorrectly.
A fire needs to be builtcarefully - you can’t just pile lots of wood together and hope for the best!
So, whether you are lightingthe fire directly on the ground or using a raised, ready-made altar fire, it isalways necessary to take time to prepare everything before you actually strikethe match.
You need to think about whereyour fire is going to be, collecting suitable materials, how to build your fireappropriately and make preparation for putting the fire out in an emergency.
There arethree elements needed to make a fire:
In a typical fire, the fuel is thewood; the oxygen comes from the air – although you may also need to blow gentlyto help the fire start – and the heat is initially provided by the match. Ifany of these elements is removed, the fire will go out.
Different types of fire
Altar Fire - Some camp sites do not allow ground fires so an altar fire is a useful alternative. A traditional style altar fire may be built from substantial logs laid at right angles to one another, or using trestles as in the diagram below. The top layer consists of a number of logs side by side and covered with mud. The mud provides a base that will not catch alight and the fire is built on this base. Trestles must be braced and lashed very firmly. Altar fires are more often built out of metal or are permanently free standing on site.
Trench fire – To build a trench fire, dig a trench or pit and place ascreen of logs, bricks or stones along the side. The fire is built in thistrench. This is an ideal fire for cooking on a hot day as you are shielded frommuch of the heat.
Starfire –This is a small fire started in the centre of three logs placed in a starshape. As the logs burn, they are moved towards the centre of the star.
There are many other types of fire, such as gypsy fires, reflector fires, and keyhole fires. Further information can be found in the Nights Away resource and A Complete Guide to Scouting Skills, or by using a good internet search engine.
Tricks of the trade
·Never use paraffin, petrol or methylated spirits to light or revive a fire.
·Use a left over candle end to build a wigwam shape around (see Teach Yourselffor details).
·Get everything ready first. The kindling (thin twigs and sticks) is veryimportant. If it has rained recently, dry kindling may still be found underbushes, trees and so on. Keep your kindling dry while hunting for larger twigsand small sticks.
·Feed a fire - don't smother it. Fires are fickle and tend to go out if they arenot looked after in the early stages.
·Replenish fuel frequently, remembering that it is important not to allow thefire to become too ‘dead'.
·Leave the fire place as you found it, so that there is no trace that you havebeen there.
·For real emergencies, always keep a supply of waxed matches and take ready madefire lighters.
· If you are intending to cookon your fire, it should not only be 'smokeless' but also 'flameless'. Hotembers give a constant heat suitable for cooking. Do not cook over flames.