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Monday, April 26, 2010

Quest For Fire

magnifying glassImage via Wikipedia
Fire, it’s one of the key ingredients for your survival after a disaster or the post apocalypse. The obvious way to start a fire is with matches or a lighter, possibly some gas or another combustible liquid as well. But what happens if you have none of these, how do you get a fire started? Fortunately there are many ways to get a fire started without every striking a match, here are a few that I’ve used in the past that work.


An important note to remember when starting any fire is that no matter what method you choose to use you should have all your fuel ready to go before you try to get a fire going. You might only have one chance so don’t waste it by having to run around looking for fuel. Also you need an escalation in the fuel you use, what this means is that once you have fire start with small fuel such as dry leaves and twigs, then as this burns start adding larger sources of fuel until the fire is hot and large enough to burn regular sized wood.

Another important note is that many of these techniques require something called a “bird’s nest” this is simply a bundle of dry easily burnable fuel such as grass, bits of paper, small twigs, or whatever you can find that you bundle together to resemble a bird’s nest. To keep this material dry you should always pack it in your bug out bag in a plastic bag to keep it separated from your other kit.

1. Magnesium Fire Starter

If you’re using a magnesium fire starter you won’t need to necessarily make a bird’s nest, but there are a couple extra things to consider when using one. First find a flat piece of cardboard, bark, or other easily burnable material, this is what you will use to place your filings on, don‘t just have the filings fall into the dirt because they will get buried in there and become ineffective. Using a saw blade or file not a knife blade (This will quickly dull your knife unless you have no other choice) starts shaving the flat side of the fire starter. Make sure to avoid injury that the saw blade is moving away from your fingers not towards it. Continue this motion until you have a pile of filings a little larger then a quarter (Loonie if you’re Canadian), of course you can also go a little bigger if you feel that isn’t large enough. Remember to keep those filings together, what your essentially doing with them is creating kindling, magnesium burns very hot and fast (About 5000 degrees), and keeping them together will allow them to burn longer.

Now using the flint side of the fire starter scrap, don’t strike the flint. The filings will go up very quickly so remember to have your kindling very close by. Once its lit start adding your kindling, don’t heap it on top all at once but add a piece at a time allowing the fire to start burning each piece. Throwing everything on all at once is a good way to kill your fire before it has a chance to catch.

2. Magnifying Glass

Another way to get a fire going is with a magnifying glass. I recommend using a smaller one as this will take up less space when travelling, and many of the smaller versions come with their own protective cases built in to protect the lens from scratches. To use a magnifying glass to start a fire, first build your bird’s nest using dry grass, paper, whatever you can find. Then placing the bird’s nest on the ground align your magnifying glass to the sun. The glass will concentrate the sun’s rays into a much smaller focal point causing that area to heat up very quickly. Once you see smoke starting gently blow on the bird’s nest until you see fire, then start adding you’re kindling on top.

3. Beer Can

In the post apocalypse world discarded pop or beer cans should be very easy to find. To use this you’re going to need a can, something to polish the bottom of the can with, a small piece of flammable material such as paper or cloth, and a roach clip or small object to hold the paper or cloth such as a small twig. First you need to polish the bottom of the can, it’s important that it’s not scratched as this will act as a mirror to collect the sun’s heat. One way to polish it is to use tooth paste and some toilet paper since neither one is abrasive enough to really scratch up the can. After polishing the can for about 45 minutes to an hour you then want to align the can so that the sun’s rays are running parallel and will allow it to collect heat. To ensure its parallel you want the shadow of the can to be as small as possible, the smaller the more in line to the suns rays it will be.

Once your can is aligned you want to find the focal point, or where the sun’s rays will be most concentrated on the can, you can check this by moving your finger a couple of inches above the can until you find the hottest point. Then take your flammable material (paper, cloth, etc) place it on your twig or small stick and position it at the focal point, remember that you want the twig, roach clip or whatever you decide to use as small as possible to reduce the amount of shadow cast onto the can, obviously the more shadow means the less heat will be collected. If this is done right your flammable object should start to smoke fairly quickly, once it does place it into your bird’s nest (Which you should have made already) and gently blow until it catches fire.

4. Steel wool and a 9 volt battery

One of the easiest ways to start a fire is with a 9 volt battery and steel wool. I’ve used different brands of steel wool such as S.O.S pads, but the generic brand I found works the best because it doesn’t have the added cleaning agent in it. To do this simply take a piece of steel wool and start opening it up, the goal is to turn it into a bowl like shape. Once this is done fill that bowl with easily burnable material such as dry grass, leaves, paper etc. Now taking the 9 volt battery touch the top end of the battery (The end with the positive and negative ends) to the steel wool. Very quickly the wool will catch on fire, allow a couple seconds for the fire to spread and start to burn the dry kindling before you add more, again adding too much will choke the fire causing large amounts of smoke and possibly killing your fire before it starts.

There are lots of ways to get a fire started, these are just a few of them. Like many things in the post apocalypse world you need to think on your feet and use what you have around you and don't be afraid to experiement, you never know what will happen.