Alternative Fire Methods

This article is from Dave Canterbury! 
Within this article we’re going to discuss alternative ways to create fire this does not mean that we necessarily go primitive by starting fire with sticks it simply means thinking outside the box to use the natural environment and components of our kit as an effective tool for creating fire. Fire is one of the most important tools of an emergency situation. Your ability to make fire can directly control your body’s core temperature and your ability to disinfect water. There have been many ways throughout time to effectively make fire the most common modern ways to effect flame include matches and lighters. Instant short-term flame is not always the answer. In many weather conditions longer-term flame lasting approximately 5 to 7 minutes may be necessary to create a sustainable fire. With the advent of the Ferrocerium Rod there are many other ways to effectively create fire. The most important thing to remember when using this rod is that the tinder source must be highly combustible. Commercial tinder’s are available at many sporting-goods and camping type stores this tinder’s can also be made at home very easily. To effectively create what I would call sure flame you must combine highly combustible material with an accelerant. There is a difference between accelerants and fuels. Fuels require open flame to ignite and thus burn, accelerants will ignite through the release of fumes. Vaseline would be considered a fuel; gasoline would be considered an accelerant. To create a sure fire tinder one must combine highly combustible materials like cotton with accelerants like lighter fluid or charcoal lighter, and then ensure they are waterproof by impregnating them in wax. Another thing that must be understood about fire is the creation, control, and manipulation of an ember when sure fire is not available. Embers can be created from natural material found in the woods from shredded barks, dry plant materials, funguses, or can be created by using charred material. To create charred material you must eliminate the oxygen factor within the triangle a fire. The triangle of fire involves three things ignition, oxygen, and fuel. To create charred material we must provide a fuel in the form of combustible material heating within a metal container (char tin) or coal bed, and then starve it of oxygen. Using this method enables you to ignite this highly combustible charred material in many ways to include your Ferrocerium rod, Flint and steel, or a magnifying glass. Understanding and controlling embers is a very important part of your ability to start fire in an emergency situation. If more modern methods are unavailable.
There are many household items that can be used to create tinder’s for fire these items can be carried with you for an emergency situation before it occurs. Cotton balls and Vaseline have always been a standard carry items even by scouts but this is not effective tinder for emergency situation due to the fact it is not waterproof. If this tinder is placed in a waterproof container it can serve the purpose but there are better options products on the market today like Mini Inferno ( are products that combine highly combustible material with accelerants that are sealed in wax to make them waterproof. You can create these type tinder’s at home as well but it is somewhat time-consuming and difficult to create safely. The lint from your dryer trap is also highly combustible as most people wash and dry many types of cotton materials combining this in a water proof container with Vaseline is also a semi-viable option. A better option in my opinion would be to combine the dryer lint with an accelerant like lighter fluid or charcoal lighter and then seal this mixture with wax. Many Bug Sprays incorporating Deet can be used as an accelerant in an emergency and material soaked by this will readily ignite by sparks from the ferro rod. Another option may be an alcohol based liquid like hand sanitizers.
We must also understand that when traveling through the woods we should have what I call opossum mentality. What this means is that any tinder resource we see as we’re walking we are collecting. There are many highly combustible tinder sources available throughout a wooded environment as long as conditions are correct. Even during foul weather we can find dry tinder by looking under overhanging objects for dry plant materials beneath. We should also be looking to collect actual bird nests from trees. We can also scrape bark from trees like Cottonwood, Cedar, or Tulip Poplar and effectively create our own bird nest which when dry will be highly combustible. Birch and Pine are great sources of Natural accelerants as they both contain volatile oils Birch Bark will take a hot spark from a Ferrocerium rod even if damp and the resins in pine can be used effectively to create wet weather fires as well especially if Pine sap or Fat wood are available. To use fat wood effectively you need to scrape not carve dust like material from the fat wood slab too great a dime to quarter sized pile, this will be highly combustible and take advantage of surface area for catching the sparks from your ferro rod. The secret to a highly combustible man-made bird nest is created by combining fine fibers with medium and course and increasing the surface area for sparks to land when using the Ferrocerium rod. Processing material before attempting ignition is essential to success and this can be accomplished by simply ripping and tear at the barks to create finer fibers.


Using charred materials is another good way to effectively make an ember for use in a bird nest. The charred material can be ignited by use of the ferro rod, flint and steel, or by solar magnification that when combined with highly combustible natural materials can be coaxed into flame by slowly blowing the ember to heat the surrounding material until it ignites into flame. Controlling and making embers other than char to use for Solar ignition is an art in itself these embers can be created from cattails, fungus, and compressed flower tops.


Items like Duct Tape with an adhesive backing are almost always flammable and can be shredded finely to create a sort of bird nest that can be ignited into flame by use of the ferro rod as well or added to an existing small flame to extend the burn time until better fuel can be added or dried out… Steel wool is another excellent source of highly combustible material that burns very hot. Steel wool of at least #0000 grade should be kept in the kit for maintain tools and the like, this material with burn from the sparks of a ferro rod as well and 2 AA or AAA batteries set in series can also be used with a thin winding of the material to ignite a larger piece. Using steel wool in my mind is one of the most effective ways to light a marginal bird nest when conditions or material may be damp or inconsistent.
The bottom line is that you should always have a Ferrocerium rod attached to your body so that it cannot be lost, with that and a good knife you should be able to manage with natural materials as listed above. I tend to carry a Bic Brand Lighter in my pocket as well as a small 5x Magnification lens called a Fresnel lens in my wallet. With these tools available in a place they are very unlikely to be lost and a knowledge of both natural and man-made tinder sources, as well as utilizing the items in my kit I feel 100% confident that I can affect fire in the most extreme conditions.


           From  Dave Canterbury’s Website @file:///Users/keithbadger/Documents/Woodland%20Wisdom_%20Alternative%20Fire%20Methods.htm
Check it out! There’s a lot of great woodslore and woods wisdom contained within it.

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