Building a fire is one of those things that you might sort of know how to do, but don’t really have to do it that often. Building a fire is actually quite simple, whether it’s a campfire or a cozy one in your living room. Here’s how to do it.

 What You’ll Need:

  • A safe place to build your fire. If you’re outdoors, that means a fire pit away from trees and bushes. Indoors, that means a fireplace with a good grate, a screen that will keep sparks from flying out, and a working flue that you can open up to let smoke escape.
  • Matches. Obviously, you’ll need these to start the fire. Of course, you don’t need matches—any fire starter will do. Matches are generally the most convenient.
  • Tinder. This is what you’ll use to start your fire. Outdoors, this means small, dry sticks and twigs, while indoors newspaper will work just fine.
  • Kindling. This is wood that’s slightly larger than tinder, usually a bit less than an inch in diameter. This will burn easily and get your fire going, building a coal bed under your larger wood. Make sure this is dry.
  • Logs. You know what these look like. Usually a few inches in diameter, this is the wood that will go on your fire last, that’ll build it up to the right size and keep it burning for awhile. Again, you’ll want to make sure this is dry before you use it.
  • Water. You’ve heard Smokey the Bear say it a million times, so I won’t bore you, but make sure you have some water handy to put out the fire when you’re done. Only you can prevent forest fires.

Note that lighter fluid is nowhere on the list. It’s looked down on by many as dangerous, and frankly, you just don’t need it. At best, you’ll have some weird tasting marshmallows, and at worst, you could burn down your house. All you need for this is some good old-fashioned wood, and if done right, you’ll have a solid fire going in no time.

Building an Outdoor Campfire

If you’re building a fire outdoors, you’ll need to be a bit more resourceful than if you had the comfort of a fireplace. This means you’ll need to find the wood, kindling, and tinder, and you’ll need to build a small fire pit if you don’t already have one. Also, since you don’t have a grate, you’ll need to put a bit more work into structuring the fire.

  1. Make sure you’re away from trees, bushes, or anything that burns. You don’t want to be starting any forest fires. Also, if you’re at a campsite, double-check that fires are permitted in the area.
  2. Build a small fire pit. To protect the wood from falling apart into the area where you’re sitting, dig a small hole and surround it with rocks. If your campsite already has a fire pit (or you’ve built a backyard one yourself), you can obviously skip this step.
  3. Put some tinder in the center of your fire pit. Remember, tinder are the small sticks, twigs, and leaves you’re going to use to get your fire burning, so the easier it burns, the better.
  4. Stack your kindling on top of the tinder in a “teepee” structure. Make sure to leave an opening on the side you’re going to light. In general, you’ll want more wood on the downwind side so you can shield people on that side of the fire.
  5. At this point, you have a fire-ready structure. You can build this as big as you want (be careful!), and the structure doesn’t matter as much. Some people like to build large teepees with their bigger logs, while others like to build a square structure around their small teepee. Generally, the square “log cabin” structure is better for letting out heat, but a teepee is easier to make into a large bonfire.
  6. Light your fire. Grab your matches and light the tinder. It helps to light it in a few different places to get it burning faster. Note that you may need to add more tinder if the kindling takes a while to catch fire. As the fire burns, you can gradually make it larger by adding larger and larger sticks.

That’s it! You should have a roaring campfire in no time, and if you’ve remembered to save a few of those sticks, you can get your ‘mallow roasting on. Be sure to put out your fire completely when you’re done!