The Best Ways To Start An Emergency Fire

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The Best Ways To Start An Emergency Fire


There are literally hundreds of ways to start a fire, if you have the time and resources. In an emergency though, time and resources are lacking. However, if properly equipped with knowledge, certain skill sets and some common materials you can start a fire virtually anywhere under any conditions.

Your fire starting materials and methods need to be simple, and easy to carry. Remember you may need to start a fire in the dark, in the rain, snow and when under stress. It is important before you find yourself in a survival situation that you have practiced your fire starting methods in a controlled environment. Practicing will give you the confidence and skills to start a life saving fire using simple tools and materials you carry with you and materials you may find in your environment.


Various Tools and Materials That can Be Used for Fire Starting

Matches and lighters will be purposely left off the list. Matches and lighters are unreliable, and you should never rely on either one as your only means of fire starting.

The listed items are easily carried in any pack, on your key chains and even in your pockets. The items are inexpensive and can be found in any camping store, and in the camping section of most retail department stores. While there are various other tools and materials that can be used the listed items are common, easily obtained and are very reliable means of starting a fire.

Magnesium Flint

Magnesium Sticks

To use Magnesium sticks simply shave off some particles onto dry tinder or cotton balls saturated with petroleum jelly. Magnesium in mass form is stable and impossible to ignite while the shaved particles are highly flammable and will burn at 4,000ᵒF/2,204ᵒC.

Create a spark using the embedded flint rod by applying pressure downward as you slide the backside of a fixed or locked bladed knife along the flint toward the tinder bundle. Striking the bar will only cause damage and will not create a spark. Use the cotton balls and petroleum jelly when igniting damp or wet tinder by igniting the petroleum jelly and cotton ball first and then slowly feed the small flame with damp tinder.

petroliem jelly cotton balls

Ferro rods strikeFerro Rods

Ferro rods not to be confused with magnesium, sticks or magnesium rods. Ferro rods are made using ferrocerium, which is a manmade metallic material. The spark from a Ferro rod burns at roughly 3,000ᵒF/1,650ᵒC, and the spark is hot enough to ignite dry tinder without using magnesium shavings. To use drag the rod alone the backside of a locking knife blade or any hardened metal. Some rods will include a piece of hardened metal.

Ferro rods and magnesium sticks can be carried on a keychain and in your pockets. Both are impervious to water or temperature changes, so they can be used in any type of environment.


A Survival Situation

Ideally, you would have all of the listed items in your pack or vehicle, but there is the ideal and then there is reality. The reality is that you may be caught in a situation where you have to improvise and make fire from what you can find in your environment or may have on you.


Alcohol Wipes and Hand Sanitizer

Alcohol wipes can be found in most first aids kits, which everyone should have in their backpack or vehicle. The alcohol contained in the wipe is what is used to ignite a fire. Before opening the wipe, make sure you have the means to create a spark and dry tinder at hand. You can use a piece of metal and hard stone, two pieces of metal or create a spark using your vehicle’s battery and “jumper cables”. Connect the cables, red (+) to the positive terminal and the black (-) cable to the negative terminal or to exposed metal on the engine to create a ground. The cables must be long enough to reach the ground once connected. Squeeze the alcohol wipe onto your tinder bundle and then tap the cable ends together to create a spark. The alcohol will evaporate quickly so you have to move quickly as well. Batteries can be dangerous and you should only use this method in an emergency. You can use hand sanitizer that is alcohol based in the same manner as alcohol wipes. Place a small amount on your combustibles and create a spark to ignite.


steel wool and batterySteel Wool and Batteries

The battery can be from a cell phone, camera or any electronic device. The wool must make contact with both the negative and positive terminals on the battery at the same time to create an electrical circuit. The small electrical current will ignite the wool and thus ignite any dry tinder you have placed on the steel wool. Make sure you have the tinder in place before making the connections. The battery pictured is a 9volt.


piece of glass

Starting a fire using a piece of glass from a vehicle

The sun’s rays can be used to ignite a fire by using a magnifying glass or other types of glass. This method works best when the sun is directly overhead. Gather your dry tinder into a bundle and place the glass so you can see the small beam being focused on the bundle. This method can take several minutes and you may have to reposition the glass occasionally. The tinder will begin to smoke, and when you see an ember gently blow on the ember until you have a flame.  You may not realize it but your compass may have a magnifying glass built in.

Note the small flip up magnifier

Note the small flip up magnifier

A Lensatic compass includes a small glass for magnifying the compass face, so do not over look this valuable tool. You can also use glass from a broken headlight, or even eyeglasses. Survival is about being able to adjust to your situation and using what is available in your environment.


Friction fireFire from Friction

The materials used to create this fireboard and drill can be found on your person and in your environment. Ideally, you would have cordage in your pack or you can use shoelaces or remove the cord used to secure your pack cover, or any lanyards that may be attached to your knives or compass. This method does work but it takes attention to detail and patience. The bow is used with the string to spin the drill fast enough to create friction that in turn creates an ember using the wood itself.

Having a knife/multi-tool, axe or machete makes the job of creating a bow and drill much easier.

The fireboard is the flat piece on the ground with a notch in it. There are numerous instructions available as to how to use a fire drill but it is recommend that once you have an ember in the notch that you move the fireboard and bring your tinder to the ember. Some experts like to allow the ember to drop onto a piece of bark or leaf and then move the hot coal to the bundle. Once you start moving the coal around you can drop it, or the wind can blow it away. Simply move the fireboard and feed the hot coal without moving the ember.


Additional Items You can Include in Your Pack

“Wet fire” packaged usually in small cubes, used to start fires anyway particularly in wet conditions. You can shave a small amount from the cube or ignite the entire cube by match, lighter, or by creating a spark. The cube is a petroleum-based product.

fire starting material

Fire starting material

Place in a small container protected from moisture. It is simply dry tinder, flint and steel, the flint depicted is naturally formed flint found near creek beds and rivers. You can use metal files for steel, or any piece of hardened metal.

Char cloth is usually made by placing pieces of cotton material in a small can that can be sealed; the lid will need one hole in it for the gas to escape. The cloth is heated until it is reduced to its carbon form. Depriving, the material of oxygen is how you reduce it to carbon form without destroying the carbon in the material. Place the container with the cloth in it on or near a flame and once the smoke stops flowing from the hole remove the container and let cool. An ember can be created in the char cloth by a single spark and as you blow on the ember feed it dry tinder.



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Posted on by Suburban Prepper in Fire, Prepping 101 1 Comment