How to Start a Bonfire
Making a bonfire is a great addition to any outdoor gathering. The warmth and entrancing flames from the bonfire gives off a relaxing vibe for everyone around. Starting a bonfire is a fun and simple task that merely requires some dry wood and an open space.
Preparing The Fire Pit
Clear a space for your fire pit.Your fire pit should be constructed on bare dirt. If you are at a location that has a designated fire pit area (like a campsite), you should build your fire there. If you are in a more uninhabited area, you should clear away any flammable woodland debris extending at least 8 feet away, and build your bonfire there.
- Make sure your fire pit is not directly under any tree branches or hanging plants.
Dig down into the pit.Scrape away at the area you intend to make your bonfire. The center section where you intend to build the fire should be a little depressed so the fire is more controlled, and the ember ashes have somewhere to fall.
- This will also help the wood fall in on itself rather than falling outward.
- Be sure to remove any leftover ash from previous fires. This will provide your bonfire with a clear base from which to start.
Set a perimeter of rocks.Position rocks in a circle around the area you intend to build you fire. The rocks contain the bonfire while setting a boundary between the burning wood and flammable items.
Prepare extinguishing tools.It is always a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby when building a fire. You may also want to consider keeping a bucket or two of water near your fire site. This will provide a backup for immediately putting out the fire, if need be.
Starting The Fire
Gather tinder and kindling wood.Tinder is very small pieces of dry material that catch fire quickly. Things like dry leaves, dry bark, dry grass, and any dry bits of wood are all ideal materials for tinder. Kindling is bigger (but still small) pieces of woodsy material that also catches fire quickly. Things like small branches and twigs (about the width of your fingers) are ideal materials for kindling.
- It’s a good idea to have both tinder and kindling when making a fire, because they help to get the fire started, to help inflame the actual logs.
- It is very important that the tinder and kindling materials are dry when creating a bonfire. Wet materials most likely not burn.
- If the outside environment you’re building your bonfire in is wet and damp, you might want to consider bringing your own tinder and kindling. Things like balled up newspaper, ripped pieces of cardboard, and dryer lint are all good alternatives for tinder.
Collect your firewood.Walk around your woodland area and collect pieces of wood that are approximately the width and length of your arm. The sizing can vary, but the fueling firewood should be the biggest and thickest pieces of wood you use to build your bonfire. The firewood needs to be relatively dry, so avoid wood that is really flexible, and has a lot of moss growth.
- Burning wet wood will only result in creating a lot of smoke as the wood burns.
- Collect about 20-25 pieces of firewood. This is only so you are prepared to add more wood and keep the fire going, if need be.
Create a bedding of tinder.Lay your tinder pieces inside the center of the designated bonfire area. Create a layer of tinder about a square foot wide.
Position your wood.Stack and lean your kindling pieces on each other in a teepee style. Keep adding more kindling until you have a solid teepee structure. Then, add your bigger pieces of firewood to make the teepee structure bigger.
- There are many ways to construct a fire (teepee style, lean-to style, log cabin style, top-down style, crossfire style, etc.), depending on the intended use of the fire. Since a bonfire is different from a campfire in that it meant to burn for a limited amount of time and is usually for celebratory gatherings (rather than cooking or burning over a long period of time to provide heat), a bonfire is typically assembled in a large, teepee style.
- Be sure to leave a space in the teepee on the side the wind is blowing. This will allow you an entrance space to light the inner tinder, while also allowing blowing wind to further increase the burning fire.
Ignite the fire.Use a match or a lighter to light the tinder through the opening in the teepee. You can light the tinder from other sides as well.
- As the fire burns and the wood starts to disintegrate, add bigger pieces of firewood to the fire. Be mindful to build upon and maintain the teepee shape, and not get any body parts too close to the flames.
Extinguishing The Bonfire
Sprinkle water onto the fire.Sprinkle water onto the fire rather than pouring a bucket full of water over the pit.By sprinkling the water, you can gradually put out the flames. If you pour the water onto the pit, you will flood it, making too wet to use at a later time.
Mix up the ashes.Use a stick to mix around the ashes as you sprinkle water onto the pit. Mixing the ashes makes sure that all of the ashes are dampened and put out.
Feel for heat.Turn the back of your hand to face the remaining ashes.If you feel heat coming up from the ashes, they are still too hot to leave. Continue to sprinkle water on the ashes and mix them up. Once the ashes are no longer giving off heat, you have completely extinguished the bonfire.
- Consider bringing some additional sticks (smaller in diameter), marshmallows, a couple of your favorite blocks of chocolate, and graham crackers to make s’mores with your bonfire.
Video: The One Match Fire - Building a Basic Campfire
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