How To Build A Fire



how to build a fire

Foolproof Fire Starting Technique

“How to build a fire” might sound extremely simple, but good fire starting technique is essential to your overall survival strategy. Our friend Dave Scott, who you may know from the Bushmaster Bible, gives us a foolproof method for starting fires with nothing but what you can find in nature.

Through his time as an instructor at the Earth Native Wilderness Survival School, Dave has perfected his fire building skills, and now he wants to share these tips with you! The right combination of oxygen, fuel, and heat will give you a flame, but building your fire correctly is key to your fire building success.

Learn this simple but effective technique and become a fire building genius!


One of the most important things to remember when building a fire with only natural materials is to start small. A match does not generate a lot of heat and isn't capable of lighting something much larger than itself in diameter. You must use a layering system.

Start with pencil-lead size sticks, or the smallest sticks you can find. These sticks will catch a little flame and will light the sticks the next size up, which are about half pencil size. As the flame builds, the size of the stick increases.


Additionally, try wrapping the sticks with something to stay together. This will help avoid any issues with your bundle falling apart when you light it on fire.


If you are using a lighter, remember not to hold the flame on too long. A lighter is not a replacement for a match. If you're using your lighter for more than six seconds, there may be something wrong with your materials. I recommend the Everystryke Match it works for me every time and it is waterproof which is a bonus.


Get everything ready before you start, and then only use one match. This concept may seem a little daunting, but if you have to light match after match, something is not right with your materials. Stop, adjust your materials, and figure out what the problem is and start again.

Remember that fire burns upwards, so you do not want to light the bundle of sticks from the top. Hold the bundle upside-down and let the flame build.


Rotating the bundle helps build the flame. Once you feel comfortable that the flame is going well, you can set it down and start building on top of it.


Now you can start using the larger sticks. At the beginning, try placing them on your fire one at a time until it gets going. Wherever the fire is burning is where you want to build; if the fire is burning on one end, you want to put your sticks directly over the fire.


One of the essential needs of fire is oxygen. Give the coals a breath of air if you need to keep the fire going.


As you continue to add sticks to the fire, try to build it in the shape of a teepee, which is the best and most efficient way to start a fire. Continue to lay sticks on at an angle.


Once the inner sticker are burning hot the fire will naturally start to collapse in on itself. That is actually a good sign because you want to build up a bed of coals to help fuel the fire as it grows.


The density of the fire structure should allow the fire to spread. A stick will only light another stick if it is about the same distance away as its own diameter. Be sure to process down the sticks and remove any extra stems – they will create too much space.


As you get to the larger logs, space them out evenly so they do not cause the fire to collapse too soon. You do not want too much weight on any one side.


At some point, it will naturally want to collapse in on itself, and you will need to facilitate that. You really want the exterior logs to get going well because as the inside of the fire burns away, the exterior logs will need to be compressed into the hot coal bed.

Continue to build upon the outside until the coals become about the size of your fist.

At that point, the fire should be self-sustaining.



Want more fire starting techniques? Check out these posts:

 17 Wicked Ways To Start A Fire

10 Steps To A Better Bow Drill Fire

What To Do When You Need Fire Fast

Three Quick Tips To Identify Dry Firewood



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  1. dennis wray

    May 5, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    i plan to bring along a couple of the propane lighters
    they dont seem to blow out in wind….

  2. Gregory

    May 6, 2014 at 1:49 AM

    Awesome! It would have been more awesome and easier to build a fire if you have one fire starting gear.

    • George Morrison

      June 2, 2014 at 10:34 PM

      Boy Scouts are taught to clear a 6′ circle down to dirt or bedrock. You didn’t even do that. Your fire is a good example on the one that will get away.

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  11. Colin

    August 6, 2014 at 11:39 PM

    This is a little misleading. where on earth will I find a match in nature? Do you guys know how to start a fire without having a match, or lighter.

    • Barbara

      September 8, 2014 at 11:34 PM

      I agree Colin, this article is VERY misleading. I gathered from the title that I would learn to build a fire without the assistance of a lighter or a match. If I had a box of matches, as shown in the article, or a lighter – I would survive. Teach me “How To Build A Fire | Foolproof Fire Starting Technique” without the lighter or matches. As a non-smoker in the wilderness with nothing but this article I’d be doomed!!!!

      • Pat

        September 23, 2014 at 7:43 PM

        I have a few cat tail heads vacuumed sealed in my go bag along with several fire strikers.Fluff them out and a single spark will light them. Also birch bark is so full of oil it will light with a flame even when wet. Dead pine needles will light as well. I am out in the woods all the time and I never take a match or lighter. If I want to cook a fish or a squirrel, I use my striker and whatever materials I can find.

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  14. Great Grey

    January 25, 2015 at 1:38 AM

    Hey just because he uses a match does not make it an invalid way to start a fire. Also if you can’t get a fire started with just one match, your fire building skills need improving no matter how you light your fire.

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  18. Cynthy

    July 1, 2018 at 10:50 PM

    I want to recommend you some Flammability Tester which may help to measure the degree of flammability on the basis of the flammability test results. Welcome to share your ideas with us.

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