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To Build A Fire

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I met with a prepper group a while ago to go over fire building techniques that would be useful in wet conditions.  I thought this would be handy to learn.  So, I went and bought about $25 worth of stuff per person to get the list of materials they recommended.  There were four of us old enough to practice this.  So, about $100.  Not cheap.

The instructor was said to be an expert.  But I never read any credentials.  I just assumed the guy organizing this did his due diligence.  And maybe he did.  But we never found out.

The day came.  And it was done during a wet time of year specifically so we'd have to deal with wet stuff in nature.  Ok.  Sounds good.  We need to be prepared for those situations.

We went through about half of my materials only to find my materials all burned up and I was personally exhausted after about an hour.  And my family was pretty wet, tired, and miserable trying to gather stuff around the area that was "supposed" to be dry.  I felt worse than Vincent.  So, bottom line was that none of us learned a dang thing.

The insructor was able to get a candle sized flame going for about 3 or 4 seconds.  That was all.  And he finally declared,"Sometimes these methods don't work and you simply can't make a fire."  No joke.

Bottom line: You can't start a fire when it's been raining for three days straight in South Texas unless you happen to have protected dry wood in storage.

Edited by Guest

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13 minutes ago, Carborendum said:

Bottom line: You can't start a fire when it's been raining for three days straight in South Texas unless you happen to have protected dry wood in storage.

Same goes for other states besides Texas, so I've heard anyways.

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8 hours ago, zil said:

Wait, are you saying that wood saturated with water won't burn? :huh:

The thing was that he supposedly had secrets about some stuff in nature that will remain dry.  There was a particular plant that was like a palm or palmetto that supposedly had a dry core.  So, we cut it open and drew out the fibers in the core.  NOT DRY!!!  I couldn't get that thing to start with gasoline! 

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15 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Bottom line: You can't start a fire when it's been raining for three days straight in South Texas unless you happen to have protected dry wood in storage.

No no no.  This is not true.  I just saw this movie, The Mountain Between Us.  And this neurosurgeon built a fire anywhere he was put in the extremely wet and snowy mountains of wherever-between-Idaho-and-Maryland.  All you need to build a fire is a neurosurgeon.

 

P.S.  Don't watch that movie as an in-flight offering like I did.  Big mistake.

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On ‎4‎/‎5‎/‎2018 at 7:59 PM, Carborendum said:

I met with a prepper group a while ago to go over fire building techniques that would be useful in wet conditions.  I thought this would be handy to learn.  So, I went and bought about $25 worth of stuff per person to get the list of materials they recommended.  There were four of us old enough to practice this.  So, about $100.  Not cheap.

The instructor was said to be an expert.  But I never read any credentials.  I just assumed the guy organizing this did his due diligence.  And maybe he did.  But we never found out.

The day came.  And it was done during a wet time of year specifically so we'd have to deal with wet stuff in nature.  Ok.  Sounds good.  We need to be prepared for those situations.

We went through about half of my materials only to find my materials all burned up and I was personally exhausted after about an hour.  And my family was pretty wet, tired, and miserable trying to gather stuff around the area that was "supposed" to be dry.  I felt worse than Vincent.  So, bottom line was that none of us learned a dang thing.

The insructor was able to get a candle sized flame going for about 3 or 4 seconds.  That was all.  And he finally declared,"Sometimes these methods don't work and you simply can't make a fire."  No joke.

Bottom line: You can't start a fire when it's been raining for three days straight in South Texas unless you happen to have protected dry wood in storage.

Hmm, interesting. 

It depends on the thickness of the wood, but you SHOULD HAVE been able to find a log somewhere.  Cutting into the middle, you then cut out the middle of the log and it SHOULD be dry.  It is this principle that keeps many houses dry on the inside as well.  Three days of rain is not enough to soak through thick pieces of wood.  Taken wood that's been soaked for far longer than that in the swamps and been able to get it burning, so three days of hard rain should not be enough to stop it.

That said...$25?  I'd have said better to have dryer lint, flint and steel, and in case of emergency fire starter liquid and charcoal.  You can stack twigs on the charcoal as it burns, and then put heavier pieces to dry out as the flames get larger and hotter.  That SHOULD start a fire in a real emergency.  Bag of charcoal, fire starter, and flint and steel should be cheaper than $25.  A handaxe and a knife are a one time purchase, so shouldn't count as the entire cost. 

I suppose a survivalist would say...hey...you may not have charcoal and fire starter.  If I had an instance like what you said above...I'd look at the guy...show him my fire...and laugh at the idea.  I ALWAYS have charcoal and firestarter somewhere.  I buy gobs of it in the spring and never seem to get through all of it by winter.

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15 hours ago, JohnsonJones said:

Hmm, interesting. 

It depends on the thickness of the wood, but you SHOULD HAVE been able to find a log somewhere.  Cutting into the middle, you then cut out the middle of the log and it SHOULD be dry. 

should

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17 hours ago, mrmarklin said:

I have built more than one fire in rainy conditions. Plenty of dry wood in a thick branch or a log. 

Not in Houston.

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4 hours ago, Grunt said:

What "supplies" did you bring?

This was like four years ago.  I'll try to remember.  It was tools and tinder, really.

  • Dry bandanas.
  • So many ounces of dry wood shavings
  • Matches.
  • Flint and steel (we had several types.  None worked.
  • Knifes of various sizes and types.
  • Axe
  • Small shovel.

I honestly believe that with the humidity, near constant rain, the always moist soil, etc. I don't know if any wood in Houston is ever dry enough in its natural state to start a fire with.  We may be able to throw it into an existing campfire and eventually get it going.  But to start a fire?  I don't think so.  And that day was still sprinkling.  The humidity was 100%.  All our dry tinder was wet as soon as we brought it out of the plastic bags.

Do you have any ideas?

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2 minutes ago, Carborendum said:

This was like four years ago.  I'll try to remember.  It was tools and tinder, really.

  • Dry bandanas.
  • So many ounces of dry wood shavings
  • Matches.
  • Flint and steel (we had several types.  None worked.
  • Knifes of various sizes and types.
  • Axe
  • Small shovel.

I honestly believe that with the humidity, near constant rain, the always moist soil, etc. I don't know if any wood in Houston is ever dry enough in its natural state to start a fire with.  We may be able to throw it into an existing campfire and eventually get it going.  But to start a fire?  I don't think so.  And that day was still sprinkling.  The humidity was 100%.  All our dry tinder was wet as soon as we brought it out of the plastic bags.

Do you have any ideas?

Absolutely.   Half of starting a fire is knowing where to find dry stuff that burns so you can get a fire hot enough to burn the wetter things.  It sounds like the guy just didn't know what he was talking about.  You had everything you needed to build a fire there, in my opinion,   When you said it was too wet, I thought you were trying to use a bow and spindle, which can be difficult if you've never done it before.  Dry tinder with flint and steel is a good start.  

If nothing else, you learned how difficult it can be.  With practice and someone to show you where dry fuel resides in wet climates, you'll do fine.
 

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10 minutes ago, Grunt said:

Absolutely.   Half of starting a fire is knowing where to find dry stuff that burns so you can get a fire hot enough to burn the wetter things.  It sounds like the guy just didn't know what he was talking about.  You had everything you needed to build a fire there, in my opinion,   When you said it was too wet, I thought you were trying to use a bow and spindle, which can be difficult if you've never done it before.  Dry tinder with flint and steel is a good start.  

If nothing else, you learned how difficult it can be.  With practice and someone to show you where dry fuel resides in wet climates, you'll do fine.

So, what dry stuff?  He tried showing us the insides of various plants. Different parts were all supposed to be dry.  They weren't.  We had logs, we had Palm stalks.  We had a few others that I don't really remember.  But every one of them failed.  They were wet.

What else was there.

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Just now, Carborendum said:

So, what dry stuff?  He tried showing us the insides of various plants. Different parts were all supposed to be dry.  They weren't.  We had logs, we had Palm stalks.  We had a few others that I don't really remember.  But every one of them failed.  They were wet.

What else was there.

Hard to say without being there.  Fuel with higher moisture content needs to be prepared differently, too.  Particularly since you brought dry tinder with you.  There are also types of fuel, like birch bark for example, that are highly flammable even when wet.

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2 minutes ago, Grunt said:

Hard to say without being there.  Fuel with higher moisture content needs to be prepared differently, too.  Particularly since you brought dry tinder with you.  There are also types of fuel, like birch bark for example, that are highly flammable even when wet.

I don't think birch grows in this zone.  There are some pine that grow here.  And I think we tried dry pine needles that were "protected" by higher branches and so forth.  But no. We nothing was dry.  I don't remember if we cut any pine branches or whatnot. 

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Just now, Carborendum said:

I don't think birch grows in this zone.  There are some pine that grow here.  And I think we tried dry pine needles that were "protected" by higher branches and so forth.  But no. We nothing was dry.  I don't remember if we cut any pine branches or whatnot. 

Probably not.  Pine needles are ok, but the feeder twigs burn faster and hotter.  Next time I'm in Houston I'll let you know.  

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I make it a point to collect tinder, kindling & firewood while hiking.  Manila cord is good for keeping it together, and I made a canvas wrap similar to what one of my former scoutmasters had, that I made for my backpack, can hold firewood and lashes to my pack.  It's a big help when everything is wet.  I also learned to carry with me, depending on the season and weather, a small flour sack with Kingsford charcoal.  The other brands I found, are garbage by comparison.

One little trick from long ago, is an empty toothpaste tube.  Blow into it forcefully to fully expand the tube, then rinse it out with hot water until it's as clean as you want.  After it dries, get a narrow funnel that fit's the toothpaste tube.  Now dump Sterno camp fuel gel into the funnel.  Push the Sterno in with a piece of dowel or a pencil.  Keep packing it in until nothing more will fit.  Put the cap on tight and put the tube in a bowl of boiling water for about 10 minutes.  The temp will help liquify the gel making it settle in the tube.  Later, whenever you need a campfire, pop off the cap, squeeze some gel into the tinder and light it.  Works great!  Tastes awful for toothpaste, however.

Edited by pwrfrk
typos & clarification

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