Photos: @iamkeefe via Unsplash.com
Who doesn’t dream of the perfect bonfire in their backyard? Hanging out with friends, roasting marshmallows and hot dogs over the open fire – what better way to spend a weekend?
Here are five steps to putting together the perfect bonfire.
1. Identify and Prepare Your Burn Space
Before building your fire, walk your property and take some time to find a safe space to create a burn space. Consider the following factors when finding a safe space to burn a fire:
- Ensure your burn site is located at least 10 feet away from your home or garage on your property.
- Keep in mind that weather conditions, like wind, will impact your fire. If wind conditions are strong, there is a chance it could blow embers to trees or dry materials on or off your property.
The next step in the process is to prepare your burn space. You can choose to go one of two routes – build your own or buy a fire pit from a store. Both options offer their advantages. If you wish to create your own burn space, follow these steps:
- Clear all debris from your burn space – including all grass, twigs, firewood, and leaves.
- Dig a 1-foot-deep hole in the ground.
- Circle the hole with rocks.
By following these three steps, you can create your very own burn space. Feel free to get creative in whatever way you like!
2. Gather Your Wood Materials
To make your fire a success, you’ll need three different types of wood or material, including:
- Tinder: Dry bark, leaves, or moss are good examples of fuel catching fire and burning fast. If you live on a property with a couple of trees, you can usually find tinder naturally.
- Kindling: Typically made of small branches and twigs, kindling is the size between tinder and the bigger logs on your fire. Kindling burns longer than tinder and gives your larger logs an opportunity to catch fire as well.
- Fuel: These are your big logs, what keep your fire going. When selecting your fuel logs, a good rule of thumb to go by is going with hardwoods. Hardwoods like oak, beech, and hickory have a higher energy content, allowing them to release more heat as they burn.
Tips: Double everything – tinder, kindling, and fuel – and make sure all your materials are dry, as wet fuel doesn’t burn well.
3. Construct Your Campfire
You’ve got your fire pit and materials. Now you need to construct your fire. There are a couple of popular ways to build your campfire:
- Place your fuel in the middle of your fire pit.
- With some of your kindling, form the teepee above the tinder at the base of your fuel. Make sure you leave an opening for airflow, so the fire will get the air it needs.
- Continue adding the kindling to the teepee until you end with pencil-sized twigs.
The Log Cabin
- Place your tinder in the middle.
- Begin with a tepee build.
- The next step consists of you essentially building a log cabin around the teepee, like you would with toy Lincoln Logs. Grab your largest pieces of fuelwood and place them on the perimeter of the teepee.
- Grab your smaller pieces of fuelwood and lay them across the already placed pieces of fuelwood. Continue to construct the log cabin structure until you run out of wood.
- Place one long piece of kindling in the ground at a slightly sloping angle. Rest the kindling at the top of one of your fuel logs.
- Beneath the kindling stick, put your tinder bundle and some more pieces of small kindling.
- All along the one piece of kindling, carefully lay additional pieces of kindling material.
- Once you’ve placed your first layer of kindling, add another layer of kindling.
4. Ignite Your Fire
Carefully ignite your tinder with a match or lighter. It’s unwise and unnecessary to use gasoline, especially now that you know three natural ways to build and start a fire. You especially don’t want to use gasoline if you wish to cook food. Instead, use the wood materials outlined above and cook food directly over the coals, the hottest part of the fire.
You should always have a bucket, or two, of water on hand. Be prepared to use the water if weather conditions suddenly change, making winds blow and your fire spread.
5. Extinguish Your Fire
It takes time to put out a campfire, so it’s best to plan instead of waiting until five minutes before on heading inside for bed. Follow these steps to put out your fire safely:
- With your handy bucket of water, sprinkle the embers of your campfire with water to extinguish the remaining flames.
- Stir the embers with a stick to ensure everything gets wet. You want your ashes to hiss and smoke. When you don’t see any sign of steam, your fire is close to extinguished.
- Bring the back of your hand close to the ashes of the fire. If it still feels hot, you shouldn’t leave the flame unattended. If it’s cold, your flame is out.
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