Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Starting A Fire In The Wild.

After the Map Reading 101 that i wrote last week for the TMBT participants (and also the boy scout/girl guides in you), i decided to write about how to start a fire without using any "fire" based equipment such as matches or lighters. Most of these are logical steps and it will take some practicing and patience to get the results you want. A lot of fire-making tips out there in the Internet looked great in theory, but most of them can't be used in our wet tropical forest. Here is a few foolproof way to build a fire, assuming you don't have a match (that can get wet) or a lighter.

Using a Flint+Steel combo
This is not hard to find especially at some online outdoor shop. It will set you back about RM12-RM30 depending on the brand. I got mine online here. Flint and steel is a good replacement for matches as it gets wet.
Taken from Customer's Image in DealExtreme
Using flint+steel combo is easy, you just need to strike the steel (striker) on the flint and sparks will fly. In order to ignite something, you will need tinder. Tinder is a generic name for something that is dry and small that will burn easily. You can make your own tinder by cutting up dried leaves with your pocket knife (if you are out in the wild, better carry one), or you can shave off a dried twig or branch to get shavings to be used as tinder. Or you can go prepared with some char clothes (basically fabric that has been "burnt" via a very controlled process - how to make char clothes here  will be written next), or paper would work too. Just as long as they are dry.
Next, place the tinder on the ground away from breeze or wind.
Take the flint+steel combo and use the striker to scrape across (top to bottom) of the flint OVER the tinder at about 1inches or at most, 2 inches away.
The sparks will land on the tinder and you will have a fire/glow coming up after a few tries.
Old-School Magnifying Glass
We might not carry magnifying glass with us into the jungle but there is one build into any sports compass! Use it to your advantage. This method is sun-dependent. The hotter more direct the sun is, the higher then chances, and the faster you will be able to light up the  tinder.
Compass saves live, and start fire.
Same process applies per flint+steel. Gather the tinder, or use char clothes, or paper.
Then move the magnifying glass over the tinder and ensure that the focus point (brightest part) is as small as possible. If you have sunglasses, best to wear this too, as the reflection will be super strong and you will see black dots in our vision for at least a couple of minutes after that.
There are other suggestions that might work as well, such as using a water filler balloon or a water filled condom. Why would one carry balloon into the wild is anyone's guess. Carrying condom can meant they will be used as a water tight alternative for electronics such as a phone - if needed.
However else, make sure the balloon or the condom is clear in color, else, all you will get is looking foolish squatting over some tinder-mess with a balloon and condom in your hand. :)
9V Batteries and Steel Wool
As a child, many of us has experimented with 9V battery by placing them on the tip of our tongue to get that "electrical shock". If you have not done it while growing up, chances are you are schooled in a fully urban elite school setting. While it might be silly to carry 9V batt and steel wool into the wilderness, i do not discount this as there will be possibility of someone carrying a 9v device, such as a portable walkie-talkie (dowh!, a walkie IS portable!) and steel wool to wash up those mess tins. So, if you have these combo, count your lucky star, the tribe will be having dinner again, thanks to you!
Getting fire from this combo is simple, stretch the steel wool to be as flat as possible and ensure that they are dry. then, take the battery (and terminal, the positive and negative part, if you want to ask), and rub against the steel wool. After a few try, you will set the steel wool on fire.
OK, I got fire on the tinder, what's next??? Hurry!
Tinder fire will dies off fairly quickly and you need to move the tinder to a kindling (a gathering of dry material larger than the tinder, can be twigs or small branches)) so that the fire will start getting bigger.
Once the kindling starts burning, place larger fuel (branches/log). Depending on the fire usage in the outdoor setting, you might want to place the fire a couple of inch deeper into the ground and consider using other log/wood as "reflector" so that the fire from the heat will be concentrated towards you. Tropical jungle can get cold at night. The fire will keep animals away, and the smoke will keep insects away, and you will have a chance to boil some water, and possible have some hot food.
The above is three method i have tried successfully to start a fire. Forget the classic - i rub-the-wood-against-another-wood-to-get-fire method. You won't get it done in our humid condition.
Tips to remember
1. No one successfully build a fire the first time. Key word here is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
2. Never build fire over low hanging trees or branch, or undergrowth. You wouldn't want the fire to engulf where you are and kill you in the process.
3. Only use dry twigs as tinder. If a twig breaks when you bend them, they are dry. Else, they aren't.
4. Always kill the fire when you don't need it anymore. Separate the burning item and pour water over them if needed. Don't burn the jungle just to keep yourself warm.
5. To avoid the hassle above, perhaps remember to bring a lighter when you are out in the jungle. It will be a lifesaver, very much like carrying a knife to help you hunt/cut things up if needed.

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