Fire Building Tutorial

Love sitting by a nice warm hearth? Want to try your hand at open-fire cooking? Not quite sure how to go about building a fire? Here's a little guide to get you started. 



(Steps pictured below.)

You will need:

  • Tinder - (Not the app!) Small bits of wood or other material to start the fire. Some examples are straw, wood shavings, small twigs, thin bark, small wood strips. It's super handy to have newspaper and cardboard to put at the base, but you can definitely start one with straw or wood shavings or even tiny twigs alone.
  • Kindling - This will also be small bits of material, larger than tinder but no bigger than your thumb (or pinky finger if you have big hands). The thumb rule is a generality. E.g., sometimes you'll find larger wood that is really old and dry and ignites fairly quickly and easily.
  • Fuel - This is where the big stuff comes in. Fuel is anything larger than kindling, up to the big logs that'll eventually catch on fire. 
  • A match or lighter, or other igniter.

There are several methods for starting a fire, but we're going to focus on the modified teepee and the lean-to. 

For the modified teepee, in a back wall or back corner of the fire place, begin building your fire.

  1. Make sure the flue is open! (Look up into the chimney and make sure the smoke can escape; you will likely have to open it by means of a handle or lever.)
  2. Start with the newspaper, putting it against the back wall or in one of the back corners of the fireplace. It's a good idea to loosely crumple up a sheet or two into a ball, and then over that place a few sheets of the paper that you've twisted until they form a tight roll, like a stick. 
  3. Begin laying the tinder over the newspaper, starting with the smallest to the largest
  4. Over your tinder, begin adding the kindling, starting again with the smallest and then laying on the largest. Lay the kindling like a teepee, leaning the tips up against the corner or meeting at the back wall, and the base forming a wider circle around the kindling. (It's important not to crowd the fire. Oxygen is the real fuel here, and if the wood is too densely layered, the fire will have trouble starting.) 
  5. Fuel--you can either layer it over the unlit fire now or wait until the kindling is lit. I prefer to go on and set up the fire so the fuel begins feeling the heat and catches sooner. Position the layer(s) of fuel in the same teepee fashion as you did the kindling. 
  6. Before lighting the fire, light a piece of paper and put it up near the flue. This does two things: 1) It'll serve to double check that the flue is open. 2) It will begin moving some hot air up and into the chimney. If cold air has settled in the chimney, it can push the smoke back into the house. Plus the air drawing over/through the flames and into the chimney will ultimately help the fire burn: Remember, oxygen is key.
  7. Now light the paper under the wood and watch the baby burn.
  8. If the fire is struggling to start, lightly blow on it to help it ignite. 

The lean-to method follows the same basic layering pattern, with the following following variations: Begin with a large piece of fuel at the back, running parallel to the back wall of the fireplace and begin layering your tinder, kindling and other fuel on and along that.


You don't need as much wood as we used here, but in this particular case, we were trying to heat the konoba (the detached cooking house/room) as well as cook dinner. Plus, we love fire. 

When the coals are nice and hot, pull them with a shovel and place them under the grill or pot for cooking.