Top Tips for Lighting a Fire

2 Nov 2019 | 0 comments

Fires are one of our favourite things about winter. Whether it's to warm up against inside after a blustery walk, or to gather around outside in the dark evenings, with a glass of mulled wine and a hot pot of stew. The flickering flames are meditative, and it truly heats your bones.

We have wood burners in the guest house, in the Old Dairy Kitchen and in our course workshops on the farm to keep us all warm. Maybe you have fires at home and are already fire lighting wizards, but it is a skill that many of us have lost, so here are a few tips to help you on your way.

1) Find a safe space for your fire.

This is simple if it's inside: in a fire place or a wood burner. But having fires outside can be riskier. Make sure you have the land owner's permission before lighting a fire. Find an open, flat area, where your fire is unlikely to spread to nearby bushes or trees. Clear the ground of leaf litter, or even better, use a fire bowl so that you don't leave any scorch marks on the ground.

2) Collect your materials.

Wherever you are lighting a fire, you will need three types of fuel: tinder (no, not the app, the very first thing you light, for example newspaper or cotton wool), kindling (small, dry sticks) and small or split logs. You will also need something to provide the initial spark; you could use matches, a lighter, or a fire steel (we particularly like these ones by the Friendly Swede). It's a good idea to have a pair of thick gloves available, for adding more fuel when the fire gets going.

3) Prepare your fire.

There are many ways to lay a fire. We like to use a 'waffle lay'. This means laying three bits of kindling out parallel to each other, then another three on top perpendicular, as if you are going to play a big game of noughts and crosses. You can then put your tinder (in this case, scrunched up balls of newspaper) on top of the waffle, and build a pyramid up around it. The waffle helps the air to flow in under the fire and allow it to breathe while it gets established.

4) Light your tinder.

Light the newspaper or other tinder, and carefully add more kindling onto the flames, taking care not to smother them.

5) Add larger fuel as the fire grows.

As the flames grow bigger and hotter, then can consume larger fuel. If you have a wood burner, make sure you close the door. It can seem counter-intuitive, seeming like your cutting off the air supply and locking the heat away, but the open vents actually draw the air in at the bottom where it is most needed, and the doors will radiate the heat out in to the room.

6) Stay safe, and enjoy!

Shut the vents down once the fire has got going, and especially if you are leaving the room. If you have a fire outside, have a bucket of water nearby, ready to extinguish the fire with if needed, or to provide cool water for accidental burns. If you have a fire outside, try to leave no trace. Make sure your fire is fully out and well dowsed with water. If you lit a fire on the ground, re-cover the area with leaf litter.