How to build a fire like a boy scout.

How to build a Boy Scout Fire.

You don’t have to be an Eagle Scout to make a good fire in your fireplace. You just have to use some methods culled from years of scouting. To start out make sure you have your fire place and chimney inspected. You want to make sure you don’t have a build-up of flammable creosote to worry about. Make sure to remove all old ashes.

Now one of the most important parts, make sure the damper is open or you could have disastrous results. There are two types of dampers. A ‘throat damper’ is located at the bottom of the chimney and will open with a lever or with chain-pulls. If you have a ‘top damper,’ it’s located at the top of the chimney and you open it by pulling a cable. Now make sure there is nothing flammable around the hearth area. I start by crumbling up two or three sheets of paper. I like to have a metal usually cast iron fireplace grate. This holds your logs raised up and lets oxygen have greater access to the fire. I place the crumbled paper in the fireplace grate. Next I take my kindling, usually strips of ½ inch pine that is about 8 to 12 inches long, and place in on top of the fire. To make it even easier you can use products like Fatwood for the kindling. Fatwood is a natural, chemical-free part of pine trees, cut into easy to use sticks, that creates a one-match, enduring flame for fire starting. Now take 7 to 11 or so pieces of dry wood (use more or less depending on how long of a burn you want) and make them into a log cabin looking stack. It should be about a six inch by six inch square.

Start your fire with Paper

Now take two more crumble sheets of paper, twist them into a roll.  Light one end of the rolled paper and hold them up inside the chimney to warm the flue and create an upward flow of air.

Building a fire with Kindling

Now you want to light the orginal crumpled paper. The paper will light the kindling and the kindling will light the hardwood. Once the hard wood is good and light I like to add two or three pieces of split firewood. I like to put it toward the rear of the fireplace with the split side facing into the room that way the fire wood will reflect heat into the room as it burns. As needed and the fire grews you can place more firewood on it. This is a good time to place a fireplace screen or spark arrestor in front of your fireplace to stop sparks from flying out and catching anything outside the hearth area on fire.

Light the paper in your fireplace grate from each end. When the paper lights the kindling, and the kindling lights the hardwood, it’s time to add 2 or 3 pieces of split firewood. Place the firewood toward the rear of the fireplace so it will reflect heat into the room as it burns. As the fire gets established, you can add more firewood. Place your fireplace screen or spark arrestor in front of your fire to protect your family and home from stray sparks. After starting and burning fires for a while you will soon learn exactly how much wood you need to add so that my the time you are ready to go to bed the fire is just smoldering ambers. And that’s how you build a fire like an Eagle Scout.

Couple of Tips for the Novice Fire Builder:

1. When using pinewood for kindling (or any soft wood for that matter) use only what’s needed. Soft woods build up creosote, and creosote can cause chimney fires. That is why it is better to purchase commercial fire starters such as Fatwood, not only is it easier it causes no creosote.

2.  The ideal firewood is a piece of dry hardwood. The best hardwoods are oak, maple, cherry or hickory.  Always split your firewood and pieces shouldn’t be bigger then 4 inches thick and should have room on both ends to comfortable fit inside your fireplaces. (Rule of thumb it should have at least three inches clearance on both sides) The ideal firewood should be dried for a year.

3. Don’t burn plastics or paper with color printing, such as the Sunday comics or magazine pages or gift wrap, because they may give off toxins.  Never ever use flammable liquids or liquid starters in your fireplace.

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