Make Fire, Not Smoke!

We decided to stay an extra day at the Black Hawk Lake State Park because 1) the Sauk Rail Trail trail was awesome and 2) we hadn’t figured out where to go yet. And our view from the bus.

This was fine except it would mean we would be pulling out on Saturday. Weekends at state parks are um, interesting. People load up all the kids, bikes, dogs, yard ornaments and … firewood.

The problem with the firewood is that they bring lots of split and unsplit logs, mostly green, but no kindling. How on earth do people expect to make a decent fire without the right tools? It’s so simple. We heated with wood for many years; that teaches you how to start a fire and keep it going. We used to get up in the middle of the night to add wood to the stove so it didn’t go out and have to start all over. And once you get a good bed of coals you really can throw on a bigger or green piece of wood and make it burn up.

Without smoking. Ahem.

We were camped right on the lake and a couple trailers pulled in behind us. Kids, check; bikes; check; firewood; check. Kindling, no. Pretty soon the city boys had a raging smoke inferno blowing right at our site. We were outside barbecuing and a couple times asked them to DO SOMETHING! I said, “Put some little stuff on it.” They said, “Don’t worry, it’ll get going.” Yeah, in how many days? (I didn’t say that.) Later I asked them if they wanted some help with the fire but of course they refused that. A girl? Helping with their macho fire?

Needless to say it smoked away for hours. The bus smelled like smoke for several days after even though we gave up and closed the windows. Thankfully it rained hard that night and put out the mess. Of course, in the morning they were at it again.

We pulled out. When we drove by their site we could see the bed of the pickup with lots of logs, several sizes even. But no kindling.

We hardly ever make a fire because we don’t want to buy or carry around wood but while we were at Sportsman’s Park, Jim collected all the wood from the empty campsites. The park was littered with tons of kindling of all sizes so we made a fire.

Carmella says any idiot should be able to make a fire in one of these.
Start Small. Crumple up some paper and/or very dry leaves and make the base. Fires need air as well as flame so around the leaves/paper make a tepee of very small sticks. Then add larger sticks in the same tepee arrangement.
Start adding firewood. Use the same tepee arrangement for the larger logs with plenty of air between. Leave the very largest for when the rest has formed some coals and it can catch easily. This was all scrounged wood so not ideal size-wise but still workable.

Light the paper/leaves combination in several places around the circle so it burns evenly. If you put enough dry stuff at the base you won’t need any “Scout juice” or starter fluid. That stuff stinks too.

When it’s going good, add the larger logs. We only had one outsized big log so I added some smaller stuff on top to make it catch.
IMG_0526  IMG_0527
This is what you’re trying to avoid… Death by smoke.
Just add some more small stuff under the log, now burning well. Make sure and keep out a longer sturdy piece for moving the logs around in the circle and adding more. Firestick.
At the end it should all burn down to coals which don’t smoke out the neighbors and make it easy to rebuild the fire later.
There was a chill in the air that night so it was nice to cozy up to the heat.
Minus the smoke.

Conclude Public Service Announcement.
Rant over.

2 comments on “Make Fire, Not Smoke!

  1. Pingback: The Sauk Rail Trail | Mighty Bus

  2. Yeah, you’re so right about the small stuff, Croz! I learned all about that with the mesquite BBQ at the old place, that and the “tepee” and air pockets thing. Amazing how people think a fire can be built without kindling. I mean, please, at least use a charcoal base, if you don’t have the small stuff! Sigh….

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