Let There Be Fire

This article is for those unfortunate souls who find themselves in charge of making the fire on a campout. Go ahead, admit it, it’s war and made no easier by the ungrateful compadres calling out directions as they duck the smoke and sip their wine from a safe distance while you spray lighter fluid over newspapers, grocery bags, a dismembered box, and the last scrap of the entire weekend’s allotment of paper towels. With eyes watering uncontrollably, you call out that the grocery store wood must be damp and then you blow and blow and blow into the insanely, abundant smoke until finally a whisper of a flame appears. And IT FLARES! Everyone cheers, there is fist bumping and a little victory dance and then the flame dies. It is at this point that you send the smallest and most compliant child into the tent for “extra” socks and underwear but not the irritating flameproof pajamas.

There is a lot at stake with campfires. Guys and gals, we’re talking heat, cooking, and most importantly, your manhood. Even more serious if you are a man. Your fire-making prowess is in the hot seat and you employ every means necessary to conquer this elusive, Neanderthal rite of passage. Like golf, if you can just master it, you have the respect of all men. Like the “toilet ring down” concept, if you grasp the enormity, you have the devotion of all women. Producing a fire, for frigid and ravenous campers, keeps you squarely out of Donner Party danger and assures you of some heavy flattery even from the small, sock-less child.

 On a trip to Half Dome, in response to flattery of his fire, a fellow trekker dropped his voice an impressive two octaves and responded,”I’m an American”. Uhm yeah, obviously. Smokey the Bear ain’t Swedish. There’s some pretty credible evidence that fire was invented in America. And kudos to the patriotic camper who masters fire-making without any lighter fluid. This is the MacGuyver adventurer who is convinced if he had a good piece of flint he’d have no need for the three lighter sticks and four books of matches in his arsenal. One half of the On A Dime team recently, proudly declared that he had not used the store-bought “fire-cheats” (fire-starts) to create a robust fire. His (latte swigging) partner was responsible for that purchase and she is now known far and wide for city-slicker foolishness while his rugged beauty and stunning fires are fast becoming legendary. He was, for one shining moment, the Wild West of fire creators. And then came Alex.

 The Wild West had nothing on Alex when it comes to fires. The dexterity, the calculation, and the sheer cunning on display, renders all other fire warriors obsolete. You can almost hear the proud murmur of Indian forefathers as a fire – by Alex – catches and dances to life.

 Alex? Just who is this strong, mystical warrior? Alexandria Susan Barrett, 5 feet, 4 inches of tenacious, flame-producing fury. Any day now she will appear on You Tube with a tutorial but until then, here are her steps along with photos. She is available for consulting and guys, no need to use an assumed name, she ensures confidentiality.

 1) Gather twigs of varying lengths. Size does matter.

2) Place 2-3 (no more) paper towels or crumpled newspaper in the center of your fire ring. *or 2 child’s socks.

3) Create a pyramid shaped structure over the paper towels, starting with the tiny twigs and moving upward with the larger ones. She also says you can do this with a criss cross box-like structure if you prefer. This seems more “American” than the pyramid, which is a bit suspect to some.

4) Light the paper towels

5) Allow the fire to catch and move upward and light the pyramid.

6) When the pyramid is blazing add a few small pieces of wood to begin the main body of the fire.

7) Add larger pieces of wood and when the fire is very hot and stable and place a large (longer burning) piece of wood in the ring when the fire is rocking along.

 Now you are set. Whether at home or on a campout, life is session so burn baby, burn.

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 *All humor aside, DO NOT EVER make a fire without first observing campground rules and fire/burn regulations (especially in the backcountry). Check with the ranger station on seasonal restrictions. The 2013 Yosemite fire, set unintentionally and illegally by a hunter, cost $100,000,000. Yes, million.

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