Guerilla Survival

Guerilla Survival

Monday 12 May 2014

Fire-Lighting Techniques

The most important thing in fire-lighting is preparation - get everything that you need ready before you start. Indeed, it is important to prepare well before you set out since the weather may be wet which will make things far harder for you. Dry tinder is the most important thing to consider, so it is wise to carry this with you because it will be impossible to get in the wet weather. 

Tinder - the best tinder to use for fire-lighting is cotton wool which can be carried dry in a tin or bag. In the wild we have used the seed-tops of rosebay willow herb, old man's beard, and catkins from the hazel tree in the spring (when they have gone over and dried off). Also the seed-tops of thistle can be used, though this takes a bit more to start. One tip here is to use any of these mixed with some dry birch-bark, taking the very thin slivers from a live tree (this will not hurt the tree). Make sure this is dry. Birch bark will light when wet with a lighter, but with a steel-striker this needs the dry and fine form - this will light by itself but is aided by adding the seed-tops as mentioned before. In the above photo we also see small pieces of dead fir-wood which makes good first-stage kindling. There is also some birch-bark from a dead tree, much courser and which will like after the initial firing-up even when wet.

The above photo shows the type of birch-bark to use; these small slivers of very dry birch can be lit with the steel-striker alone if necessary. 

Fire-Lighting - place some 1" pieces of wood underneath the tinder to keep the fire dry if the ground is wet. Here we have used birch-bark slivers and some dead bracken that will be lit after the initial fire-up with the steel-striker. This will give a good blaze to the fire from the start.

In this photo we can see that the weather is bad, after a fall of snow, and everything around was wet and cold. In this case we used some fire-lighters that were packed in a special tin together with cotton wool for tinder. Birch-bark was taken from a dead tree to help to get it going. This is perhaps not the most difficult situation since heavy rain makes things almost impossible - we shall come back to this at the end of this post.

In the above we see the tinder and kindling has been collected and prepared before starting the fire; small kindling should also be collected, and then larger and larger pieces in order to ensure that the fire is kept going and does not run out of fuel.

Note that the small pieces are again placed on the ground, then the fire is started with a steel-striker, with the tinder being under small twigs as above. This makes a wigwam fire which is the most effective way to start one - it lets a lot of air into the centre. This is not the most effective shape to keep a fire going for a long time due to the air-intake which makes it burn very quickly, but it is best used to start the fire.

Here the fire is well under way and is enclosed by a diamond-shape which holds the upright sticks in place.

Here the larger logs are placed parallel to each other, which makes a good cooking-fire. They can also be placed one way and then another layer placed over them the other way, thus making a criss-cross fire that allows lots of air to get in and burns efficiently.

Here we see a cooking-fire which has been made from two large logs, over which are placed two steel rods (found in the same woodlands), and a wire-mesh (also found in the same woodlands). We have cooked beans in a mess-tin, and beef-burgers on the wire-mesh. 

The use of a fire-shield is recommended since it reflects the heat from the fire into the shelter, and also acts as a wind-break so that the fire does not burn too quickly if needed overnight. This one was made up of a pile of logs placed between two upright steel poles (found in the woodlands). 


F-A-H = Fuel/Air/Heat

It is first necessary to prepare by taking with you dry tinder that you can use even when it is wet. Cotton wool (*) is the best tinder, and carry some firelighters too for when it is really wet. This can be carried in a small tobacco tin, but when doing so close the tin securely by using pieces of inner tube from a bike cut into strips. This secures the tin properly and can be used to light a fire in extreme wet conditions - rubber burns very well. 

In really extreme wet weather it may be necessary to build some form of 'shelter' over the area that you are going to light the fire, since we have tried to do so in such weather and it is extremely difficult, even when using fire-lighters. When it is pouring with rain it becomes almost impossible to light the fire - so ensure that you have as many different materials as possible - carried with you. In such circumstances it may well be necessary to place a tarp over the area at such a height that the fire causes minimal problems (burning holes in it). The fire can be lit at the outer edge which keeps the rain off.

(*) Be careful here for some cotton wool is non-inflammable, choose the type that is flammable. 

Tepee Shelter

The next form of shelter is that of a tepee-shelter which is a far more permanent kind and one which is a good deal more efficient than the other forms of shelter featured on this blog. This, of course, took a good deal more time to erect but it has stood the test of time, being left alone and without being discovered for 3 years now - in a woodland used by the public. This is because it was camouflaged heavily to look like a pile of old branches thrown together. 

These green fir branches hide the tepee-shelter from view -

There were several stages to the building of this shelter -
The upright staves were made of dead wood and bound together with cordage at the top. They were each cut to the right size before binding together.

Here you can see the eight upright staves, which are mostly slightly rounded which aids the shape of the shelter. The bottom ends are pushed into the ground for strength.

The top of the staves are bound together with cord.

Two thinner pieces of hazel-wood are then twisted around the whole of the base, apart from leaving a piece at the front for the doorway. These are then bound to each upright stave. This ensures a firm base and also allows for later tying of the tarp-cover.

Next, two more sections of flexible hazel are bound around the staves, one at the centre and another above this - as in the above photo. Again, this aids the strength of the shelter and allows for later tying of the covering.

One small point here is that we pegged the outer rims into the ground before tying so as to hold them in. These pegs were cut shorter and left in place to keep the strength of the shelter during bad weather.

The cover was then placed over the structure; here we should note that this was an old tarp found in the same area of the woodland, cut into two and placed over the frame. Ensure that the bottom part is put over first, and the top part then goes over the top of it. This ensures that the water is kept out. Once the cover is placed over the frame five extra upright staves were placed over the cover to hold it in place, and also to help give even more strength to the whole thing. A section was left out at the front for the doorway.

The door was made up of another piece of the same tarp, cut to size and bound to the cross-section, with a 2 inch diameter piece of wood tied to the bottom to hold it down when closing the door. 

The whole thing was then covered with green fir-branches and twigs which help to conceal it from view. 

This is how the final shelter looked when concealed fully from view; so effective was this that when we held a camp at the site no-one noticed that this was nothing but a pile of branches thrown together. The shelter has stood there for 3 years now and it has never been disturbed.

The advantage of this is that it is ready for use at any given time, and it also acts as a place to store our stuff when it is not in use. It can be used for camps and it has been used in the past - summer and winter. Another strong point about this one is that it has been totally waterproof for all that time. 

When the branches lose their greenery it is necessary to cover some sections of the shelter again, since the green of the tarp shows through. The needles do die off but eventually most of the shelter is covered even though this is dead covering. 

This particular shelter would sleep two people with ease, but the size could be adapted to sleeping more people, or cut down in size to sleep one person. This is the most efficient shape for a permanent shelter and stands up to all weathers - cold, wind, rain and snow. Throughout the time it has been up it has never leaked. It is well worth looking around an area to find some form of covering such as an old tarp, polythene sheeting or the like, rather than relying on green branches and twigs which rarely give a totally waterproof covering. 

The only thing that we did take with us to erect this shelter was the cord, but this could have been found had we looked further afield in these woodlands - as we found later. The one thing about this society is that people throw things away and leave all sorts of stuff lying around. It is quite easy to find materials to make shelters.