January 20, 2013

Survival Skills Basics: How to Start a Fire

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Fire is a lifesaver in a survival situation; it prevents hypothermia, repels insects and predators. Having a fire allows you to cook and it provides moral support and comfort. A wilderness setting is not the only environment where you can find yourself in a survival situation however. Your home and/or community can be devastated by a natural or even a manmade disaster and you will need the skills and materials to create fire to survive. You will not have electricity, or gas to operate cooking stoves and yet you may have to boil your drinking water to make it safe to drink and cook foods to destroy harmful bacteria and parasites that may be present. Having the tools and skill to start a fire is crucial in a number of situations.

There is any number of ways to ignite a fire. With unlimited time and resources, the number of ways may be in the hundreds, but in a survival situation, minutes count and you need tried and true methods. In frigid temperatures without shelter and fire, you can begin exhibiting signs of hypothermia under the right conditions in 20 minutes or less. It is important you have the right tools, materials and knowledge to start a fire in any environment. The following is a list of basic tools and materials that can be used to start a fire in practically any situation.

-Carry a magnesium stick in your survival kit, purse or pocket.

-Carry a quality magnesium stick with embedded flint bar. You can expect to ignite between 100 and 125 fires using a magnesium stick.

-Have a small magnifying glass in your pack for a backup fire starting method.

-A Ferro rod or flint stick is used to generate sparks by scraping along a hardened piece of metal typically a knife blade.

-A Magnifying glass can be alternative fire starting means. You will need direct sunlight of course. Some models of Compasses will include a small magnifier.

The list is designed for simplicity and reliability and of course, you can adapt to personal preferences. However, using complicated methods and tools may mean you will not have a fire. Stick with the basics to ensure you always have a fire. Other methods of fire starting include using a car battery and jumper cables. Once connected you can tap the ends of the cables together to generate a spark or place a conductor between the cable ends to generate heat from the current, which can ignite combustibles. Clothing, cotton balls from a first aid kit and grasses or wood pulverized by rubbing between your palms can be used. To create fire you need oxygen, surface, and an energy source. The sun can be a source if you have a magnifying glass or even a shard of glass.

Sticks of magnesium can be purchased in any camping store and many retail stores with a camping department. They are inexpensive and small enough to carry in your pocket. The particles are flammable while the stick itself cannot be ignited. The stick is scraped to deposit fine particles on to any combustible material but it is recommended you use pulverized grasses or wood to begin. Use cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly to ignite damp wood by scraping particles on to the cotton ball. Typically, a magnesium stick will have an embedded flint rod on one side or use can use a Ferro rod to generate a spark. Drag any hardened metal usually a knife blade or the included metal tool along the flint bar, pushing in the direction of the tinder bundle.

A Ferro rod will generate a spark that can be used to ignite dried grasses or pulpy wood. You can also ignite magnesium particle as well with a Ferro rod. You can also squeeze an alcohol swab found in your first aid kit over pieces of wood and then scrape the rod along the back of a fixed bladed knife. Alcohol burns quickly and it is hard to see the flame in daylight so work fast when using this method. Always have suitable material close that can be added once you have a flame.

Emergency preparedness includes both building a solid cache of provisions and building up your survival skills. By educating yourself about how to start a fire, you will be even more prepared for a disaster.

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