Archive for the ‘Campfires’ Category
What should I do if my fire gets away?
It could happen. No matter how careful you are, you can start a wildfire. Here’s what you do:
1. Don’t panic! If you can extinguish the fire in less than 5 minutes, do so. If the fire is spreading too quickly, get out of there and call for help. Quick action is important, however, there is no reason to panic.
2. Think about your location. You will need to relay exactly where you are, including the county. If you have a GPS, take coordinates and write them down. If you don’t, use a map and have a description ready. Use landmarks and distances from known points. For example: 5 miles north of Tum Tum Mountain; or on SR-503 about a mile east of Jack’s Store.
3. Get to the nearest phone and Call 9-1-1. If you’re using a cell phone, make sure that you have reached a dispatcher in the county that you’re in or ask them to transfer you to that county. If you can’t find a phone, or don’t have cell signal, find someone with a radio or CB and ask them to call for help.
4. If no one is around, walk or drive to the nearest phone. Remember not to panic. Drive or walk safely. You won’t be able to report the fire if you don’t make it to help in one piece.
5. Tell the dispatcher that you need to report a wildfire and give the description of your location. If you can, tell them how big the fire is (for example: “Its about 20 feet by 20 feet and growing.”) how quickly the fire is spreading, wind direction and speed and what type of fuel the fire is burning (grass, logging slash, forest floor etc.). You may be asked to help lead fire fighters to the fire.
The Perfect S’mores Technique
S’mores are a quintessential part of any camping trip. And they seem really easy to make right? Toast a marshmallow and smash it between two graham crackers and a half of a Hershey’s chocolate bar.
While that is the basic theory, the reality is so much more!
And, as I learned on last weekend’s camping trip with Code Wolf, writing a whole article about the best way to prepare a s’more really isn’t an unneeded topic. Code Wolf is a camping newbie so it’s really been instrumental to figure out how to fill in the gaps in his outdoor-life knowledge. And s’mores… well, let’s just say that he took to making s’mores like he’s been doing it all his life.
Personally, I think it’s because he had a great teacher!
Do me a favor and FORGET thinking you can make s’mores in a microwave or over a gas stove.
THEY ARE NOT THE SAME!
Give it up: Go camping! Get dirty! Make s’mores like a Princess: over the fire!
Step 1: The fire.
You’ll want an established fire that isn’t too smoky. I like to have it going for at least twenty minutes before I try to make my s’more. That way, the coals are nice and hot and you’ve progressed past the burning kindling and newspaper stage. (Very gross-tasting smoke!)
Step 2: Lower the grate.
This is why I LOVE making s’mores in a campground’s fire ring: the grate! I like it so it’s about 3-4 inches above the top of the flames. I lower the grate early so it starts to get hot.
Step 3: Prepare the toasting boat.
Make a “boat” out of tin foil. I take about a foot-long piece, fold it in half and then fold up the edges. I want a flat-bottom boat that is a bit rigid.
Step 4: The s’more bases
You’ll want a full half of a graham cracker. The closer you get to a complete half, the easier it is to assemble the s’more later.
And do yourself a favor: get the good ones! Please, PLEASE don’t settle for the tasteless store brand! Just like you wouldn’t make a steak with a cheap cut of meat, make your s’mores with the best ingredients!
Top each base with 1/4 to 1/2 of the Hershey’s chocolate bar. I prefer to use 1/4 (that’s 1 row of 3 pieces) because then the whole s’more isn’t so sticky sweet.
Step 5: Melt the chocolate
With the bases in the boat, you’ll place the boat on the heated grate. I like them close to the flames but not directly OVER. I’m trying to get it so my chocolate is a bit melted at the time the marshmallow is toasted.
Step 6: Toast the marshmallow
I know there are people who like their marshmallows burnt black. And while I do enjoy a turn-your-teeth-black, make-every-dentist-in-the-world-cringe charred marshmallow occasionally, that isn’t how I like my marshmallow for a s’more.
I toast mine until they’re evenly browned.
Here’s the trick:
- no more than 1 marshmallow on the stick at a time
- keep it moving (rotating)
- keep it just above the flames so it’s HEAT not FIRE that does the cooking
My friends Les & Kathy gave me a set of Mallow Masters by Barr Brothers. These things are GREAT! The plastic keeps your hands from getting hot and the double tines (retractable) keep the marshmallow in place. Heat doesn’t seem to travel up the prongs. Get Mallow Masters from Amazon.com! (Affiliate link)
Step 7: Assembly
This is where it can get tricky because everything is hot and melting and sticky. It’s okay to ask for help here because you don’t want to get a sugar burn from anything — they’re VERY painful and can be really dangerous!
Transfer the foil boat to a paper plate or picnic table to make life easier!
Place the roasted marshmallow on top of the chocolate and top with the other half of a graham cracker. While gently squeezing the two halves together, slide the stick out of the marshmallow.
This is where the plate comes in handy so when the chocolate oozes out it doesn’t get onto clothes, hands, or the dog!
Let cool just a bit (a burnt tongue interferes with eating a s’more!) and enjoy!
Readers Weigh In:
- What’s you s’more making technique?
Since I was camping last weekend, I wanted to take advantage of the trip to test out a homemade fire starter. Back in May, I wrote an article called 5 Campfire Starting Tools
In researching starting a campfire I had run across many different tips and techniques. But, I wanted to try the Egg Carton Fire Starter tip submitted by Par:
I take dryer lint and push it into the cups of a cardboard egg carton. Then I melt wax and pour it over the entire egg carton, trying to soak it as much as possible. I use one cup per fire. I usually have successful fires with this type of starter. Please do not use Styrofoam for this project, it melts and gives off noxious fumes.
So I gave it a shot!
- Dryer lint
- Cardboard egg carton
- Unscented candle
I’d been saving my dryer lint just to try this (gross, I know!) and a cardboard egg carton. I filled each of the holes with as much lint as it would hold. It was basically one load’s worth of lint per egg holder.
Then, I lit my candle and waited until I had a pool of wax. I then poured the wax from the candle over the lint. I was trying to form a seal over the lint and soak as much wax as possible into the cardboard.
The big white globs in the photo? That was cooled drips and puddles of wax I heated over the flame and then pressed into the lint.
I know what you’re thinking: this would have been a lot easier with a block of paraffin and a double boiler. And you’re absolutely correct except for a couple of things: I don’t own a double boiler (or a pot I could sacrifice for the name of a blog post!) AND I’m flat-out dangerous when it comes to open flames and wax! So I figured that the candle would be safer for me. Feel free to use a double boiler if you’re making a large batch of these starters.
It took me about 3 hours from start to finish. Most of the time was waiting for enough liquid wax to accumulate on my candle to then pour over the lint. After fussing with it all evening, I was wholeheartedly ready to report that this wasn’t worth it.
But I was wrong about that!
When I got to test this out on Saturday night, I made a little teepee with my wood and set a single fire starter in the middle. Now, as you can see from the photo at the top of this article, my wood was NOT kindling. It wasn’t even small!
I just lit the edges of the egg carton fire starter with my utility fire lighter and that was it. There was no newspaper, pine needles, grass, or twigs. Just one little fire starter and go.
One part I really liked about making these fire starters was that it really didn’t take a lot of wax for each egg cup. I wasn’t trying to form a solid block of wax over the lint, just enough to hold it in place. As soon as the wax was cool (about 10 minutes after the last pour) I broke the egg carton apart with my fingers and put the 6 cups I made into a zippered baggie.
The cardboard egg carton fire starters are basically free and pretty easy to make. The only thing that isn’t so cool about these is that they aren’t very water proof.
Readers Weigh In:
- What is your favorite homemade fire starter?
- Have you ever made egg carton fire starters? How did they work? What did you use to fill the egg cups?
It is fire season again in Arizona. We’ve already had some devastating fires up near Flagstaff, including the Schultz Fire which burned more than 15,000 acres. In fact, just this week, Flagstaff law enforcement had to deal with an additional THREE little fires. Officials are thinking arson…
Fires take up a lot of airtime on our summer news broadcasts: man-made fires, smoking restrictions, fire restrictions, wildfires, and really scary terms like: “defensible space”, percent contained, homes lost.
You all know how much I love s’mores (4 recipes in one cookbook!) and that I have written articles in the past about safe fire starting. But, one of the most important steps of the fire making process, I’ve only mentioned in passing. And, that’s the right way to put out a fire.
HOW FIRE WORKS
The Basic Elements of Fire
The word “fire” refers to the natural phenomenon that occurs whenever a combustible fuel comes into contact with oxygen at an extremely high temperature. Fire is the byproduct of a chemical reaction in which fuel stored in a combustible fuel is converted to a gas. A fire’s flame refers to the visual indication of light that occurs once the gas is heated, and is evidence that a fire has taken place.
Fires can be man made or natural. When lightning starts a fire in dry grass, it can be just as devastating as a campfire that gets away. A few summers ago, a wildfire in Arizona was actually started by a dust devil. The story goes that a dust devil scooped up a piece of tin, the tin hit a power line and gave off sparks. The sparks fell into dry grass and BANG! a fire was started.
The Fire Triangle
The Fire Triangle was developed by natural scientists as a simple way of understanding the factors of fire. Each side of the triangle represents one of the three ingredients of fire — oxygen, heat, and fuel — demonstrating the interdependence of these ingredients in creating and sustaining fire. Remove any of these three factors from the triangle, and a fire will die.
The interaction of the three equal sides of the fire triangle: heat, fuel and oxygen, are required for the creation and maintenance of any fire. When there is not enough heat generated to sustain the process, when the fuel is exhausted, removed, or isolated, or when oxygen supply is limited, then a side of the triangle is broken and the fire is suppressed.
A heat source is responsible for the initial ignition of wildland fire, and heat is also needed to maintain the fire and permit it to spread. Heat allows fire to spread by removing the moisture from nearby fuel, warming surrounding air, and preheating the fuel in its path, enabling it to travel with greater ease.
Matches, sparks, coals from a campfire not properly put out, a cigarette butt, etc are sources of heat.
Fuel could be defined as any kind of combustible material, and is characterized by its moisture content, size and shape, quantity, and the arrangement in which it is spread over the landscape. The moisture content of any fuel will determine how easily that fuel will burn.
In Arizona, the large number of dead pine trees (caused by drought and the pine beetle) are an easy source of fuel for a wildfire. Since it is still hot and dry here the moisture content is low. When it rains, even dead wood will have a moisture content, absorbed from the rain and the humidity in the air.
Slurry (the red stuff dropped from the planes in the case of a wildfire) is 85% water. It’s used to raise the moisture content and help stop fires.
Air contains about 21% oxygen, and most fires require at least 16% oxygen content to burn. Oxygen supports the chemical processes that occur during a wildland fire. When fuel burns, it reacts with oxygen from the surrounding air releasing heat and generating combustion products (i.e. gases, smoke, particles). This process is known as oxidation.
Make Sure it is Out!
1. Let the fire burn down as far as possible. This is why having a small fire is better than having a big fire. Don’t leave a fire unattended.
2. Pour water onto the fire and around the fire area. Use enough water to float the coals and totally soak the area. Roll back any rocks from around the fire and pour water in and around where they were. Be sure to put rocks back into the fire ring when you’re done.
Be prepared for ashes to kick up into your face so stand on the up-wind side and pour water on slowly, using a small stream of water. Don’t throw water on the fire since it can actually spread hot coals.
3. Stir the coals, ashes and dirt. At this stage, you’ll most likely need to add more water and then stir again.
4. Check the coals for heat with your bare hand when you think it is out to make sure there are no hot areas. If there are any hot areas, go back to step 2 and pour on more water!
Make putting the fire out one of the first things you do when breaking camp. Put it out well in advance, so you can watch it for some time before you leave. Make sure that no roots are burning. Do not bury your coals — they can smolder and break out.
Readers Weigh In:
- Have you had any experiences with a campfire that got away?
- Have you ever been traveling the back roads and needed to put out an unattended campfire?
- What tools do you carry with you to put out fires? (Shovel, water, etc)
I know I said that this week’s article would be where I’d reveal the results of testing camp stoves with different BTU outputs. BUT, ESP Boss & I decided that it would be better for you to watch the video of our test! It is in production as we speak so look for it soon.
Kind of sticking with the theme, however, I wanted to share with you my tips and suggestions for campfires! To make life easy for you, I’m also including links after every product so you can buy one before your next camping trip!
Campfires are one of the best parts of a camping trip. However, I’ve found over the course of numerous camping trips and day trips that building and maintaining a safe campfire is not as easy as it seems. Even the most experienced camper can still pick up new ideas and tricks about fire making.
There are a variety of fire igniters and fire aids on the market. Which are the best for in-camp use, and what should you keep in your backpack for a potential emergency situation? Here are your answers!
Utility Fire Lighter
These are the adjustable lighters with a long reach. They have a trigger feature. The advantage is their long reach — you don’t have to have your fingers as close to the tinder as with the other methods. This is your best in-camp bet, because they’re safe, easy to use, and can be used in breezy conditions. They are not a good choice for your backpack for emergency situations.
- Water resistance: High. We’ve left these out in the rain and they still work. Just don’t submerge in water.
- Ease of use: High. Once you get the hang of turning these lighters on, they’re very easy to use.
- Practicality: High. This isn’t something you want to carry in a backpack as an emergency fire starter since it isn’t compact and might leak. It’s a great fire starter in camp.
- Over-all rating: High
- Price: $6
Be sure to keep the matches in a water-proof container so that they’re dry when you need them. Ideally, you want to keep the box they come in for the striker strip, but you can light strike-anywhere matches on any rough surface. (That’s why they’re called strike-anywhere.) Matches can be hard to use because they burn so quickly, meaning you’d better have a good place to get your fire started (tinder) and the possibility of getting your fingers burned can be high.
Why not other use matches? Safety matches require the on-box striker strip to ignite, book matches are difficult to use in not-prefect conditions, and other types of matches can be brittle and easily broken.
Of course, matches aren’t really the best bet for either in-camp or emergency fire making. They won’t work if they get wet, require you to get up-close-and-personal with the tinder (increasing the probability of getting burnt) and they are nearly useless in breezy conditions.
- Water resistance: Low. If you get the matches wet, they won’t work anymore. They can be made water resistant by a light coating of wax, but that will need to be done at home.
- Ease of use: High. It’s easy to light a match, but it’s easy to go through them quickly.
- Practicality: Medium. Cheap, easy, quick, light weight. Just make sure you have plenty. Because of low-water resistance, matches are not a great choice for a backpack.
- Over-all rating: Medium
- Price: $2.50 for 3 boxes of 250
This is a wood fire starter made of premium wax and kiln-dried hardwood sawdust and is completely non-toxic. The StarterLogg® will start your fire faster and easier than using newspaper and kindling, and it eliminates fire starting hassles, so you can start your fire safely and quickly. It’s a bit heavy to carry the full log in your backpack, but it can be broken into smaller pieces and a few pieces carried with you.
A StarterLogg® will burn cleanly, ignite quickly and burn hot enough to dry out damp wood. This is a fantastic aid for in-camp fire starting (especially with damp wood) and is great to chunk up and put in your backpack.
- Water resistance: High. This is wax coated so water shouldn’t hurt it.
- Ease of use: High. Just light it using your favorite fire igniter above
- Practicality: High. Cheap, easy, quick, light weight. This is a great tool for in-camp and in the backpack.
- Over-all rating: Medium
- Price: $7.50 for 4
We just purchased a butane lighter made by DAC. It’s described as a refillable butane lighter for all outdoor activities. Windproof and water-resistant. Features a fuel level window, flame adjustment, and refill valve. It may look like a Zippo lighter, but for emergency fire starting, it’s a cut above, since it’s made of heavy-duty plastic body with a cap that is secured with a clamp.
- Water resistance: High. It’s not water-proof, but water-resistant should be good enough for most outdoor adventures.
- Ease of use: High. It works just like a regular lighter.
- Practicality: High. Lightweight, easy to use, and refillable. It is good for camp or in your backpack.
- Over-all rating: High
- Price: $10
Just in case you’re ever on the TV show “Survivor.” No, really, this is a handy tool to have to start fires in emergency situations. One fire starter should provide hundreds of fires. It’s simple to use; just shave pieces of magnesium using a sharp knife. Place the shavings next to dry twigs, paper, etc. and scrape the sparking edge with a knife to ignite the magnesium. Be careful with this; magnesium can burn so hot it will burn under water.
- Water resistance: High
- Ease of use: Medium. (To get good at this, you’ll need practice. I recommend practicing with this during non-critical fire making time.)
- Practicality: Medium. It’s light and can get wet, but you’ll need to practice to get proficient. Plus, you need another tool (a knife) to start the fire. With practice and a knife its good for the backpack, but a lot of work for an in-camp fire starter.
- Over-all rating: Medium
- Price: $7
What ISN’T recommended: gas, lighter fluid or other liquid fire starters. In all of these cases, it isn’t the liquid that’s burned, it’s the fumes. It is never a good idea to use gas or lighter fluid to start a fire since these items will ignite too quickly, burn very hot, and are extremely difficult to control.
Last October, I was camping with the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family at Pine Grove Campground near Flagstaff Arizona. ESP Boss (he’s an experienced camper!) had a major brain fart and poured a bit of leftover gasoline from the generator onto the wood in the fire ring and then started the fire. WHOOSH! Let’s just say that he jumped back very quickly and wasn’t hurt, The Queen Mother yelled at him and then started to cry, and I made a mental note to remember to tell everybody I know to never, Never, NEVER use gas on a fire.
So, enjoy your campfire but stay safe and stay smart. If you’re not sure that a tip or tool is safe, don’t chance it — use something that you know will work and is safe.
Readers Weigh In:
What fire starters do you use? Have you ever tried to make your own fire starter out of newspaper, dryer lint, etc? How did it go?