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Thread: Need advice on building a lasting fire

  1. #1

    Default Need advice on building a lasting fire

    Hi, I've made about half a dozen fires now but I keep having the same problem. As soon as I start to add larger firewood, my fire gradually becomes just a bed of coals and the firewood doesn't catch. I have been using a tepee structure for the initial fire and that works great, but when the time comes to add firewood, I add the wood I have chopped and the fire just starts to dies out. I have some pictures here.


    I put the firewood in when the fire is really burning well so I don't understand why it doesn't catch. Thanks for your help.

  2. #2


    Has the larger wood been seasoned (dried) or is it freshly cut? Is it wet from being in the rain?

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  3. #3


    I just chop it down and then throw it in the fire. I don't dry it. It hasn't snowed for at least 5 days now so the wood should be dry right?

  4. #4


    If you just chopped it then will be hard to catch fire because of all the moisture in it. If it burns at all it will mostly make smoke. All firewood has to be dried for a good while (seasoned).

    Try to find limbs that are dead but still off the ground.

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  5. #5
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    Most live wood (trees) takes about 6 months to a year to dry....unless you split it up real thin.
    Depend on what kind as well.

    Look for dead wood to burn....sticks, branches, dead logs, can be burned in half if you don' want to saw to cut them up.

    Green wood will not burn very well at all.... unless it is aspen...and that has to be aged a whole hour before burning.
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  6. #6
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Yep, freshly cut wood can help you bank a fire and keep the coals going for a longer time, but for flames you are going to want to use dried wood.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    Apr 2010
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    Nothing like putting a good sized green log on the fire and watching the water sizzle out both ends!

    All the energy is used up drying out the green wood and you get no heat at all, just sizzle and smoke

  8. #8


    Okay I will try this out tomorrow. Thank you

  9. #9


    Welcome, Brett! Yeah, you need to find dead wood. There's 'standing dead wood' and dead wood lying around. The former means dead trees that are still standing up. This is the best for firewood, provided it's legal to harvest it where you are. The limbs of a tree that has been dead for months will be nice and dry. Dead wood that you find on the ground may be nice and dry if it's not in direct contact with the Earth, but if it's resting directly on the ground it will probably have wicked up a lot of moisture. "Green" wood (ie wood that is still alive or dead but not seasoned) will sizzle and pop and won't readily burn.

  10. #10


    Put any green wood you plan to use close to your fire while you burn the dead stuff you gather. Use it like Crash said to bank the fire for the night.
    When I buy firewood, since green is cheaper usually by $100 or more, I get a couple cords of that and keep it for next year, using last year's stuff this year. Plus, that way, you always have something in an emergency.
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  11. #11


    Quote Originally Posted by Brett1 View Post
    I just chop it down and then throw it in the fire. I don't dry it. It hasn't snowed for at least 5 days now so the wood should be dry right?
    Not if its green (live) wood ! Look for standing dead wood. Only use dead wood that is laying on the ground if it has been very dry for several weeks, standing dead wood will be much drier. Wood that is laying on the ground is usually damp and so is green wood. Also, use wood that is progressively larger. Start with tinder, then add twigs, then pencil sized wood, then thumb size etc and never add larger wood until what you already have is actually burning.
    Last edited by Lamewolf; 01-25-2016 at 05:06 PM.
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  12. #12
    Not a Mod finallyME's Avatar
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    Jul 2009


    Yep, like everyone else says, it sounds a lot like you are using green wood. Most boy scouts make this mistake. I even watched (I was refusing to help because they were refusing to listen) once when they took a handful of green stuff and dumped white gas all over it. The gas lit just fine....then eventually burned out without getting any of the wood to light. Eventually we made peace and I agreed to help, but only to get it going... not to get more wood. So, I marched off into the trees... 2 minutes later I had a very large handful of dried stuff that they had walked past. I lit the fire with a ferro rod and got a good fire going in a few minutes. 20 minutes later, the fire died down, because no one wanted to get more fire wood. I went to bed. I'm not their mom, so sometimes I am just mean.

    A lot of times, we will get an adult leader that wants to do everything for them, like get their firewood. I usually have to explain to them that the purpose of the campout is to teach self reliance to the boys. But, it sucks sometimes when you want to sit up and talk around the fire, but no one wants to go get fire wood.
    Last edited by finallyME; 01-25-2016 at 05:31 PM.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    Some of the posts are all over the place. Not sure what to make of this.

    I would ask the question - what is the fire for?

    Cooking food? ya need a bed of coals.... only add 1/2 inch x 15 twigs to make more coals.

    Want warmth? Sleeping under the stars? I would start with a tee-pee and add a pile of 6 foot pieces that are from widowmakers. Once the coals are going remove some of the bark and make a long fire.

    Want Light? Use Conifers only... harvest dead fall or dead branches from under Pine or Hemlock, its a brighter fire.

    If it doesn't snap don't use it.... and if it's wet grab a knife and remove the bark.
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