Author Topic: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?  (Read 11044 times)

Offline Greekman

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Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« on: January 04, 2014, 11:50:35 AM »
yestreday i went for a walk at the nearby woods and sat down to make me a hot cup of coffee.

But I had a firemaking fail.
Since i was photographing the process for my FB page, I think I can use the photos to lead you to my fail reasons.

So...all wood was wet from days of rain and bad weather.
I found a dead branch and cut it down to smaller lengths of, and started splitting it.



The wood was definetely dead judging by the way it cracked.
But is was COLD inside.

Materials preped. I chose to remove the bark too.



First try was a failure, I tried with a esbit fuel tab the second time.



The best that I got -with a lot of blowing- was this:



I gave up after 20-25 minutes. I went thru almost all the tinder but the bigger parts were just scorched.

So what was/did I do wrong?

nelson96

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2014, 12:06:44 PM »
Based on the information I have available from your description and pic's, I'd say the wood you used had too much moisture in it.  I don't know what else was available to you so I can't offer a better solution but even this wood could have probably offered success had you shaved it down in to smaller/thinner pieces and started with a smaller fire.

If the starter wood you use doesn't give you a clean and quick break when you bend it, it's a good indication that it has moisture in it and won't be a good choice in using to start a fire, but not impossible.  Even if you have dry tinder to start with, adding wet wood will prove to be challenging, especially if you use large/thick pieces.

The key to fire making is HEAT.  The quickest way to achieve the ability to build a useful fire is to start small and generate as much heat as possible.  Then and only then to you have options to use wet wood.

Offline Greekman

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2014, 12:23:23 PM »
How much smaller? These feathersticks were the best i could make (wood had many knots and the knife wasn't super sharp)

The fire shown was pal-sized

nelson96

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2014, 12:31:16 PM »
How much smaller? These feathersticks were the best i could make (wood had many knots and the knife wasn't super sharp)

Paper thin if it's got any moisture in it.  Even then it can prove a challenge, but do-able.  Then don't add any larger material until you have adequate heat.  Practice makes perfect and this is a good exercize so that you know what the variables are.

Next challenge is to do this when your cold and have little dexterity in your hands.  Of course one should know that the best time to build a fire is before you get too cold (could cost you your life).

Offline AvenueQ

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2014, 01:47:23 PM »
Way too big of pieces to start with! Making a fire with wet wood is challenging, but possible (I have a former boy scout boyfriend that's done it a few times). What you did, slicing the wood vertically and stripping the bark, is pretty much exactly what he does when everything is wet, but we start it differently. You have to start with small stuff like pine needles, pinecones, and teeny tiny twigs (we sometimes bring old phone books or dryer lint when we go camping in case of rain. These make great kindling). Gradually add larger and larger pieces as the fire gets hotter. Preparing everything in advance is the most important part, which it looks like you did well. But you have to get a hotter fire going before you can add pieces as large as the ones in your picture. Also when you add larger pieces, you should add them in a teepee configuration. This will trap the heat in the center of your fire and get it hot enough to where you can add big logs and keep it going for a long time.

Fire making is just as much of an art as a science. Practice is the only way to get better. Hope this helped.

Offline Greekman

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2014, 01:57:51 PM »
Ok, collective reply

There was Nothing dry around. I located a few spruce twigs that were protected by the rain, but they were semi-dead. They broke but did not snap clear

Can dead wood get wet again on the inside?

Good point on the teepee traping heat.

At a certain point when i was lighting the esbit with the bic I told myslef "this is already awkward, imagien doing it wiht frozen hands..."

You both mentioned something I was afraid of.
Too little kindling power.
Given the things i had to work with this must have been the major limiting factor.

Offline AvenueQ

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2014, 02:20:01 PM »
Can dead wood get wet again on the inside?

Yes, but how deep the moisture penetrates depends on the size of the branch, density of the wood, and how long it was in rained on. Larger branches often are dry in the middle, so splitting them vertically is a good way to access that dry wood. Once your fire's hot enough, you can use damp wood without a problem. It's kind of fun to watch the water boil out.

Offline Kansas Terri

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2014, 02:42:22 PM »
Have you ever noticed that many trees have dead twigs under the main branches? That is due to Mother Nature having the trees drop the branches or twigs that no longer get enough light to be useful for photosynthesis.

The point is, the dead wood on the ground has been soaking up the moisture from the ground while the dead twigs on the tree have not. Those twigs often get a chance to dry between rain showers while the dead wood on the ground has not! As a result, the dead twigs on the trees are usually lower in moisture than the dead wood on the ground.

Offline Perfesser

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2014, 05:12:05 PM »
Plan for the fire way in advance, while still hiking. Start collecting the very smallest dead branches still on the trees. Break the dead branch off where it becomes the size of your finger or smaller and break it into 4" lengths while walking. Evergreens have a lot of resin and work great. When a cargo pocket is full, you're ready.
If you can collect a big handful of stuff the size of pencil lead you'll have no problem but make sure you have a big supply of pencil sized stuff ready to go. The first handful goes fast and you need to be ready with the rest.

Offline Greekman

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2014, 12:33:07 AM »
good point made Perfesser.
I am familiarr with this practice, but even though I had an hour long walk in the woods (actually dirt road) I did not do it.

But Terri, it is not easy to find such branches in our type of woods. It is mainly beech and oak (long standing trees like this
http://imageshack.com/a/img59/2398/xphf.jpg, also notice the incline). it would be easier higer up right at the pine line.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2014, 07:07:20 AM »
I would agree that your wood is too large and too wet. We get about 8 feet of rain annually where I am, so wood tends to be soggy and you learn where to try to find drier wood. From that photo, (which I would never have thought of it being Greece - [keep sending pics from your adventures]) I would have looked for dry wood at the base of that leaning tree to the upper left side of your photo. There also might be a bit of an undercut to the bank there. It might be just enough protection from the elements that you can find dry material for firestarting, including dry leaves. Twigs are likely tucked up in there too.

Even with a dull knife, you should have been able to fray the whittlings of your slivers even more. Stab it and rip if need be.

Depending on how wet, and for how long, yes, dead wood can get wet again, that is how it decomposes. You could take a Fir log on my soggy side of Oregon and it will decompose in a few years. Over on the dry side of Oregon which might get 7" of rain a year, it could take hundreds of years for that same log to decompose.

You can look under logs for dry spots.. even if you have to dig into the punky wood. Pull bark away from downed trees. Like ThePerfessor said, start collecting long before you want a fire. When I did SAR, we often carried road flares to have emergency firestarters. They burn at about 3,000F/1,648C and last for about 15-30 minutes depending on the flare. I am not currently carrying a road flare (although I ought to) in my BOB, but have some of these Duraflame mini logs which cost me $0.84 the other day and weigh 7oz

I also carry candle stubs. Better than just using a match or a spark.

Did you blow your flame out? I just breathe on mine when I am starting them with an open mouth, then I do not blow it out. If you are blowing on it, like you would blow on a whistle, that is too much (usually).

Did you use paper? Dry leaves? Pocket fuzz? Did you have dry-ish grasses?

To make a fire you need oxygen, heat and fuel. It looks on your particular fire, you are lacking oxygen (not stacked quite properly, too dense), heat (you were not getting enough due to lack of flame, accelerant) and the fuel was lacking, too large and too wet.

Cedar

Offline Greekman

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2014, 09:36:47 AM »
hmmm Yes i did blow it off sometimes in the start.
but alter on, it would take a whistle like blow and then start fanning the (small) flames with the brim of my cap.
The flames would roar and the thump-thick wood woudl not start, only scorch.

So i guess it was not an air issue but more of the heat and the fuel issue.

On a side note, Greece is not only the islands and the beaches as marketign has you to believe. It rages (not ranges) up to Alpine like areas. And that reminded me of this: http://www.thessalonikiartsandculture.gr/kosmos/art-salad/meet-the-world-in-greece.
Enjoy & thanks!


Offline Cedar

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2014, 09:44:27 AM »
On a side note, Greece is not only the islands and the beaches as marketign has you to believe. It rages (not ranges) up to Alpine like areas. And that reminded me of this: http://www.thessalonikiartsandculture.gr/kosmos/art-salad/meet-the-world-in-greece.
Enjoy & thanks!

THAT is the coolest thing ever Greekman.. and I *know* it is not all ancient Greek buildings, but totally different to remember that there is other things besides ancient Green buildings if you have not been there. Maybe one day I can come visit you country.

Cedar

endurance

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2014, 11:04:50 AM »
I just got back from S-290, Intermediate Fire Behavior, and the class answered some questions for me regarding why it is so hard to start a fire when it's damp/wet.  It turns out that every type of fuel has a Moisture of Extinction, above which flame cannot be supported.  If the fuel is pre-heated, the moisture can evaporate and the fuel will support fire at that point.  The larger the fuel, the more time it will take for that moisture to be driven off and the less surface area to volume to support flame.

In any case, to quench your curiosity, here's a chart from Appendix B of the Fireline Handbook:


Offline Greekman

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2014, 11:15:37 AM »
quench our curiosity?
now i have a million questions.....

- What are the
-  F.L 1-H etc untis?
- ROS
- FL (i assume fuel loading measured in another way)

endurance

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2014, 12:53:30 PM »
Fuel Loading is expressing the 1 hour, 10 hour, 100 hour and live fuel ratio for the model.  1 hour fuel is 0-1/4" diameter material, 10 hour is 1/4-1" diameter, 100 hour is 1-3" diameter (and 1,000 hour fuels are 3-8" diameter).  A dead fuel will adjust to its surrounding Relative Humidity in 63% of the time lag and will reach 95% of the environment's R.H. in five time lag periods.  Fuel moisture is measured as percent over the oven-dried weight for dead fuels.  If you had a 10-hour fuel rated at 35% and placed it in an environment with 10% relative humidity for 10 hours, it would reach about 16% fuel moisture (if the math in my head is accurate).

ROS is rate of spread in chains per hour.  A chain is 66 feet.  Yes, it's the dumbest unit of measure ever, but it's retained because it makes calculating acreage easy (10 square chains is one acre).  FL is Flame Length.  Anything over 4' cannot be attacked with hand crews in direct attack.  Anything over 11' is pretty much impossible to stop with hand or dozer line and priorities should shift to preservation of life and structure defense.

The class I took was the 290 level class.  There's also a 390, 490, 590 and 690.  The higher you go, the more complex models and the more math you need.  I can make calculations now that can help forecast manpower needs and more importantly, understand what will happen when various conditions change (change in slope, wind, aspect, humidity, etc.).  The class I took is a pre-requisite for being a lookout and with other classes, a crew or engine boss (my goal).  The other upper level behavior classes lead to Incident Management Team positions like fire behavior analyst, which intrigues me, but unless I have a change in jobs I'll have no way to serve in that role.

Offline activematrix

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2014, 07:42:56 PM »
...Need more gasoline.

Offline PAGUY

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #17 on: August 16, 2015, 02:15:09 PM »
There are many great comments and suggestions so I will only make a suggestion about dexterity.  As a simulation to diminish dexterity with knot tying I often teach students to use heavy bulky gloves.  This forces you to concentrate more on what you are doing.  Keep working on your fire building skills.  It is a perishable skill that has to be used or you loose it. 

Offline LdMorgan

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2015, 10:12:12 PM »
Lot of good comments, but a few things more to add.

Your fire failed in part because you put the tinder on top of the firewood, instead of under it.

All those nice long flames rising up from your tinder should have been warming and drying the rest of the firewood. And, pretty quickly, setting it on fire.

Instead, all that heat just went "up, up, and away".

Always go for wood that was not lying on the ground. If there has been a recent rain, split everything so the dry wood on the interior can start right up.

Firewood that is pencil thin or thinner is good for getting a fire started--and your tinder should be shaved like potato chips.

The only wet wood that burns well is fat wood, aka lighter pine. Learn to spot it, and carry a small amount in your gear, all prepped and ready to light.

That could save time when time matters. Or your life.




Offline RuggedCyclist

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2015, 10:36:29 PM »
Take some cotton balls, and soak melted candle wax in them. They will light any fire you need lit.

Offline Greekman

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Re: Fire making Fail: what did I do wrong?
« Reply #20 on: September 04, 2015, 12:55:52 AM »
Your fire failed in part because you put the tinder on top of the firewood, instead of under it.

noope, this was my frame to isolate the fire from the wet "ground"

if you do not see any bigger sticks on top it is because the fire did not get strong enough to warrant these. If I did their drying would  rob calories.