If you’re like me, you like to have a back-up and then a back-up back-up. Every method of starting fires has their pros and cons. Let’s look at a few things to think about when you’re worried about starting a fire.

Magnesium Scraper

These work well, but you have to use more magnesium to get your fire started than most people think you do. These can work even when they’re wet. While the bars are small and easily portable, they will wear out fairly quickly and then what will you use?

Flint and Steel

Starting a fire with a flint (an actual piece of flint rock) and a steel takes practice. The good thing about this is that the flint lasts a long time provided you get a good sized chunk of it. The steel should last a long time too.


Yes, there are people out there who can make fire this way, but I’m not one of them. I don’t mind trying it out during the Mountain Man demonstrations just for fun, but I’m not going to rely on this method in a survival situation. If you do, great. Not for me.

Fire Pistons

I ordered one of the fire pistons from Rose Mountain Fire Pistons (looks like their website is messed up now) after reading an article in some outdoor magazine several years ago about how reliable and easy to use they were. Well, I’d say they are reliable, but again, using this method takes practice. The videos of the guy who makes them show him getting a healthy spark from just one plunge of the piston. It doesn’t work that well for me.

Here’s what these are…there are several brand and makers of these fire pistons but I chose this company because it’s a good price and it’s handmade. The woodwork is beautiful and it’s a nice piece that I admire. They work by putting a piece of tinder (char cloth is recommended) in the special holder tip and then you rapidly plunge a piston down to super heat and compress air. That causes the char cloth to catch fire. You tip the spark out of the piston and into your tinder pile. You are supposed to lightly lubricate the piston before using so it glides smoothly. I figure a small container of petroleum jelly would last a good long while and if I ran out of that, why I’d just use squirrel fat or something.

I get frustrated with it because it takes me a lot of tries, but I do eventually get a spark. I kind of consider this my back-up back-up, because I know that as long as I have some easily flammable material that I can stuff in the end of the piston and a pile of dry tinder, I should be able to use this thing for a long time.


I keep a few lighters here and there around the house and in the car because I think that’s the easiest way to get a fire started. If you keep lighters in your bug-out bag, place a few in a waterproof bag. The nice thing about lighters is that they are cheap and lightweight. But the cheap ones break. They don’t work well when it’s windy. And if they get wet, forget about it.

What do all of these fire starter methods all rely on? Dry tinder! It doesn’t matter how many matches you have, if everything you’re trying to burn is wet, you’re not going to get a fire. Ensure your success by gathering materials that will almost guarantee that you can get a fire started. Now that the weather is warming up, make it a point to go out and stock up on moss, bark, grass, and whatever else you can stockpile. Keep it in an Altoid tin or an actual tinder safe in a dry bag. Some alcohol gel could also be a good thing to have too.


Yes! I took a chemistry class in college and we each burned Cheetos to measure how much heat came off of them and into water we were trying to boil. I had never thought much at that point about emergency preparedness or survival gear but the site of that single Cheetoh burning for almost two minutes straight stuck with me.

These things are made of so much oil that they actually burn easily and stay lit. Consider stashing a bag of them in your kit or in the glove box. It doesn’t matter if they’re stale or not. They burn and they burn well.

Steel Wool

Get the finest grade of steel wool you can and use that as your tinder. It goes up almost immediately. Keep a 9 volt battery around and touch both poles of it with the steel wool and you have an instant inferno.


If Elide Fire has its way, the vertical fire hydrant “spray cans” will be a thing of the past. They’ve created an exploding fire extinguisher ball that just makes so much sense.

When you’re in a fire, how close do you really want to be to it? Yes, fire extinguishers can spray a few feet, but chances are you can throw a ball farther than you can stand in the face of heat and flame and hold down a trigger. Elide Fire’s fire balls are filled with the same chemicals in other fire extinguishers, but are activated by tossing them toward the fire.

They are designed to activate within three seconds of being exposed to flame. They also sound an alarm when activated. The great thing about these fire extinguishers is that they can activate even when no one is around to throw them. For instance, the majority of fires in a home start in the kitchen as a result of cooking, and chances are someone will be around when that happens. However, a large portion of fires in the home start in an unoccupied area such as a carport, attic or basement. Placing one of these red balls in those areas can be just the peace of mind you need, knowing that they will trigger themselves even if no one is home.

Another great thing about these devices is that even a kid could learn how to toss them in the direction of a flame, as opposed to the complicated instructions that accompany most hand-held fire extinguishers.

The Extinguisher Ball has a lifespan of five years and can be mounted or strategically placed wherever you feel you need it to be handy. If you’re not ready to replace your other fire extinguishers yet, why not take a moment now to check them. Are they expired? Were they used and never refilled? How’s the pressure on it? (There should be a pressure gauge indicating that it is filled and ready.) Is your fire extinguisher still in the best spot in the house? Does everyone in the home know where it is and how to use it?

Image from linkedin.com


There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this blog, sitting around a fire is on your list of enjoyable past times. It doesn’t really matter whether the flame is big or small, on the beach, in the woods or in your backyard, does it?

Propane is cool–um, make that hot–but nothing beats the smoke and heat of wood or charcoal. It’s one thing to assume that a manicured campground will have a fire ring, but what if you’re not sure where you’ll end up? Or you’re going to a friend’s apartment where the only connection to the outdoors is a concrete slab for a patio, but you want that smoke-tinged hot dog anyway? It’s not always easy to take that summertime feeling with you, but with Ikea’s Broki Fire Basket, you can.

The whole thing is less than 2 feet tall and is only 7 inches wide at the top, making it highly portable. Of course, this also means that it can only fit small logs, but who cares when there’s a warm and gooey marshmallow hovering above it? As per the usual for Ikea, the firepit is clean-lined and affordable, at only $30. Unfortunately though, it’s for sale in-store only.

We found a couple of other affordable portable fire pits that seem really cool. Um. You know what we mean.

The Cool Material Fire Basket is made of oxidized steel. At 22 inches wide and 24 inches high with a 12-inch diameter, it’s still pretty portable. The price tag is a tad higher, though, at $200.

The Grab ‘N Go Wood Burning Fire Pit from All Modern lives up to its name. It’s 26-inches around with collapsible, folding legs that lock into place to provide stable support. It comes with a canvas carry case with handles, so it feels just like carrying around a folding chair in a bag. Just a touch heavier than a chair, the fire pit is a mere 8.8 pounds. No tools are necessary for assembly and it’ll set you back only $76. It even includes a poker.

See ya around the fire!

Fireworks are a symbol of our nation’s independence and we have celebrated the Fourth of July with backyard displays and city-sponsored spectacles for decades. While “everyone does it,” there’s no doubt, though, that fireworks can pose a serious safety hazard.

Every year news outlets follow the holiday with reports of people who had fireworks blow up in their face, or had their house burn down because of fireworks flame. Don’t be one of those victims! Follow these tips to have a safe and fun experience with fireworks.

1. Know the statistics. According to a 2015 report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • an estimated 10,500  fireworks injuries were treated in emergency rooms in 2014
  • most (67%) of those injuries happen between June 20 and July 20
  • of those treated injuries, 74% were to males
  • 35% of those injuries were to children under the age of 15
  • children age 5 to 9 had the highest rate of injury
  • 1,400 injuries were reported from sparklers, 100 from bottle rockets and 1,400 from firecrackers
  • 54% of the injuries were burns

2. Obey your local laws. Fireworks are banned or regulated differently in different places. You can avoid legal trouble by respecting the laws of your state or city. If fireworks are not legal where you live, don’t use them.

3. Read the label before igniting. Know what your firework will do before you light the fuse. Some hover close to the ground while others shoot sky high.

4. Always have responsible, sober adult supervision. Never give kids fireworks to use on their own. Don’t let kids wander off with fireworks, even if they have things that seem “harmless” like sparklers. Fires can be cause by lit sparklers touching combustible material.

5. Light only one at a time. If you light several at once and something goes wrong with one, you won’t be able to help if others are going off at the same time. After you light the fuse, move away and keep your distance.

6. Use fireworks outdoors only, in a well-cleared space. The area should be free of obstacles and clear of anything flammable. Fireworks contain toxic chemicals and metals to make the colors, and the smoke they create is hazardous to breathe. You don’t want that in your home.

7. Keep a hose or bucket of water handy at all times. Keep a water source or fire extinguisher nearby at all times in case something goes wrong. Give one responsible person the task of managing the water if necessary.

8. Be mindful of where the fireworks will come down. Some states allow the fireworks that shoot up in the air. If you have that kind, make sure it won’t land on your or your neighbor’s house or outbuildings.

9. Be mindful of wildfire warnings and wind speed. Some cities will limit fireworks usage if the weather is extremely dry or windy. These limitations are in place to ensure everyone’s safety, so heed those warnings.

9. Never try to relight a “dud” or throw it in a fire. If a firework doesn’t light or malfunctions, don’t attempt to relight it. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes, then place it in water and dispose of properly.

10. Don’t modify or experiment with fireworks. Fireworks should only be used as they come in the package and by following proper lighting instructions.

11. Dispose of spent fireworks properly. Allow a spent firework to cool completely before handling, about 20 minutes. Place the used fireworks in a bucket of water to soak. Once it is fully soaked and cold, dispose of in the trash.


Stop for a minute to imagine the scary sight of a line of quickly moving fire approaching your home. Imagine the popping of trees falling over as they succumb to the heat and ash pouring down from the sky. The air will be thick with smoke and hard to breathe. Your eyes may sting. You may have to get out immediately. Are you ready to respond when safety officers knock on your door and tell you to leave?

1. Keep fuel in your tank.

This advice is essential for pretty much any emergency. If a wildfire is approaching your area, you need to be able to escape as soon as possible. The last thing you’ll want to do is wait in line for gas. A good rule of thumb is to fill up your car whenever the gauge shows it’s half empty.

2. Have a plan.

If your home is on fire or a wildfire is approaching, you are responsible for the safety of your family and pets. Fire can spread extremely quickly so you may not have much time to react. Make sure your family is aware of your escape plan and what to do in case of an emergency.

Know all of the possible exits from each room in your home. Always make sure your smoke alarms are working. Choose a meeting place for your family to congregate after they escape. Make sure your plan does not rely on cell phones or radios, as these may not be reliable during an emergency.

3. Know your escape routes.

Even if you’ve lived in your city for many years, you should always have a clear understanding of the best escape routes. Before you hit the road, check the weather patterns and wind conditions to make sure you don’t accidentally get yourself in another dangerous situation.

4. Stock your bug out bag.

Make sure you have a bug-out bag packed with food, water and tools that you need to survive in case you’re stranded away from home. This bag should be easy for you to grab quickly as you leave your home. It’s a good idea to keep a bug out bag in your vehicle as well, in case you’re away from home when disaster strikes.

5. Understand your insurance.

If you have homeowner’s insurance, make sure you understand the coverage for fire. Keep a copy of your insurance policy in a fireproof safe, and make sure you include copies of your policy in your bug out bag.

If you are stranded in the wilderness, it is absolutely essential that you are able to start a fire. In many locations, temperatures at night can get dangerously cold. Even if the temperatures are not frigid, you still may be in danger. Hypothermia can occur in temperatures as warm as 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

When you are out in the backcountry, a fire can serve many purposes. It will not only serve as a heat source to warm your body, its flickering light and smoke may act as a signal to rescuers that will lead them to your location.

Because the ability to create a fire is so important, it is a good idea to have several fire starters in your survival kit.

  • Lighter. A Bic lighter is a convenient fire starter to have around a campground. It can be used to light a stove or a campfire. However, Bic lighters may not be reliable when you’re out in the elements. In addition, they require a significant amount of coordination to work. If your hands are numb from cold, you might not be able to light it. Further, these types of lighters are not reliable at high elevations.
  • Stormproof matches. Stormproof matches also provide a quick fire starter, and can be used in rainy and windy conditions. However, lighting a match also takes a significant amount of coordination that you may not have if you’re cold or injured.
  • Spark rod. Spark rods are reliable in wet conditions, and because they require gross motor skills to work, they can be used by individuals who may be suffering from numbness in their fingers. Spark rods come in many different varieties including ferrocerium, magnesium, or a combination of materials.
  • Tinder. All of the fire starters in the world will be of no use if there is nothing to ignite. For this reason, you should always include tinder in your survival kit. Cotton balls coated in Vaseline make excellent fire starters, even when wet. Vaseline-coated cotton balls can burn for up to five minutes (just make sure you pull them apart a bit to expose the fibers). These coated cotton balls can be stored in an empty film canister or in a plastic sandwich bag. It is a good idea to carry five or more of these in your survival kit.

Although fire starters are important tools to have when you’re stranded in the wilderness, building a fire is a skill that must be developed. Practice using your fire starters and make sure you understand the basics of building a fire before you hit the trail.

Fire provides many benefits to people in the wilderness, but wildfires are extremely destructive. If you build a fire, never leave it unattended. Make sure your fire is out cold before you leave the area.

A Washington wildfire nearly claimed the life of Mark Desdier in mid-August.

The 62-year-old was in his Okanogan County cabin near Omak when things got dangerous fast. The Washington native was in the midst of trying to save neighbors in nearby cabins around 4 p.m. on Aug. 21 during the natural disaster before his own life was in peril.

A large gust of wind up to 50 miles per hour pushed a nearby wildfire down Cave Mountain, leaving Mark with a limited escape plan.

Thinking fast on his feet, Mark sped on his four-wheeler to the nearest way out. He hit a bank in the overwhelming heat and blinding debris. His ATV flipped, but luckily landed back on its wheels. At that moment in the Washington wildfire, Mark was able to use the lake as a means to survive the disaster. He later encountered a nearby dock that helped him stay afloat … shielding himself from hazardous debris.

While the resourceful man made it out of the water, he spent seven hours sheltered in an alfalfa hay farm building that was owned by some people he’d met earlier that night. After waiting a while longer, Mark was rescued by firefighters who then transferred him to Omak Hospital since he sustained several injuries and burns.

As the wildfire played out during Mark’s ordeal, his wife, Janet, thought he’d died.

Janet is amazed at the skills her husband used in order to survive the harrowing natural disaster. Mark says that is ability to stay calm and focused in the potentially fatal situation is what helped him. He learned the value of these skills when he attended fire academies while working with the Washington State Ferries for 30 years.

Wildfires over the summer had claimed the lives of three U.S. Forest Service firefighters, injured four, and destroyed 200 homes in the process.

Prepping your Bug Out Bag means you’ll need to think about fire-starting options that are available. Your best bet is to try out as many as possible before choosing what will work best for you. A wide range of options will greet you, from the expensive packaged camp store versions to a few you can create yourself at little to no cost. Take these things into account:

  • When it comes to fire-starters, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean more effective. A lot depends on the conditions and the weather.
  • If a bad situation turns even worse, you should probably also figure out how to make fire-starters without the benefit of money or nearby stores.

How You Can Make a Fire-Starter With Items at Home
One option that can be quickly made at home with very little cost is a fire-starter made from the lint found in your clothes dryer. You probably have more dryer lint than you need, so you can’t beat the availability of this ingredient. Consider a few things to consider before you go lighting the gray stuff on fire out in the backyard.

  • The fabric of the clothes that were just in the dryer actually play a pretty important role. You’ll probably find the best results come from cotton clothes like shirts and denim jeans. A dryer with a load of clothes made up of microfibers or other synthetic materials might not be as effective. Test out the lint from a few different laundry loads to find what works best and let us know in the comments.
  • After you’ve found the materials that are the most combustible, try out two different fuel extenders to make the lint even more effective. Basically, a “fuel extender” coats the lint and makes it burn for a longer time and, in turn, catches your smaller pieces and kindling to smoldering and smoking. Try out petroleum jelly for an extender that you can find around the house. Mix it with the lint to make some tidy little fire-starters. Try out paraffin wax or melt down some leftover holiday candles and add that to your lint.

Ways to Carry Your Dryer Lint Fire-Starters
The beauty of using dryer lint as a base ingredient of your survival fire starters is that most of the ingredients can be found around the house and cost pretty much nothing. You will need something to hold your newly found lint fuel.

  • You can use a cardboard egg carton by putting a bit of the mixture of lint and fuel extender in each small section or use a discarded toilet paper roll to stuff the mixture in. Either way, consider how you’ll keep your starter dry.
  • When using the egg carton container you could also consider the extra step of dipping them in melted fax for a waterproof and fuel based option. Re-using small plastic bags of packaging or the Ziploc bags that only held a lunch sandwich are good ways to recycle household items that would normally get trashed.

A fire-starter holds the potential to save the lives of you and your loved ones, so take the time necessary to make sure you make them correctly by trying out difference ingredients and safely starting fires of your own before a time of crisis arrives. The weather, the types of wood available, and the lighting device are all factors to consider.