Most times in a survival situation, you will just build.. a fire. For the most part that will probably be fine, but there are many different types of fire which can be used for different purposes depending on the weather conditions, what you need the fire for, your location and the situation that you are in. Some fires are better suited to cooking, some are for warmth, some for signaling and some are better suited (if a fire is absolutely necessary) during covert activities. The type of fire that you make may also differ depending on the climate and weather conditions.
You should have a good understanding of the types of fire that best suit different situations as the right decision will allow you to conserve fuel if in short supply, get maximum warmth if necessary, produce minimal smoke, if you don’t want to attract attention, or produce loads of smoke if you do.
Here are a few to get you started.
Fires for Warmth
Essentially spreading a larger fire out so that it is about as long as your body so that it warms your entire length as you sleep.
If warmth is a priority, a reflector should be constructed to concentrate as much of the fires heat as possible. If Lighting a fire near a large rock, light it far enough away to be able to sit between the rock and the fire. The rock will reflect the heat onto your back.
If there are no large rocks available, reflectors can be constructed by lashing several logs to two cross pieces and then standing them upright. You could also drive two sets of posts into the ground; far enough apart to stack a vertical layer of logs in between, creating a wall. My usual preference is to kill two birds with one stone (so to speak) and build a simple lean-to shelter and build a nice large fire in front of it; then, before going to sleep, spreading the fire out the full width of the lean-to. This is very effective even in very cold snow conditions.
An excellent fire if you are planning on staying put, the Yukon Stove will take some time and effort to build but it will pay off. Great for both cooking and heating, this fire can be adapted to house a metal box oven and grill plate.
The Yukon Stove is constructed of Stones and Mud, generally fashioned in a cylinder shape, tapering in slightly towards the top and stands around 3 – 4 ft high. The top should be left open to act as a chimney and there needs to be an opening at the bottom large enough for fuel to be added to the fire and so oxygen can be drawn in.
Heat can be regulated by partially covering the hole at the bottom. A flat stone or sheet of metal can be placed across the top which can act as a grill for cooking and drying but make sure that you leave some of the chimney hole exposed for the smoke to escape. If you put some thought into the design and build it a bit larger, you can build the stove with a metal box (empty ammunition box or something from a wreckage) in the back which can be used as an oven. You will need to lay a bed of straight green twigs on the bottom of the oven though to keep any food from resting directly on the metal as this will cause the food to burn.
Trench fires are excellent in windy conditions as the fire is below ground level and out of the wind. This type of fire is good when fuel is in short supply. Dig a trench about 1ft x 3ft and about 1.5ft deep. Lining the bottom will make the fire more efficient. light your fire on top of the stones and as the fire burns down it will heat the stones and create a good cooking fire. Forked sticks can be driven into the ground, either side of the trench and a cross piece suspended between them which can hold a billy.
If you have a can large enough to light a fire in, you almost have yourself a hobo stove. Turn the can upside down and punch some air holes around the base. Cut a square piece out of the side, large enough to be able to apply fuel through, but leave one side of the square in tact so that you can bend it like a hinge. Place this over a fire and congratulations, you now have a hobo stove which you can cook on the top of.
The star fire is especially good for conserving fuel as you can regulate the the rate at which the fuel is consumed, simply by either pulling the fuel apart or pushing it together. This type of fire is also good for cooking as the beat can be regulated in the same way.
Fires for Signaling
Signal fires should always be prepared and ready to light at a moments notice, whenever you are staying in one location for a period of time. You don’t want to pass up any opportunities to be rescued because you cant get a signal up in time.
Signal fires should be designed so that you get maximum acceleration once the fire is lit; therefore the fire will need to be able to consume loads of oxygen. Tripod based fires are very effective as signal fires. A good signal fire should consist of a base of very dry material and have a smoke producing material over that. Green vegetation or Rubber are both effective for producing smoke.
Signal fires should also be prepared in a well thought out position where they are going to be most visible to potential rescue parties. Remember to always keep your signal fire protected from excessive wind and rain and ensure that you have a way of lighting the fire close at hand. Don’t stray too far from your signal fire. If you happen to spot an opportunity for rescue, it may slip away before you have a chance to get back to the fire and light it. You really should prepare as many signal fires as you can to give yourself the best opportunity of being seen. Often what seems to be very visible up close can be almost impossible to see from afar.