Build a fire

Since the dawn of time, our ancestors have huddled and conspired around the fire. Head into a wide, open space with your child, and create your very own.

There are just three elements which are essential in order to light a fire: oxygen, heat and fuel. If you take away any one of these elements, the fire will not light, or will rapidly go out.


Instructions: How to create a fire (general guidance)

  1. Start off by filling a bottle/bucket with water, then head outside. Keep this water source within arms’ reach at all times, just in case of an emergency.
  2. Together, set out to collect your kindling and fuel, and see our firewood guide below if you are unsure about which types of wood work best. If you like, you can make the experience a game of sorts, by challenging your child to collect a certain number of kindling sticks within a time constraint.
  3. Find a clear, open, space to start your fire. Work together as safety inspectors, searching high and low for any potential obstacles. You should avoid any areas with straight lines of long, dry grass, as this terrain can cause the fire to spread rapidly. You should also avoid areas with low-overhanging branches or nearby trees that could easily catch fire. Generally speaking, the clearer the space, the lower the risk. The type of fire we have used for this exercise is a star fire, but if you’d like to try your hand at an alternative type of fire, you can access this jam-packed Scout resource on fire building.
  4. Do another quick safety check. Is all long hair tied back safely? Is anyone wearing any loose clothing? If so, is it secured? You’ll also want to pay attention to which direction the wind is blowing, making sure that no-one is in the direct path of flames and smoke once the fire is lit.
  5. Kneel by the fire with your back facing the wind. This will shield it from any gusts that may make it difficult to light the fire, while placing your knees and feet firmly together will help to to eliminate any draughts.
  6. If you are using matches or a lighter, strike them up and take the flame to the tinder.
  7. Gently blow on the flame. This will provide more oxygen, allowing the flame to grow.
  8. Gradually add more kindling to grow the flames.


Instructions: Star fires                                                              

  1. As above, find and prepare a suitable area for building your fire together, looking out for any potential obstacles and risks.
  2. You will need six seasoned or dry logs of approximately 7cm thick and a collection of smaller dry sticks of different sizes. Preparation is key: help your child to gather their firewood before you both begin to build your fire.
  3. Ask your child to take six large logs, arranging them in a star shape that meets in the centre.
  4. Use three smaller sticks and build a tripod over the centre of the logs. Add more twigs about finger width around the tripod, to make a wigwam shape.
  5. Leave one side open and place your tinder and kindling in the empty space beneath the tripod. Keep adding more twigs of different sizes around the outside leaving a gap to light the tinder.
  6. Light the fire using your matches or lighter. If you want to use the fire for cooking, leave it to burn down to embers before you start. For inspiration, we recommend checking out our recipe for bonfire banana boats and toffee apples.
  7. The logs can be pushed further into the centre as they burn down. Keep extra logs ready in case you need to refuel.


Best types of wood for fire-building

Excellent: Ash, Beech, Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Oak Yew

Good: Apple, Birch, Cedar, Cherry, Hazel, Hornbeam, Maple, Pear, Plum, Sycamore

Fair: Elm, Holly, Laurel, Pine, Plane, Rhododendron, Walnut

Poor: Alder, Douglas Fir, Elder, Horse Chestnut, Larch, Lime, Poplar, Sweet Chestnut, Spruce, Willow