Photo by SSgt Stephen Linch

Photo by SSgt Stephen Linch

To Do Today:

  • PT – Cardio – 3 mile run // Strength – 3 sets of: squats x 1 min; step-ups x 1 min; squat Jumps x 20; row x 10 min.
  • Gather sufficient materials for starting a fire.

Fires fall into two main categories: those built for cooking and those built for warmth and signaling. There are differences in the type of construction, fuel, and location but the basic steps are the same for both: preparing the fire lay, gathering fuel, building the fire, and properly extinguishing the fire.

Preparing the fire lay. There are two types of fire lays: fire pit and Dakota hole. Fire pits are probably the most common. For the fire pit:

  • Create a windbreak to confine the heat and prevent the wind from scattering sparks.
  • Place rocks or logs used in constructing the fire lay parallel to the wind.
  • The prevailing downwind end should be narrower to create a chimney effect.
  • Avoid using wet rocks. Heat acting on the dampness in sandstone, shale, and stones from streams may cause them to explode.

Dakota Hole. The Dakota Hole is a tactical fire lay. Although no fire is 100% tactical, this fire lay will accomplish certain things:

  • Reduces the signature of the fire by placing it below ground.
  • Provides more of a concentrated heat source to boil and cook, thus preserving fuel and lessening the amount of burning time.
  • By creating a large air draft, the fire will burn with less smoke than the fire pit.
  • It is easier to light in high winds.


Steps to build the Dakota Hole:

  • Gather Fuel. Do not take shortcuts here. The type and amount of tinder and fuel will make the difference between success and failure. Taking a few extra minutes can mean the difference between ease and frustration when building a fire.
  • Tinder. Tinder is the initial fuel. It should be fine and dry and not larger than the diameter of a toothpick. Gather a double handful of tinder for the fire to be built and an extra double handful to be stored in a dry place for the following morning. Dew can moisten tinder enough to make lighting the fire difficult. Some examples of tinder are shredded cedar/juniper bark, pine needles, dry grass, slivers shaved from a dry stick, or natural fibers from equipment supplemented with pine pitch (i.e., cotton battle dressing). Cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly or Char-cloth should always be carried in a survival kit.
  • Kindling. This is the material that is ignited by the tinder that will burn long enough to ignite the fuel. Small sticks/twigs pencil-thick up to the thickness of the thumb. Ensure that they are dry. Due to a typically large resin content, evergreen limbs often make the best kindling. They burn hot and fast, but typically do not last long.
  • Fuel Wood. Fuel Wood is used to keep the blaze going long enough to fulfill its purpose. Ideally, it should burn slow enough to conserve the wood pile, make plenty of heat, and leave an ample supply of long-lasting coals. Firewood broken from the dead limbs of standing trees or windfalls held off the ground will have absorbed less moisture and therefore should burn easily. Refrain from cutting down live, green trees.

Softwoods (evergreens and conifers) will burn hot and fast with lots of smoke and spark, leaving little in the way of coals. Hardwoods (broad leaf trees) will burn slower with less smoke and leave a good bed of coals.

Learn the woods indigenous to the area. Birch, dogwood, and maple are excellent fuels. Osage orange, ironwood, and manzanita, though difficult to break up, make terrific coals. Aspen and cottonwood burn clean but leave little coals.

Stack your wood supply close enough to be handy, but far enough from the flames to be safe. Protect your supply from additional precipitation.

If you happen to go down in an aircraft that has not burned, a mixture of gas and oil may be used. Use caution when igniting this mixture.

The type of fire built will be dependent upon its intended use; either cooking or heating and signaling. The teepee fire is good for cooking as it produces a concentrated heat source. Once a good supply of coals can be seen, collapse the teepee and push embers into a compact bed.

teepeefirePyramid fires are used to produce large amounts of light and heat. They will dry out wet wood or clothing and are also good for signalling and heating a shelter.


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