Tag: magnesium sticks

Urban Survival Tools to Get a Fire Going!


OK, the big danger is over. But the rain is running down your neck. Your fingers are feeling frozen. It’s getting dark very fast. What you desperately need right now is a fire!

MatchbookDo you have what you need?

Two necessities for starting a fire: an igniter and something to ignite.

I grew up in a kitchen that always had a big box of wooden matches above the stove. And my Dad always had a lighter in his pocket. Times have changed!

The only matches we have now is a jar full of souvenir paper match books from restaurants, and we all stopped smoking years ago. So I’ve had to make sure I have fire starters for emergencies.

Igniters I’ve assembled for my survival kit.

It’s so easy top tuck some of these small items into your go-bag, your survival pack, your evacuation pack. And I’d suggest you carry more than one, in case your pack gets wet or damaged. NOTE: If you shop at Amazon by clicking these links, be sure to notice whether the items are “add-on” or “eligible for Prime” and buy enough of them at once so you get free shipping. You’ll want multiples of nearly everything, so free shipping won’t be hard to get!

  • Waterproof matches are the simplest, the most obvious, and the cheapest of all to purchase. You can get them in wax coated boxes, or in neat little aluminum cases. An example: Coghlan’s 940BP Waterproof Matches – 4 Pack This is a four pack, one for each survival kit in the family!
  • Magnesium sticks won’t get damp, and won’t  accidentally light.  In fact, you need to practice using your stick to be confident you can get a fire started when you need it! The trick is to use that attached little saw blade to carve a pile of magnesium shavings (at least the size of a penny) and then stroke down the stick toward the shaving pile. (Don’t STRIKE the stick; that won’t work.) The Friendly Swede Magnesium Alloy Emergency Fire Starter Blocks (3 Pack), New and Improved Version gives you three blocks so you can practice without worrying that you’ll run out of magnesium.
  • Zippo lighter looks sharp (!) and will be familiar to former smokers. It feels good in my hand, too. Zippo Emergency Fire Starter, Black Matte also comes with pre-fashioned tinder sticks. Read on for more about tinder.
  • Magnifying glass would be a favorite  for me. I remember as a child burning holes with a magnifying glass in all kinds of things! Today I could use it to read instruction sheets written in miniature print . . . but of course, it’s not going to work in the rain for starting a fire!

Tinder for the survival kit.

You’ll be excited to see that spark from the igniter, but you’ll get mighty discouraged if it doesn’t “catch.” Here’s where tinder comes in. Tinder is specially prepared very flammable material that will get the fire truly started. You may have used crumpled newspaper or leaves or twigs in the past — but remember, we find ourselves in a WET URBAN SETTING for this blog post. So, what can we prepare in advance to be sure our fire will start?

  • Petroleum jelly and cotton balls (carried in an empty plastic medicine bottle). You may already have the ingredients for these clever items: cotton balls (NOT polyester) and Vaseline. Simply pull cotton balls apart a bit,  smear them with the petroleum jelly, scrunch back up. (Get everything ready in advance, and pull all the cotton first, because once you get the jelly on your fingers they’ll be sticky, sticky!) Here is one brand to give you an idea. Prepping Cotton Ball by Kendall ( COTTON BALL, PREPPING, MEDIUM, NS, 500/BG ) 500 Each / Bag
  • Alcohol wipes also work well as tinder, and you should already have some in your first aid kit!  If you don’t, buy a pack now and separate some out for first aid, and keep some for starting fires. Curad Alcohol Swabs Antiseptic Wipes, 200 Count
  • Waxed paper can be purchased at the grocery store if you don’t have any already in the kitchen. Cut a smallish piece from the roll, fold it over a couple of times, then fold back and forth until it makes an M shape, maybe about 2 inches across. Place the points of the M on top of your igniter material.  Tuck a few of these Ms into your pack and you’ll have tinder!
  • Dried and shredded bark, moss or fluff from cattails can also serve as tinder, but you’ll have to collect it next time you go for a walk in the park, bring it home and stuff it, making sure it’s totally dry, into those plastic medicine bottles that you can then put into your kit! In the city, in the rain, you may not be able to find any natural material to work as tinder.
  • Twine made of natural fibers may also work. Simply untwist it so get a good burning area.

And to keep the fire going: kindling and fuel.

Actually, gathering kindling (small pieces of wood and twigs) and larger pieces of fuel should be step number one, because if you START the tinder and don’t have adequate fuel right there,  the tinder will burn up and you’ll be back where you started. Some people carry dry kindling as part of their kit, but more than likely you’ll be scrounging in your immediate neighborhood for the right material to burn.  Some guidelines:

  • Pick a safe place for your fire. You can make a hearth of stones or concrete to be sure the fire doesn’t spread unexpectedly.
  • Dry sticks, splinters of wood and pine needles can serve as kindling. Have your kindling nearby so you don’t have to get up to fetch it.
  • Once the kindling is burning, add larger pieces of fuel. Wood is obviously the best fuel, but if you’re looking for wood in construction rubble, avoid treated or painted wood and wood look-alikes that are really vinyl.
  • Do not burn items made of rubber or plastic ( bottles, jugs, bags). Although they will burn, you will be creating noxious or dangerous fumes.

We’ve assumed here that your fire is for warmth and comfort.  Cooking over a fire is yet another subject. In the meanwhile, though, go back through this quick list and be sure you have emergency fire starters. As I said at the beginning, all these items are small and inexpensive, so there’s no reason not to have what you need. Your family will be counting on you!

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team