Deadly Survival Myths: Fire

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Deadly Survival Myths:  Fire

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Most of us know that there are lots of ways to build and start fires, and knowing a few different techniques can give you more options in the field.  However, it’s important to know whether or not those techniques will actually work before you rely on them.  Unfortunately, there are just as many myths as there are tried-and-true methods, and applying them can lead to disappointing and potentially-dangerous results during a survival situation. 

Wet Matches

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A lot of people think that the reason matches should be stored in waterproof containers is to minimize the inconvenience of having to dry them out.  The real reason is that most matches lose their effectiveness after they’ve been exposed to water.  Some chemical changes occur within the material that causes the reaction necessary to create the flame, and those changes are irreversible. 

While you can buy waterproof matches that eliminate this problem, never assume that regular matches will light after drying out.  It’s a risk that you don’t want to take, and this should drive home the importance of keeping your matches in a safe and dry place.

Body Grease Fire Starter

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Some people actually believe that smearing grease from the body onto some tinder or kindling is an effective way to start a fire.  There is no evidence to suggest that using mucous from the nose, wax from the ears or gunk from other places can actually get the job done.  Consequently, you really want to make sure that you have some good, time-tested fire starting material in your survival kit and bug out bag.  Use petroleum jelly, some pine sap or even automotive lubricant if you want some greasy material to help you get your fire going.

Friction Fire Hardwoods

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Another common myth is that you should always look for hardwoods if you are trying to start a friction fire.  While this may seem like a logical choice, many hardwoods do not have the same ignition properties as some of their softer counterparts.  They may burn longer and at hotter temperatures, but hardwoods usually require a lot more than friction to ignite.  Look for softwoods that don’t have resin or sap.  Some good choices include cedar, cottonwood and willow.  Not only are they more-effective, but they are also easier to handle when applying friction to get the fire going.

Friction Fires are Easy

A lot of people think they can grab a couple of sticks, rub them together and start a fire.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The reality is that it takes the right kind of wood, the right conditions, a lot of practice and quite a bit of patience to be able to develop this skill and put it to use in the real world.  If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself.  Grab a couple of sticks and start rubbing.  See, it’s not that simple.  Make sure that you have other options at your disposal.

You don’t want to leave anything to chance when it comes to fire.  Make sure that you take time to evaluate your fire-starting capabilities, and test each one before you end up relying on it in a real survival situation.