There has been lots of discussions and lots of beverages consumed around a fire discussing the best way to get a fire started. In this article, we’ll discuss a couple of good techniques to get a fire burning quickly and safely. Also, some of the do’s and don’ts of how to get the flames going and the coal bed glowing!
INSPECT AND CLEAN!
We’re going to assume that your chimney has been installed properly and is regularly inspected and cleaned. If not, be sure that the company inspecting and cleaning your chimney system has been professionally certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Call your WE LOVE FIRE expert for assistance.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
- Old newspapers. Keep a few on hand. Use the plain, uncoated sheets, not the glossy paper. Firestarters are also very good to use
- Dry kindling. Small pieces of wood or small, dry twigs. Many people take 2 x 4’s scraps and slice them into ½” to 1” size pieces with a small hatchet.
- Dry, seasoned cordwood, cut to an appropriate length for your appliance. Usually from 2” - 8” in diameter.
- Matches or a candle lighting stick.
- A poker, rake or shovel, gloves and a metal ash bucket with a tight sealing lid.
Now, let’s talk about a couple of different ways to put these supplies together.
THE TEE-PEE METHOD
Wad up or twist three or four pieces of the newspaper and place it in the middle of the firebox. Take the smallest pieces of kindling and arrange them on the top of the newspaper. Then slightly larger pieces of kindling stacked on end, in a tee-pee configuration. Then, build another layer of the tee-pee, using larger pieces of kindling, 1” – 2” in diameter. The whole idea is to get the newspaper burning, then the smaller pieces of kindling, followed by medium sizes pieces. As the small pieces burn and coal start to develop, the flames and heat from the coal bed will help ignite the larger pieces.
CRISS-CROSS / TIC-TAC-TOE METHOD
This technique starts with three or four slightly larger pieces of wood, about 2” – 4” in diameter. Arrange these of the bottom of the fireplace or stove. Build two or three layers like this. Put wads of crumpled newspaper in the middle and build three or four small, criss-crossed kindling layers of the top of the paper.
Again, the whole idea here is to get the newspaper burning, then the smaller pieces of kindling, followed by medium sizes pieces. As the small pieces begin to burn more rapidly, put a few larger pieces of wood on to the fire. This method can help reduce the amount of smoke when starting a fire.
Depending on the configuration of your chimney, cooler air may sink down it and cause smoke to linger or even back up into the house. It’s important to overcome this quickly. Nobody wants to open all the windows and doors in their house in the middle of January!
If you find smoke does not flow up the chimney, try this: Before you try to start the fire, twist a couple sheets of newspaper together, light them and hold them near the top of the firebox. This should quickly cause the chimney to heat up, start drafting properly and overcome the cold air impasse.
AIR AND HEAT
Air and heat are critical to get a fire established. Before you strike a match to the newspaper, be sure the primary air control, the door and damper are fully open with either method described above. Air from the room must move freely into the firebox and up the chimney.
If your stove or fireplace is equipped with catalytic combustion or a bypass damper, they must be disengaged until sufficient heat is present. Check your owner’s manual for more specific details regarding a combustor and bypass damper.
Next, close the door. You should see an immediate and dramatic effect on the fire. Now we’re in strict control of the amount of air to the fire. If the fire starts losing momentum and dying down, open the door a bit and let additional air into the firebox until the wood is burning more vigorously.
Leave your fireplace, stove or insert unattended if the door is not closed tight.
Never, ever use gasoline, lighter fluid, kerosene, diesel fuel, engine oil or solvents to get a fire started or to re-establish one.
And never leave children alone in a room with a fire going.
During start-up, it’s not unusual for the glass to become dirty. This is due to the smoke and cooler air in the firebox. Most heating units have an air-wash system designed to clean the ceramic glass nicely. Normally, once a good, hot fire is going, the glass will clean.
Consider using a firestarter. Fatwood contains organic resins that easily ignite. Other fire-starting aids are recycled wood chips and wax. Toss a pack or two in the crumpled up newspaper or kindling and the fire gets a boost and takes off a bit quicker.
Maintain all clearances to the fireplace, stove or insert. And, keep a fire extinguisher handy . . . . just in case.
Dry, seasoned wood and a well established bed of coals is critical for proper combustion to occur and for your stove or fireplace to perform as designed. Remember: cut it, split it, stack it, cover it and leave it . . . . for one year.
Keep the logs away from the glass.
Your nearby WE LOVE FIRE dealer has other tips and ideas for you to enjoy a safe and cozy heating season. We look forward to seeing you soon. In the meantime, though, check out these other helpful articles: