A while ago I posted the above photo from my phone to the Frontier Bushcraft Facebook page.
It shows Ian Lawson giving a fire-lighting demonstration (under nice, dry conditions) on our award-winning Bushcraft and Survival Foundation Course.
We received many good-natured, tongue-in-cheek comments about the apparent height of the flames, some asking if we’d set the fire on top of an oil well or gas main.
We also received a handful of negative comments, criticising the height of the flames and that it was “irresponsible” to light fires like this.
It certainly would be irresponsible to light any fire under certain – very dry – conditions. Every year we seem to witness the devastation caused by wildfires in parts of the US and bushfires in Australia.
But this wasn’t the basis of the criticism. It was purely that the flames were “too big”.
Unfortunately this type of armchair punditry is all too common these days.
When it comes to outdoor skills, arbitrary opinions formulated with no basis in experience are potentially dangerous.
Just because someone has an opinion, doesn’t make it valid.
What validates a practical technique – for any of us – is that it works (and works consistently).
Why We Teach Fire-Lighting The Way We Do
There is a very clear and solid reason why we teach fire-lighting the way we do.
It works in the rain.
In very wet conditions, Henry Landon gave a textbook demonstration of fire-lighting.
He used only natural materials collected from the surrounding forest and a single match to light the fire…
You don’t need to be in a survival situation for the ability to light a fire in wet conditions to be valuable.
Hypothermia is one of the biggest risks outdoors.
You could just be at the end of a long hard day on a canoe expedition or hike.
Moreover, if you can’t get a fire going when you are a long way out in wild country, it could become a survival situation.
The time you most need a fire is generally when it is hardest to light one.
So it’s not irresponsible to teach fire-lighting this way. It would be irresponsible not to teach it the way we do.
It’s actually our responsibility to teach fire-lighting in a way that gives our clients the best chances of getting a fire going in the worst conditions they could encounter. That’s our job as instructors – to teach real-world skills for real-world situations.
That’s why we teach fire-lighting the way we do.