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Building Foolproof Fires

Building Foolproof Fires


  • The function of the kindling fire is to quickly heat up the chimney and the brick and steel of the firebox to create the environment for a stable, brightly burning fire, without having to open the loading door several times to adjust it.
  • The edges of firewood pieces heat up and ignite first. The more edges close together in your kindling fire, the faster it will ignite.
  • Softer woods like pine, cedar, spruce and poplar make better kindling than harder woods because they are easier to split up fine and they light more easily.
  • Logs from which kindling is split can be cut as short as six inches to make splitting and fire building easier.
  • Before building a fire, remove excess ash from the firebox; never let ash build up to more than two inches.
  • Open the air control fully and open the bypass damper if the appliance has one.
  • When building a kindling fire, avoid a structure in which the pile collapses, smothering a struggling fire. Following are two popular ways to avoid the collapsed kindling fire.
  • Two parallel logs: Place two split logs parallel to each other in the firebox with a space between. Fill the space with newspaper and fine kindling and place several larger kindling pieces crosswise on top. Light the paper.
  • Top down fire: Place standard sized pieces first, a few pieces of heavy kindling next, and finally, fine kindling. Roll up single sheets of newspaper corner to corner, tie a knot in each and place four or five on top of or in front of the kindling. Light the paper. The top down fire does not smoke and can provide two or more hours of effective heating without having to open the door to add wood or adjust the fire.
  • The other popular option is to use commercial or home-made fire starters made of sawdust and paraffin wax. These work fine if there is enough kindling near the pieces.
  • Leave combustion air inlets wide open at least until the firebox is full of flame and the wood is charred black and the edges are glowing red.


Created by Gulland Associates Inc.

For more information please visit www.woodheat.org