How to Start a Fire with a Dead Lighter

How to Start a Fire with a Dead Lighter

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If you have a lighter that has run out of fuel, but still has flint and spark left, you can use it to start a fire using by following a few basic steps.  Knowing about this simple and straightforward method may help you to avoid having to resort to more extreme and labor-intensive options.  You can also avoid using limited supplies of matches or other fire-starting items that you may have on hand. 

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Getting Started

The first step is to dig out a pit that will be big enough to hold the fire you’re trying to build.  It doesn’t need to be deep, but it needs to be able to shield the tinder and kindling from the wind in order to ignite effectively.  Set the dirt aside so you can use it to put out the fire when you’re finished.  Another great way to make your fire more efficient is to line the pit with rocks.  Use smooth, round ones for the edges on top and flat pieces for the bottom.  The rocks will absorb and radiate heat long after the fire has been extinguished.  You may also end up using less fuel to generate good, quality heat as well.

The trick with this fire is to start small and build it up as the tinder and kindling start to burn.  Take some small pieces of kindling and place them in a triangular pattern that will rest inside the pit.  Add some tinder around the kindling, and keep repeating as you create multiple layers of material.  However, you want to keep the center open, with the exception of a little bit of tinder.  Use the spaces between the rocks on top to anchor some of the kindling. 

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Starting the Fire

All you need is a loose wad of a few pieces of tissue, paper towels or cloth along with an aerosol canister that contains something that is flammable.  This could be hairspray, insect repellent or a cleaning product, it doesn’t matter.  The trick to using this method is to use flammable material.  Spray the material until it is evenly-coated, but try not to saturate it unless necessary.  This will help you to conserve the fluid while also preventing drenching, which can be a hazard while trying to start the fire. 

Next, place the material in the center of the pit so that it presses against the kindling on the bottom and sides.  All you need to do now is light the lighter so that the sparks from the flint will ignite the material.  Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, depending on wind conditions, the type of chemical being used as well as the quality of the sparks from the lighter.  Be prepared to go through some trial and error until you figure out the best way to light the material.  However, it should become second nature after doing it a couple of times, and you’ll be surprised at the effectiveness of this method.

While you can hold the material in your hands while lighting, which would logically make it easier to ignite, the risk factor also increases.  The chemicals can get on your fingers and accidentally ignite.  The chemicals can leak onto your shirt or jacket and also ignite.  You can also get burned if the material gets enveloped with fire faster than expected.  There’s also the risk that you can get burned while trying to place the material into the fire pit.  Finally, the material can burn out before it’s placed inside as well.

Consequently, it’s important to use extra caution if you do need to hold the material in order to get it started.  If you do, sit or crouch as close to the fire pit as possible, and you can drip it right inside once it ignites.  One final warning:  Never directly ignite the spray as it comes out from the canister.  Doing so will not ignite the kindling, tinder or fire-starting material.  A flash burn will occur instead, and this has the potential to cause serious injury. 

Additionally, there is also a minor risk of flames traveling back into the canister and causing it to explode.  Always spray and soak the material first before igniting.  However, you can safely spray some of the tinder and kindling as a way to help the fire spread from the ignition material. 

All you need now is to feed the fire with increasingly-larger branches until you get it to the size that you want, building a tepee as you go.  You can also keep the fire small and closer to the ground by feeding it smaller pieces as well.  This is a great way to build a hot, shallow fire that can produce the right conditions for grilling or cooking items on the rocks. 

Practice using this method, and remember to add some aerosol or flammable liquid to your survival kit and bug out bag.  You may be able to start dozens of fires after your lighter runs out of gas, and you can incorporate the same principles outlined here into different types of fires as well.  Try it for yourself, and see how this simple trick can be very useful out in the field. 

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