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How to build the best bonfire

Posted December 7, 2016

Whether you're out camping or need to prove to a Scout leader that you can build a fire in the middle of winter, these techniques will help you build the best blaze possible. (Deseret Photo)

Editor's note: Before building a fire, always be sure you know wind conditions and that you will be able to keep the fire under control. Also make sure you are building the fire in a public area that allows fires.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS — Building a fire is a necessary tool in every sportsman's bag. From generating heat to cooking food, a good fire is the basis for survival situations.

Bonfires are a popular event. However, bonfires aren't just big campfires. To build a memorable one that'll keep friends and family talking about it afterwards, you need to follow these tips.

It's for fun, not survival

Before starting, you need to know the difference between a bonfire and a campfire. Bonfires are built to give off maximum light and flame height. They're built to entertain, so building one is much different than the type of fire you'd build for a survival or an extended camping situation.

Find the right place

While there's a good deal of rural area just off the Wasatch Front, many cities have laws regarding burning within city limits. You'll want to check with your local fire department to see where you're allowed to build a bonfire.

Ideally, you want an area that's clear of debris that can catch on fire.

It's an art

Building a bonfire doesn't consist of a giant pile of wood, some lighter fluid, and a thrown match. To build one that really wows people, you need to understand how to create the perfect fire.

To start, you'll obviously want tinder — the fire-starting kind, not the dating app. Newspaper or junk mail works well. If you want a more authentic fire experience, then dried grass, dead pine needles and bark are all great tinder options.

Once you have your tinder assembled, you're ready for the next step.

Construction

Surround your tinder with kindling. These are smaller sticks that aren't too thick and will catch fire easily. Surround the tinder with a good deal of kindling in a teepee shape, leaving an opening through which air can flow and fuel the fire.

After the kindling is in place, surround that with smaller logs. Pine works best for bonfires since it burns bright and fast. Encircle those logs with even bigger logs, stacking each layer of wood on top of the other in a teepee shape with an opening to light the fire and provide air.

Once you have all the actual wood you want to burn, there's one last optional step you can take.

Old two-by-fours, or other discarded lumber, works well for this step. What you want to do is build a "box" around your teepee of bonfire wood. Lay the two-by-fours on top of each other to build a stepped pyramid structure. Each layer of two-by-fours should be about a foot closer to your bonfire wood than the previous layer, creating that stepped pyramid look.

Once done, light and enjoy!

Remember, bonfires burn bright and hot for a short amount of time. After it burns out, don't forget to dump water on the ashes, pile dirt on the ashes, then pour more water on them. Check the fire again before leaving to ensure there aren't any live coals, or heat, left.

Spencer lives and breathes fly fishing. If he's not out on his favorite streams, he's at home tying flies or he's writing about fishing. Connect with him on Twitter, @Spencer_Durrant.

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