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Fire Week – Day 1 – Spark

As part of National Preparedness Month, I am going to spend this week discussing the components of fire. How to make it, and how to sustain it.  Some of you may not think that building a fire is that big of a deal, and many times it is not, however trying to build a fire when you need one, during sub-optimal conditions can be a challenge at best, and life or death at worst.

Fire has four components, all of which are required to build a sustainable fire. The components are:

Today I am going to talk about spark. Having the ability to create a spark is essential when it comes to creating a fire.

Cigarette Lighter

The most common spark making device that we are all familiar with is the regular old cigarette lighter. When the wheel on the lighter is spun, it creates friction against a piece of flint (or other sparking substance) and a spark is thrown over a nozzle. Your thumb then slips down onto a button that opens the nozzle, releasing gas that is lit by the spark, and viola! you have fire. Many people recommend carrying a cigarette lighter into the woods with you in case you need to start a fire, and I do not necessarily disagree, however I will not rely on a cigarette lighter as my only means of making a spark. Years ago I was canoeing in Canada with my Boy Scout troop, and I brought a cigarette lighter with me. I quickly found out after swamping our canoe one night, that a wet cigarette lighter is 100% worthless. It would not spark at all for over 24 hours.


We also have matches. Strike anywhere matches are great as long as they are dry, and you have something dry to strike them on. Strike on box matches are slightly less great, as they require part of the box in order to light. In my experience “waterproof” matches are completely worthless. The wax coating on them makes them hard to light, and they still absorb water just like a regular match. No thanks.


Those of you who follow the Triangle Tactical Facebook Page probably know where I’m going next with this, and the third, and best option for creating a spark in my opinion is a firesteel. There are many different brands of firesteel out there, and in my experience they all work satisfactory, however I’m really partial to my Firesteel.com firesteels. They tend to be bigger, and create bigger, hotter sparks than other brands I’ve tried.

A firesteel is a piece of steel that is formulated to create massive sparks when scraped with another piece of steel. Many firesteels also have a bar or block of magnesium that comes with them. The idea is to scrape the magnesium until you have a little pile of shavings that will ignite and burn extremely hot, even when wet. If you have ever thrown an old magnesium wheel on a bon-fire, you know that magnesium burns like nothing else!

(Sorry for the crappy pictures, I took them with my cell phone, in my garage, at night…)

As stated above, start by scraping a nice pile of magnesium off of the magnesium rod, and try your best to keep it organized into a nice pile. Here I have placed the magnesium shavings on a small piece of Kydex plastic so they would show up in the extremely poorly lit picture.

Next you want to get your firesteel, and throw some sparks onto the magnesium. If I were starting a real fire here, I would want to have my tinder handy, so I could immediately get it burning as the magnesium only burns for a few seconds.

A couple well placed sparks, and you will have a nice little pile of burning magnesium. Touch a Vaseline coated cotton ball to it, and you have burning tinder in no time.

The firesteel pictured above is a model from Firesteel.com, and it is the best I’ve used. I’ve also used the Light My Fire brand, and they work fine, however the striker that comes with the Light My Fire firesteel sucks, and I always resorted to using a knife blade until I ordered a couple extra Firesteel.com strikers, and I use them with all of my other firesteels.

Firesteels are good for creating literally thousands and thousands of fires before they need to be replaced. They are compact, and don’t take up much space, and they are relatively inexpensive. I would strongly recommend buying one, and learning how to use it. Develop your skills, you never know when they will come in handy!

Make sure to stop by tomorrow, I’ll be covering tinder. What it is, where to get it, what to do with it, etc.

About Lucas

Editor/Head Honcho at Triangle Tactical. Lucas is a life long shooter and outdoorsman, avid concealed carrier and competitive shooter, and a lover of pork fat.

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