10 Ways Not to Build a Fire


Make sure you start with wood that has been sitting out in the dribbling rain for a couple of days. Preferably, it should be soaked through and dripping wet.


Only use logs the size of elephant legs. What is kindling, anyway? Beats me.


There is no better fire arrangement than all in a heap against the back wall of the woodstove. Make sure not to leave any extra space anywhere.


If you do opt to use kindling of some sort, arrange your elephant leg logs so that they collapse and squash your baby fire as soon as the kindling is burned up.


Try to light your fire with matches no bigger than sewing needles. They are absolutely certain to go out as soon as you get them anywhere near something flammable.


Poke your fire frequently. If it looks like it might be catching, rearrange the logs until you kill it.


Another good way to Not Build a Fire is to make sure that the damper is closed before you start. Otherwise, there might actually be airflow. We can’t have that.


If it does actually start by some unhappy accident, forget all about it for a few hours until you’re freezing and it’s completely burned out.


Or, you could put a foot tall pile of old tax documents on it. This is a great way to get a lovely smolder going and drown the neighbors’ veggie garden in smoke.


Run out of firewood.

| life in Alaska | how to start a fire | living in a log cabin | using a wood stove | comic fail Alaska | life in Kodiak


So, yeah. I’ve been making friends with the woodstove. We have an uneasy relationship. I haven’t actually run out of firewood, though. Nic always makes sure I have lots before he leaves for a fishing trip.

Otherwise, we’re doing well. I’m pretty well settled in here and have figured out where the grocery stores, the library, the church, and the yarn store are (the most important places on the island). I also made friends with one of the crewman’s wives and have spent some time with her and her friends.

Best of all, Nic has been home for most of the week since the time around July 4th is traditionally slow fishing. It’s been great to see him and great to get the woodpile restocked.

Also, if anyone wants to know a little more about fishing in Kodiak,¬†Highliners¬†by William B. McCloskey is a great read. True, it’s fiction and about Kodiak during the ’60s and ’70s, but it was the first commercial fishing book I read and I find that a lot of it still feels real. In fact, Nic has told me that the book’s descriptions of the island are so accurate he can easily identify settings that the author chose to left unnamed. I really enjoyed the story and I think it gave me a better understanding of what commercial fishing was all about.

life in Alaska | how to start a fire | living in a log cabin | using a wood stove | comic fail Alaska | life in Kodiak| life in Alaska | how to start a fire | living in a log cabin | using a wood stove | comic fail Alaska | life in Kodiak

4 Replies to “10 Ways Not to Build a Fire”

  1. Michael Chang says: Reply

    Fire!!! Glad to hear you’re doing well.

  2. Ah yes, I’ve been in that place with the not-fire… I came to the conclusion that you can’t use too much newspaper and kindling. The wood stove is a lot of work, but there’s no more comfy heat in the world, especially with a nice pot of tea.

    Don’t forget to put a pan – or cast-iron vessel made for the purpose – of water on top of the stove to evaporate; otherwise the wood fire makes the air too dry. This goes for places like yours, too, with a wetter climate.


    1. Someone recently told me that I can still be a respectable Fishwife if I use presto logs. Still deciding if I think that’s true or not.

  3. I use Dana’s technique of mucho newspaper, too. I’ve been married to my little stove for about 18 years now and he still has irrational fits. #8 and #9 are my own favorite techniques.

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