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By Christopher Nyerges [Nyerges is the author of “Guide to Wild Foods,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” and other books.  Information on his books and classes is found at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]

If you’ve read my book, “How to Survive Anywhere,” you’re aware of my Four Principles by which you can make a fire: Chemistry, Friction, Electricity, and the Sun.  Some methods are a combination of at least two of these methods.

For today, our scenario is that you went on a day cruise in your car up into the mountains, and your car stalled way beyond where anyone else travels. Yes, you shouldn’t have gotten off the main road, but you did…

How can you make a fire using things that are in, or a part of, your car?  There are four very simple methods that don’t require that you’re a mechanic (a mechanic was described about 40 ways to make a fire with the car, but the average person would have difficulty with most).  Here are four very simple methods:

Nyerges shows the use of flares for getting a fire started. PHOTO BY RICK ADAMS.

1.       Use your flare!  If you don’t have several flares in your car, you should go out and buy some today.  They are very easy to ignite and they will burn from 15 to 30 minutes, which means you can get a fire even if everything is wet. And don’t forget to buy new ones about every two years. [Getting a fire with a flare uses both chemistry and friction.]

2.      Use your cigarette lighter! Just press the lighter in, and when it’s glowing red as it pops out, press it onto some tinder.  Have all your tinder ready before you start, and plan where you will have the fire burning.  Every car has a 12V jack, but some newer cars do not have the cigarette lighter.  Before you go out and buy a cigarette lighter, make sure that the 12V jack is heat-protected and can withstand the cigarette lighter. [Getting a fire with your cigarette lighter uses electricity, the electricity of your battery.]

3.      Use your car’s battery! Even if the battery is discharged enough so that it cannot turn over the engine, you should be able to get a fire with it.   There are a few ways you can do this, but first decide where you want your fire, and get all the wood and tinder ready.  Ready?  If you have steel wool (fine), you can stretch a bit of it from pole to pole, and it will ready begin to burn.  Put the steel wool into your waiting tinder and work it into a flame.  No steel wool?  You can also do it with your jumper cables.  Carefully attach the positive and negative ends of the jumper cables to the battery.  Add a bit of wire to one of the free ends –the wire should be no thicker than a paper clip wire.  You should be able to find some wire in your car.  Then wrap some dry tinder around the wire – something fine like a bit of cotton will work. Then touch the other free cable to this wire,and the electrons will flow through the wire and ignite the tinder.  I never get tired of this!  Quickly, drop the tinder and secure the free ends of the jumper cable – you don’t want them to touch while the other end is still attached to the battery. Add the burning cotton or tinder to your waiting tinder, and blow it into a flame.  You don’t have jumper cables?  Go out today and buy some.  [Making a fire this way uses the electricity in your battery.]



4.      The last easy way to make a fire with something that is in, or a part of, your car is with the sun and the reflector of your head lamp. This requires screwing out a highlight (usually requires at least a Phillips screw driver), and then breaking out the glass.  Point the headlamp at the sun and hold some fine tinder (old cotton, mugwort, shredded elder bark, cattail flower spike, etc.) into the focal point.  You have to move your tinder around a bit to find that focal point, and when you do, hold the tinder there until it smokes and then develops an ember.  I put this method last because, although it works very well, you now have to go buy another head lamp as soon as possible. And obviously, if the sun is not out and shining, there is no point in doing this.  [This method of making fire uses the focused rays of the sun.]

Pierro del Valle and student work with the headlamp reflector, facing it towards the sun, and keeping the tinder in the focal point.

Obviously, when you go on a trip, even what you think is a short day trip, carry some supplies, and especially some matches, butane lighters, and plenty of ways to make a fire.  And if you ever think you might have to use any of the methods mentioned here, go out some day with friends or family and just practice making fire with methods.  You’ll probably all have a great time, and you’ll learn the nuances of this by the practicing of it.

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