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Planning Your Webelos Scout Outdoor Program

By James Montigny Cubmaster (Pack 124) and Webelos Outdoor Leader Trainer (DOE)

Fire is a tool, it can be used to help us stay warm, cook food, set a mood for ceremony or entertain. Before building a fire, always have a way to extinguish the fire close at hand. This can be water, sand or something similar.

The three elements required to build a fire are fuel (wood or other combustible), oxygen (air flow) and an ignition source (heat, flame, spark). Improper balance or lack of any of these items will cause your fire to die. Fuel can be divided into three categories; tinder, kindling and fuel wood. Tinder is dry and ignites with a spark; thin bark, dry grass, weed fluff, dryer lint, frayed natural fiber rope or even wood shavings. Kindling allows a fire to grow if added at the appropriate time, but can also smother a fire if applied too early or without providing adequate airflow. Kindling is small and ignites from the heat of burning tinder; small twigs, typically larger than a match stick but smaller than a pencil make excellent kindling. Kindling can also be made by splitting large wood to expose the dry interior. Fuel wood can be ignited by the heat of burning kindling. Apply fuel wood in increasingly large diameter to grow the fire. Scouts can generally find dry, dead trees in the forest and cultivate an excellent pile of kindling and fuel wood without much effort. Dry wood snaps when bent sharply, avoid using wet or green wood.

There are many variations of fire lay; three of the most common lays are the teepee, the lean-to and the log cabin. The teepee is a teepee-shaped arrangement of kindling and fuel wood around the tinder. It quires patience to build and cab become unstable in large fires as it collapses easily. It is however excellent for producing heat and keeping way and it often used for ceremonial campfires. The lean-to fire lay is similar to teepee except that a larger, secured fuel wood provides a point to lean on. It retains similar advantages and purpose as teepee but is substantially more stable in early stages. The log cabin is constructed by layering kindling and fuel wood stacks as a box around the tinder pile, alternating sides. Small kindling can be layed across the top to help the fire grow. This lay is unlikely to collapse prematurely and burns for a longer period of time. Its compact design with no single peak makes it ideal for cooking.

For the safety of all involved, always build fires several yards and downwind from tents. Tents and contents will combust very quickly. Fires should be of appropriate size for their purpose. Large fires are impressive but difficult to control and fail to provide much value beyond entertainment. Always have water or sand available to extinguish the fire, the fire must be dead-out before retiring for the night or leaving the site. Fires will never be left unattended; a fire is safe to leave when the coals are cool enough to run your bare hands through them. BSA prohibits the use of liquid fuel for fires, use safer solid alternatives. Lint, newspaper, paraffin cubes, petroleum jelly coated cotton balls and composite starter sticks make excellent tinder and are safe to use.

Additional information related to Webelos Outdoor Program can be found in the Webelos Handbook "Fire Building", the Webelos Leader Guide, Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills, the Cub Scout Leader Book Chapters 32 and 33, the Cub Scout Leader How-To Book Chapter 4, the BSA Policy on use of chemical fuels handout or the Open Fires vs. Camp Stoves handout. All of these documents are available in print from your local Council office or in PDF format from

#firebuilding #cubscout #doe

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