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Why Won’t My Fire Stay Lit

Why Won’t My Fire Stay Lit

By Leroy Hite, CEO, Cutting Edge Firewood
Photograph courtesy of Cutting Edge Firewood

You’ve gathered your friends for a cozy night in. You have all the ingredients for fireplace s’mores, you have hot cider at the ready, and now your fire won’t stay lit!?! If this has happened to you, you know how frustrating it is to keep tossing matches, twigs, and paper into the fire, only to get smoke and withering flames.

For a good fire, you need three elements: fuel, oxygen, and heat. If your fire won’t stay lit, it’s likely due to missing one of these three things. So, let’s look at how these work together.

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A good fuel source is the foundation. Start with the best fuel source you can. Don’t use wet, decomposing, or moldy firewood because it never burns as well as dry wood. Wet wood has water in it and water will cool your fire. Kiln-dried firewood in a hardwood species such as oak or hickory is your best bet for fuel.

Maintain oxygen flow. For a great fire, you must have good oxygen flow, so consider how to stack the firewood. If you stack wood too tight, it can snuff out the fire because the air and oxygen doesn’t flow between tightly placed wood. You must stack logs somewhat loosely to allow some oxygen flow in between: One or two inches between pieces is typically a good distance. Next, try starting with smaller pieces of wood on the bottom. As they receive oxygen and build heat, strategically stack or set larger pieces of wood on top of the smaller pieces as they burn. I like the “wood cabin” structure of stacking logs, but the “teepee” structure also works.

Build and keep heat thriving. My last tip is to place your wood near the central heat source for the most efficient burn. Keep the balance of your “loose stack” of wood one to two inches apart, to keep oxygen flowing and heat building. Use a fire iron to move pieces of firewood close to the middle of the fire. As your wood burns and collapses, push the coal pieces closer to the fire. This extends the life of your fire and reduces the amount of wood you need to add. The coals are the best heat source and make it easier for the wood to stay burning and hot.

If you consider all three elements before you build your fire, chances are your fire will stay lit and glowing. Enjoy!


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