Rekindling an Old Flame

When the heat is fading, a few tricks to bring it back

Sometimes it can seem like a fire is completely extinguished. The room has gone cold, and darkness is sweeping over everything. But, is the flame totally gone? Here are a few things to remember when trying to bring it back.

Give it room to breathe.

One of the surest ways to kill a flame is to smother it. Sometimes a little oxygen is all it takes to turn a little spark into a roaring fire. You can blow on it or use a bellows.

Take your time.

If you've got a tiny flame going in some kindling, you can't just throw a giant log on top. Incremental increases are key. Use dry wood in a range of sizes.

Let go.

Fire is a majestic phenomenon of nature that can never be totally understood. A good fire is as much about relinquishing control as it is about maintaining order.

Protect yourself.

"Hot" coals are called that for a reason—they can be very hot. If you're with someone more experienced than you, and they say "Don't put your hand in there!"—listen.

Avoid burning plastics.

Sure, throwing some plastic onto a bed of hot embers can be tempting, because watching it writhe and shrink plays into innate human desires for power. But artificial compounds will do nothing to bring back the flames, and burning plastic is bad for the environment. In some places, it's even illegal. Stick to real elements. Think back to the way you built the fire in the first place.

Use kerosene.

Kerosene is a combustible hydrocarbon that can be extremely helpful in starting fires. If you've got it, use some kerosene.

Completely dismantle everything before leaving.

If you can't bring the fire back, remember never to abandon smoldering embers. Smother them purposefully and completely.