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Building a Fire at High Elevations

Because the air is much thinner in high elevations, it can be challenging to build a fire.

I have found with much experimentation what works for me. When I first moved to Sierra mountains, I tried fire-starting chemical solutions. I tried a white lump of some chemical to start fires, then I tried fire-starter sticks like you can purchase at Walmart. Both options did not sit well with me being chemical compounds and unnatural.

I quickly found that using nature’s gifts works much better. No added chemicals will pollute my home or the surrounding nature. I found that using two fresh pinecones and putting dry needles and twigs in between them works really well. I then add the wood on top of the pinecones, put a little newspaper as a wick then put a lighter to it. I have had to use older pinecones with a black color as they have been in nature over several winters. If they are the only pinecones available, I place them on the hearth to let them dry by a fire’s heat as they tend to hold a lot of moisture next to the stem of the pinecone. These pinecones do not have the sap content that fresh brown pinecones have. Over seasons from laying on the ground, the sap gets taken away by rain and many falls of snow. It is the sap you need to really get a fire going. I have been told that using pinecones exclusively for burning is not a good idea. The fresh brown pinecones contain a lot of sap and can clog the flue to possibly cause a fire in the chimney, which would be a disaster.

I also take cardboard from shipping boxes and use a small piece (the size of a flap) on top of the wood; this helps to get a hotter fire going faster. The paper from newspaper and cardboard makes ash that is really great in my compost.

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