A Better Way to Build a Fire: Reverse Fire Building

I was a Boy Scout leader in my son’s troop for seven years – four as an Assistant Scoutmaster and three as the Scoutmaster – and we’ve built quite a few fires in our Scouting career. We know how to build a fire. However, the large campfires with ten logs burning like a bonfire are obviously not conducive to indoor fireplaces. I have to “tone it down” when it comes to my fireplace. Yet, because of that, I haven’t been able to get a strong, hot fire going in my fireplace without lots of work. So, I did some research on the internet for a better way to build a fire, and I found what I call “Reverse Fire Building.”

WHAT IS REVERSE FIRE BUIILDING?

If you were a girl scout or boy scout (or camped with your family), you learned to build a fire by layering the fuel for the fire in increasing size in either a teepee shape or square shape. First down is the most flammable kindling – newspaper, dried pine needles, very tiny twigs, dried pine cones, etc. Next down are small sticks then larger sticks. After that, tree limbs, then the large logs. You light the most flammable kindling, and the fire then burns its way up (or out, depending on the shape of your fire).

In what I call “reverse fire building,” you build the fire backwards! Yes, you read correctly. Backwards, starting with the large logs and ending with the most flammable kindling. I didn’t think it would work, but it did. In fact, it was the best, hottest, and least labor-intensive fire I’ve ever built in my fireplace!

HOW TO BUILD A FIRE BACKWARDS:

1. Lay your large logs on your andiron. Place them as close together as you can. Then lay another layer of large logs on top of them but going in the opposite direction. Again, put them as close together as you can.

2. On top of your large logs, place a piece of cardboard on which you’ll place your large kindling with smaller kindling on top of that. (In the picture below, I placed a couple of half-burnt logs from a previous fire on top of my large logs and underneath the piece of cardboard.) NOTE: Instead of the cardboard/sticks/limbs layer, you can use fire starter shingles.

Reverse Fire Building: Kindling on top of large logs

Reverse Fire Building ~ kindling on top of large logs

3. Place a large piece of folded newspaper on top of your kindling (whether it’s sticks or fire starter shingles).

4. Tear four or five pieces of newspaper and fold them on either end so that the ends stick up. Lay them on the sheet of newspaper. In the center, lay two pieces of fat wood. (See picture below.)

Reverse Fire Building ~ newspaper & fat wood on top

Reverse Fire Building ~ newspaper & fat wood on top

Here’s how the “reverse fire” looks from the side:

Reverse Fire Building ~ completed fire prep

Reverse Fire Building ~ completed fire prep

Once built, light the edges of the folded newspaper. I lit the back edges, then the front edges. The fire took over from there.

REVERSE FIRE IN ACTION:

The fire I built in these pictures burned for about 2 1/2 hours without my having to stoke it, use the bellows, or add more logs or kindling. And it heated up FAST! The bed of coals was created on the top and burned its way down into the heavy logs. It was wonderful to sit by this fire and feel its warmth – without all the work!

Here are pictures I took while the fire burned:

Reverse Fire Building ~ the edges of the newspaper curled towards the fat wood & sit it on fire

Reverse Fire Building ~ the edges of the newspaper are curling towards the fat wood, setting it on fire

Reverse Fire Building ~ the fat wood is burning hot enough to catch the kindling on fire

Reverse Fire Building ~ the fat wood is burning hot enough to catch the kindling on fire

Reverse Fire Building ~ the kindling started burning into the large logs

Reverse Fire Building ~ the kindling is starting to burn into the large logs

Note how the fire is burning in the middle, under and around the logs.

Reverse Fire Building ~ fire is throughout the logs

Reverse Fire Building ~ fire is throughout the logs

Reverse Fire Building ~ the fire is now burning the lowest level of logs

Reverse Fire Building ~ the fire is now burning the lowest level of logs

Even towards the end of the fire, the heat coming from the last logs and the coals was very hot.

Reverse Fire Building ~ the last of the logs burning

Reverse Fire Building ~ the last of the logs burning

When the fire was burnt out, there were no unburnt logs. Everything burned. All that was left was a small bed of ash fit for the compost pile.

I will be building this kind of fire in my fireplace from now on!

Try building a “reverse fire” and comment below how you like it!

Stay warm & toasty,

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