How To Use A Fire Starter: An Easy Step-By-Step Guide

fire starter

Whether it’s a magnesium alloy or ferrocerium firesteel, a fire starter is a great way to get your campfire going in no time.

That means more relaxation time, chilling by the campfire roasting marshmallows for s’mores.

Don’t know how to use a fire starter? You’ve come to the right place.

Here’s a step-by-step guide with all the information you need, plus some handy tips and tricks.

Let’s get started.

Using A Fire Starter: A 6 Step Guide

fire starter in action

Step 1: Prepare Your Fire Pit

Before you can get started, the first thing you have to do is get your fire pit ready.

  • If you’re making your own fire pit rather than using a designated fire pit, you need to find a suitable area to build one. Try to find a nice, flat spot. If it’s windy, try to find a natural windbreak, like a row of trees, and build your fire where there isn’t too much wind.
  • Next, decide on which kind of fire pit you’re building and build it. There are 2 main methods you can go for:
  • Dugout: for a dugout fire pit, dig a hole in the ground.
  • Mound: for a mound fire pit, build a mound on the ground out of sand or dirt.
  • Whichever kind you go for, make sure to build it a bit larger than you want your fire. This minimizes risk by making it easier to contain the fire.
  • Don’t forget to clear the area around your fire pit of any dry vegetation and anything else on the ground that can catch fire.

Step 2: Gather The Firewood

Make sure you’ve got plenty of firewood ready to go, so that when your fire gets going you’re ready to feed and maintain it.

  • You’re going to need wood in 3 different sizes:
  • Tinder: small twigs or shavings or shreds of wood that ignite easily. This is used to get your fire going, and you need as much of it as possible to begin with. You can also use things like dry grass, newspaper, egg carton or cotton wool as tinder.
  • Kindling: larger twigs and smaller chunks of wood. Once your tinder is alight, it can begin to burn your kindling. The fire will then be strong enough to burn larger pieces of wood.
  • Large chunks of wood: the fuel that keeps your fire going. These burn slowly, so once they’re on your fire will stay alive for a while.
  • Your firewood should be as dry as possible. Wood that isn’t dry enough won’t burn well.

Pro tip: if the wood you’re using could be dryer, place it around the fire while it’s burning, so it’ll have time to dry before you throw it on. Dry tinder is essential to begin with, of course, so if you haven’t got any use another flammable material.

Step 3: Strike The Flint

striking the flint with a fire starter

This is where your fire starter comes into the equation.

  • A fire starter consists of 2 parts: a block or rod with a flint strip and a blade. If you’ve only got 1 part, use a knife as your blade.
  • If you’re using a magnesium fire starter, scrape some shavings off the rod over your fire pit.

Note: If you’re not sure how much magnesium you need, start with a smaller amount. If it isn’t enough to get your fire going, add some more. Magnesium is dangerously flammable, so you don’t want too many shavings, or you might burn your eyebrows off when you ignite it.

  • Strike the flint strip with your blade to produce sparks. Strike it in a similar way to how you would strike a match. That is, drag the blade across the flint strip.

Pro tip: rather than holding the block or rod in one hand and striking it with your blade, try holding the blade steady while you use the fire starter to strike it. This is a good way to avoid any accidents with your knife.

  • The force, speed and angle you use will determine how many sparks you get. If you’re not having any success, try adjusting one of these factors.
  • When your tinder (and magnesium shavings) comes into contact with the hot spark, it’ll begin to burn.

Step 4: Blow To Get The Fire Going

You might have already managed to ignite a flame in step 3. If so, good job! If not, here’s what to do.

  • Gently blow on the tinder, which should be smoking and smoldering by now at the very least.
  • Providing the right amount of oxygen will ignite the embers into flames.

Step 5: Keep The Fire Going

Now that your fire is up and running, all you have left to worry about is keeping it going, and the marshmallow to chocolate ratio in your s’mores.

  • To maintain your fire, add large pieces of wood as needed.
  • Always make sure to keep an eye on your fire while it’s burning, to ensure it doesn’t spread.

Step 6: Extinguish The Fire

extinguished campfire

Make absolutely sure you’ve put your fire out properly before leaving the site. This is very important. It might look like it’s extinguished, but still be burning underneath. To prevent accidental fires, always double check to make sure you’ve done a good job.

  • To extinguish the fire, throw a generous amount of water over the fire pit.
  • Stir the coals to make sure there aren’t any at the bottom that are still lit.
  • Although many people claim that you can also use dirt instead of water, the reality of the situation is that it doesn’t work nearly as well. Coals at the bottom of the fire pit can easily remain hot enough to reignite, so always use water to be safe.

8 Fire Safety Tips You Need To Know About

Magnesium is highly flammable. When lit, it’s able to produce a fire that reaches temperatures of over 5000°F. That’s over twice as hot as a large bonfire!

While this makes it a brilliant tool for starting a fire, it also makes it incredibly dangerous. To avoid any disasters, make sure you brush up on your fire safety knowledge before you go starting any fires.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t light a fire in windy conditions.
  • Make sure the species of wood you’re using is safe. The fumes of certain kinds of wood are a health hazard.
  • Use a fire ring.
  • Keep enough water to put the fire out close by in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure your fire pit is larger than your fire.
  • Make sure you’ve cleared the area around your fire.
  • Make sure you’ve extinguished your fire properly before leaving the area.
  • Don’t leave your campfire unattended!


So as you can see, it’s pretty simple. Prepare your fire pit, gather the wood, strike the flint, and blow.

That’s everything you need to know.

You’re all set to build a roaring fire next time you’re out camping, with the help of your trusty fire starter.

Just don’t forget the marshmallows!