How to Build the Star Fire





Introduction: How to Build the Star Fire

About: Just a former Biology Teacher that takes and makes opportunities to enjoy and learn outdoor skills. Have fun, respect nature, and if you've any ideas as to what you'd like me to demonstrate hit me up. Visi...

The Star Fire or Indian Fire is as its name implies, it is a traditional fire design used most notably by the Indians of the Wild West. This type of fire is fuel efficient and best suited for survival and primitive situations. Fuel for this fire can be of varying lengths and thicknesses requiring little to no alteration, thusly rendering the need for cutting tools and excess expenditure of energy unnecessary. Check out this tutorial on how to build and over some of the finer points of the Star Fire.

Step 1: Fuel(log) Placement

The Star Fire is a radial construct of 4+ fuel sized pieces of wood. The basic concept is that each of the pieces of fuel are brought to a central point where a fire can consume each of the ends equally. A depression can be dug in the center so that each of the ends overhangs an inch or so, this allows for increased oxygen flow when starting and sustaining the fire.

Note: Be sure to leave a slight gap between each of the fuel logs around the center so that air can adequately. flow and supply the fire.

Step 2: Add Your Tinder

Tinder is the most flammable and important component to getting a fire started. Tinder can be made out of a variety of materials. Most often Tinder is made from small pieces of highly flammable material in a form that allows for maximum surface area and air flow. In this environment, I've used a bundle of dried weeds and grass to get the fire going, though other materials at hand could work equally well.

The Tinder is placed into the center of the Star Fire making sure to stack the bundle more vertically than horizontally. Make sure that you have a means of access to the underside of the tinder so that it can be lit. Do not compress the bundle to the point that oxygen cannot flow, thus causing a smothering sputtering fire.

Step 3: Add Your Kindling

Kindling is the next step up from Tinder. Slightly larger twigs are usually used as Kindling that then supply's the fire with larger flammable material. Kindling's purpose is to stabilize a fire so that is can gain the energy needed to ignite progressively larger pieces of fuel.

Step 4: Light Your Fire

Using your preferred or available lighting method, apply fire to the underside of the Tinder bundle. You can temporarily pull one of the fuel logs away in order to access the tinder. As the fire begins to build, actively place additional Kindling to the hottest portions in order to ensure your fire catches. If you pulled one of the fuel logs back in order to light the fire, once going the log can be replaced.

Step 5: Advust Your Fuel and Enjoy!

As the star Fire begins to burn, minor adjustments will be necessary. The logs will be consumed and at intervals they can be pushed further into the flames.

Note: The fuel logs can be pulled away from the center in order to reduce the fire size resulting flames/heat.

Step 6: Watch This Video to See How It's Done

Not a step, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video ought to be worth at least a thousand

Click on the video above to see how it's done. Check out my YouTube Channel to see more Videos like this one: HorseBackBob



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    19 Discussions


    7 months ago

    I'm with Dave.. In an emergency you make do.. But yes, you'd be awkwardly sitting or standing on logs to get close enough to the fire to benefit. Your shelter would definitely not be close enough, and laying length-wise for sleeping you would want a fire that extends the whole length of your body.


    9 months ago

    This is a very useful tool for certain situations. Indians didn't do things that had no purpose. This would be great if you were stuck somewhere with no tools! Easy for a sick, or otherwise hampered person to maintain.

    I truly appreciate the information and video on this fire method. I will definitely practice this a few times to know I can do this if/when needed. Thanks!!

    This seems needlessly labor intensive. It looks like about every 20 minutes you'd need to adjust the logs again or the fire would quickly go out. So far I'm not seeing the benefit over a "regular" fire. Certainly Boy Scouts will be walking around the fire and continually knocking the logs out of place and you can't get close enough to warm up without sitting on the logs. At first it looks decent for cooking since you could rest a pan on the edges of the logs but every subsequent log adjustment will move the pots that are sitting on it.

    8 replies

    I think k you misunderstand the purpose of this type of fire lay. It is not your typical campfire for general usage. This is for extreme situations where conserving your energy and/or the necessary tools are not available. This for using deadfall wood as it is. When the situation that calls for this happens, moving the logs every so often is much less of an issue than trying to chop or split wood.
    Is it one I will teach my troop? Probably not for other than for extreme situations. And yes, you can cook on it.

    If the fire tries to put itself out every twenty minutes, it takes much more work than just laying the logs, lighting them and enjoying hours of heat and light. Try it. It produces very little heat compared to breaking those same logs into three equal pieces and burning them.

    Obviously if the wood can be broken then you would not use this method. This would be for logs that cannot be cut or broken into something that can be stacked. Sometimes you don't always have a chainsaw. This would not be for your cozy campfire on a weekend camping experience.

    50 years ago we learned this fire technique in Camp Fire Girls. Yes, we used it as a cooking fire but did not use l=such large logs. We were taught that it was called a deadman's fire because it did NOT require a lot of work.

    But it would go out every twenty minutes if you didn't move the logs back into place. :-(

    Oooohhh... yes - Camp Fire Girls. What a whole program that was and so much fun.

    this is a straight forward basic easy to understand instructable. Sun.


    2 years ago

    Good job here. I'll give this method a try next time I go camping.

    this is ok if your cooking a pot of something

    but the real way to do this is by finding about 5 standing dead trees that can be push over, meaning they are both dead and dry then drag them back to camp

    then place them in a star pattern branches over lapping in the center, trunks at the perimeter, any loose twigs and branches are to be piled in the center, add any tinder you find to the base or paper or anything

    light the tinder and the small branches will quickly light

    feed the fire by bringing the trees deeper into the fire as it burns

    this is the best method of starting a fire and will last all night, the smallest parts of the trees start the fire and the thickest part of the trees are saved for when the fire is hottest, you will have a very large fire that puts out heat

    a friend and I have done this with 20-30ft trees while tent camping in northern Michigan in mid December for a week with snow on the ground, which actually helps to slide the trees to camp

    looks like it would produce less smoke as well, thanks for the write up!

    Great idea! I will try soon!

    Really cool! I like your philosaphy about when to use axes and saws.

    1 reply

    Absolutely cringe when I see a bowsaw or hatchet being used on dead wood destined for the flame. Those are trail maintenance tools and camp building gear in my book.