The small star fire technique
An overview of the technique, building method and advantages/disadvantages.
When you build it right, this fire needs a small amount of wood. This type of fire is usually made to burn for a maximum of 1 hour as it needs a regular supply of new twigs and small sticks. If you are looking for a fire suited for burning for a longer period I would recommend the bigger star fire link which asks for much less maintenance.
The name of this fire derives of how the fire is build, like how people draw a star.
With this technique, twigs and sticks are placed towards each other pointing to the core of the fire. When the fire is lid, slide the sticks towards the core to keep it burning. The fire will slowly burn and smoulder when the sticks are not directly slid in. Therefore it is a great fire to regulate the temperature while cooking. This fire is best for one pot cooking. The pot can be placed on top of the sticks or hung above the fire. When you place your pot on the side of the fire, not much heat will get to it.
Because of its construction, the fire will burn within the original size and the spot will not grow, when maintained well.
Build technique and methods to start the fire
A small star fire is very easy to build.
First dig out the first ground layer (till sand or rock-bottom) to be able to clean the fireplace up afterwards and have a secure fire-spot. Also read ‘Before making a fire‘ (opening in new tab) to read about ‘safety’, ‘order’ and ‘leaving no trace’.
If the ground is damp, first build a small platform of finger-width sticks, about 1ft / 30cm round. Lay the sticks circle-wise towards the center of the place where you want to start the fire. This platform will protect your tinder from the moisture in the ground and supports the fire to get going.
Place your tinder on the platform with two hands of ‘very small kindling‘ placed like a teepee around it, leaving some space to ignite the
tinder with your ember, lighter or other heat-source. Now light the tinder and make sure the ‘very small kindling’ starts to burn.
After the flame has gotten some strength lay ‘small kindling’, like racks of a bicycle, on top of the flame. Again, pointing towards the center. When this burns, repeat this with the kindling and the main-fuel (twigs and small sticks).
When the fire is burning down, just slide the sticks towards the core to give the fire new fuel and keep it burning.
Leave no trace
To fit this fire into the ‘Leave no trace principal‘ you must dig a fire-pit in advance. This pit needs to be dug till sand or clay-ground is reached. Making a fire on rock-bottom is not recommended as the marks of your fire can never be erased. After the fire has burned down and the coals are cooled, the top-ground layer can be placed on top to leave no trace.
Pro’s and con’s
The small star fire is, like said, effective in keeping you warm and to cook for a short period of time (<1 hr.). It is easy to regulate the temperature. When you slide the sticks out of the the fire, the temperature will drop, when you slide the sticks towards the center, the temperature will rise. It will also keep animals away and it doesn’t need a lot of initial expenditure of energy to create. It is not very effective as a long-lasting fire or as a maintenance-free fire. This fire does produce a little plume of smoke as the oxygen supply is not always optimal. It doesn’t provide a lot of light too. This technique is best reserved for short-term cooking while on a journey or if you don’t want to make a camp-fire. It depends on your situation which fire technique is best for you. You have to pay attention to the possibility of a root fire when using a small star fire in a wooded area. This is a fire that burns underground along the root system of a tree. Root fires can also travel underground and resurface some distance from their point of origin. This is especially the case in dry conditions.