The (big) star fire technique
An overview of the technique, building method and advantages/disadvantages.
This fire needs a small amount of wood per hour. This type of fire is usually made to burn for a whole day as it does need very little maintenance. If you are looking for a small fire suited for burning for a short period I would recommend the small star fire which is meant for on the go.
A star fire needs maintenance every 10 to 30 minutes depending on whether you want to let the fire smoulder or want to cook on it.
The name of this fire derives of how the fire is build, like how people draw a star.
With this technique, 4 to 6 logs are placed towards each other pointing to the core of the fire. When the fire is lid, easily slide the logs towards the core to keep it burning. The fire will slowly burn and smoulder when the logs are not directly slid in. For this reason it is great when you don’t want a full fire running and don’t want to have to make a new fire every time you want to cook something during the day. This fire is best used 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 star fire is 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’.
First start a fire with the small star fire or teepee fire technique. When the fire is burning strong, just slide 4 to 6 logs / beams towards the core of the fire. These beams can be as long as you want but the side branches will have to be chopped off. Make sure that the beams are about the same width to make it easier to place a pot on it while cooking. Every time you see that there is space in the core of the star-shape, just slide the beams a bit to the center of the fire and it will continue to burn.
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 star fire is effective for cooking and will burn for a long time, very slowly. The fire needs maintenance every 10 to 30 minutes. It will keep animals away and it doesn’t need a lot of initial expenditure of energy to create. It is not very effective as a traveler’s fire because it will take some time before you’ve cleared the whole fireplace of the long beams you use. 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 a long-term low-energy burning fire in a base-camp. 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 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.