Many situations need a fire, right now! It could be an emergency situation in your group, or something you come upon as you travel on the land. It may not even be a real emergency or survival situation, but it will be real soon if you don’t do something positive.

Being rescued after going through the ice is certainly one of those situations where a fire will save the day, but even scenarios that don’t seem especially dangerous at first can take a turn. For example, breaking through ice in the shallows, getting soaked to the skin from a sudden downpour, tipping a canoe, or sweating up on a hike and becoming hypothermic seem like lesser emergencies than falling in a frozen lake. However, the ability to quickly start a fire can make the difference in terms of avoiding a real life-or-death scenario.

A big fire will improve all these scenes but now is not the time for whittling tinder sticks or demonstrating your skills with a “one-match fire.”

If you are in a boat, or on a quad or snowmobile, you have room to carry “instant” fire starters as well as gas in the tank. A really simple one is a plastic jar full of kerosene-soaked chainsaw chips. A Bic lighter in the jar or your pocket completes the picture. Some commercial fire-lighter sticks work well, but you need many flames to last a number of minutes to get other stuff burning.

Fire paste comes in a toothpaste-sized tube and ignites easily. A larger squeeze gives a bigger start to the fire. Duct tape is also easy to light and burns longer depending on the amount you use.

It is easy to make really dependable fire starters to carry with you. Take an egg carton (either 12 or 18 capacity) and fill all the egg spaces with chainsaw chips. Melt paraffin on the wood stove in an old pot, or large vegetable or coffee can on which you have pinched a small spout for pouring. When the wax is melted, use a glove to lift the pot or can and pour the melted wax onto the chainsaw chips until it’s level with the top of the tray. Allow the wax to cool and harden completely. Turn the tray upside-down and take an exacto knife or other edged tool. Cut between all the egg cones. A partial cut will suffice as you then break off each individual hardened wax/chip-filled cone to use one at a time as a fire starter. Just light the chips with a match or Bic lighter and it will burn for six to eight minutes, allowing you to build the fire around it. Dryer lint works as well as the chainsaw chips. Just keep a Ziploc near the dryer and collect the lint over a period of time.

A little preparation goes a long way in a bad situation.