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campfire wood burning flames

This fire-starting method will work for all wood burners using a woodstove, fireplace, outdoor firepit or campfire. Where ever you enjoy the flames, get them up and running without a hassle.

But why start the fire so quickly? What are the benefits? Is it safe?

What sensible reason could any person have for starting their fire in 3 minutes or less?

In all my years of burning wood for heat, food and fun, I’ve created a lot of fires. In that time, I discovered a technique that enabled me to get a fire going as quickly as possible, hot with flames, indoors or out. And my reason? I wanted HEAT or FOOD, or I was simply impatient for FUN while waiting for a fire to take hold.


You get home from work, you’re tired and the house is chilly. You need a fire started in your woodstove…like NOW.

You are on a camping trip and your family is hungry and cold and they need a fire to sit around…they want it…NOW


FIRE-starting is an essential survival technique for which EVERYONE should have some knowledge. Fire can purify water, cook food, provide warmth, light and more. If you are ever in time of need, knowing how to start a fire can be a matter of life and death. 

Ok, I get it. If you’re starting a fire for the only reason of having ‘fun’, like in your backyard firepit or Chiminea, well then, have at it. Enjoy. There’s obviously no pressure to get that fire blazing as quick as possible, after all, half the fun of a fire is watching how its various stages evolve.

But if you’ve got other stuff to tend too, fussing with a fire is just wasting your precious time… You’ve got better things to do.


The first few minutes of starting any woodfire are the most crucial and potentially the most frustrating. It’s a process that must be respected and should never be rushed, as a wood fire needs time to take hold and grow in stages.

But there IS a way to get your fire heated up in a rather quick manner, and without the constant tending and feeding that seems to be the norm for firing up a wood pile.


…my ‘go to’ method for starting a fire that not only burns efficiently, on its own, but also eliminates the frustration that often accompanies the chore of starting fires.

FIRST – THE ESSENTIAL MATERIALS (You’ve got to have these on hand)

Essential Materials

1. Your actual fire starter…a match, a lighter, a flame!

2. Tinder…newspaper

3. Kindling…various sizes/diameters

4. Small pieces of split firewood

5. Larger pieces of firewood

Does this sound like a lot? It isn’t! It’s what you normally would use to get a wood fire going anyway, right? Just make sure all the materials are dry, dry, dry! No moisture allowed. This is important.


It’s all in how you ‘arrange’ the materials that will make or break whether your fire evolves into wondrous, glorious flames…or not

Below is my time-tested method for building a fire that starts every time, with little to no maintenance.

Here’s how I build ‘the house’

Once you’ve got the everything in its place, put a spark to that bad boy! I light the paper in a few different spots but definitely light the top and bottom rolls first. This way it will burn from both areas and surprisingly, this method seems to create less smoke too.

Of course, no one situation is exactly the same as another, so you may have to adjust for some of the materials and/or the way you stack them. But the basic method is there to work from.

Here are some benefits…

Once you get the hang of this method, you will be using fewer materials to start your fires, less smoke will be present, and it if you are doing things right, you won’t be fussin’ around as much every time you start your fires. Plus, because using this ‘boxed’ foundation method, the fire has less chance of falling apart while making it easier to ‘stack on’ bigger logs as the fire gets hotter.


…there’s no heat for warming our bodies – no cooked food for hungry appetites – no camaraderie around a campfire. So get that darn fire started as quick and safely as you can – the kids want to roast marshmallows!

Burn safe!


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woodstove with fire burning inside


It’s a one-of-kind cozy warmth that only a wood stove can produce. The fires that roar behind the glass door display a beautiful ambient light each and every time the logs are burning hot and steady. There’s the satisfaction of being free from the constraints of the big oil conglomerates and their constant price fluctuations.

The environment benefits too. By using this natural, renewable energy resource – wood – it can successfully be reproduced, unlike our limited fossil fuel supplies. Power outages are less of a worry, especially in the cold winter months, as a wood-fired stove requires no electricity to produce warmth. Your family won’t starve either. By using the stove top, your meals can be cooked using the heat from a fire, bypassing the need for electric appliances.

As you can see, wood heat produces much more than warmth. It adds a sense of security for homeowners.

However…wood heat is not for everyone.

Trying to incorporate a wood burning routine into today’s modern lifestyle can be difficult. In all my years of burning wood, I’ve experienced both the pleasures and the hardships that accompany this age-old practice of starting a fire.

Listed below are a few thoughts to consider if you plan to use firewood for heating your home.

First and foremost, if you are starting from scratch, you will need to consider much more than just the wood stove itself. INITIAL EXPENSES MAY COST MORE THAN A CONVENTIONAL GAS OR OIL SYSTEM. My chimney cost more than the wood stove!

EXPECT TO CLEAN YOUR HOUSE…MORE OFTEN. Wood chips, splinters and bark from the firewood will cover your floors and stick to your clothing as you constantly carry wood into the house.

Where there’s a wood fire, there’s going to be ash. YOU WILL HAVE TO REMOVE THE ASH FROM YOUR STOVE (REGULARLY) AND WHEN DOING SO, YOU’LL CREATE DIRTY AIRBORNE DUST PARTICLES. I got tired of holding my breath while cleaning my stove so I use a dust mask when shoveling the ash into a bucket (see pic below).

Me, wearing a hat and dust mask while shoveling ash

YOU WILL NEED TO CREATE A WAY TO CIRCULATE THE HEAT. Yes, warm air rises and cold drops – however, it’s not that easy. It can be a challenge if you need the heat from the stove to get to more than one room in your house.

Do you have access to trees or your own woodlot? EQUIPMENT WILL BE REQUIRED TO HARVEST THE WOOD. Hand tools like axes, saws, hatchets and heavy equipment such as chainsaws, log splitters and motor vehicles are just the beginning.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT TYPE OF WOOD YOU ARE BURNING? It is critical to have basic knowledge of the properties of the various tree species. The energy content of a particular wood plays an important role in how much heat it is capable of producing. Is it a hardwood or softwood? Has it been properly seasoned?

NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT TREES? Here’s a quick and easy way to learn about the trees around your home, and the ones you may need to burn for heat!

Download our FREE e-book, TREES WE NEED. It contains over 200 pages of information pertaining to trees and how useful they can be. CLICK HERE TO GET THE BOOK NOW. It’s free.


Do you like sharing your home with bugs and little critters? Throughout any given Winter season, you will be transporting hundreds of pounds of wood into your home for burning. And NESTLED IN THOSE LOGS ARE INSECTS WAITING TO EXPLORE THEIR NEW WARM HOME…YOURS.

Who’s going to keep the fire going? To maintain the heat at a comfortable temperature, THE WOOD STOVE HAS TO BE FED ON A REGULAR (DAILY) BASIS. Often times it is when you least expect to – like late night or the early morning hours. When the fire goes down, so does the heat.

So there you have it, a few examples of what you may encounter while using wood for heat.



Keep in mind that heating with wood is an expression of self-reliance that reinforces our bond with nature, the outdoors and renewable energy – and for some, like myself, that’s enough to keep me burning!


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restaurant that uses wood for cooking dinner

IT WAS THE UNMISTAKABLE SWEET AROMA SWIRLING THROUGH THE AIR THAT FIRST CAUGHT MY ATTENTION. As I followed my nose, I then focused on a tall wrought iron rack, stacked high with split oak. Naturally I became curious. As I walked passed the firewood rack and through the doorway, I was transported to a scene straight from an Old Havana courtyard with exotic tropical foliage and vintage décor. That sweet flavored scent of burning wood was now blending smoothly with all the restaurant’s culinary aromas.

“There was no doubt where I was having dinner that evening”

Ahhh…my dinner. “The Mixed Grill” …Black Angus steak, jumbo shrimp, chicken breast and chorizo sausage hot off a wood-fired grill!
This is part of the restaurant’s wood supply. Chef Chino says they use Oak wood because of its hardwood characteristics which provide a hot and steady burn. He also adds wood briquettes to help keep the heat even across the grill.

Located in the Tropicana Casino downtown Atlantic City, USA, the Cuba Libre Restaurant is cooking things up with an authentic menu of classic and contemporary Cuban cuisine. This fine dining restaurant offers a wonderful culinary experience. It features an open style kitchen where you can watch any one of the skilled chefs sear meats and seafood to perfection… all on a wood-fired grill.

Chef Chino rustles the wood embers while grilling my dinner. Notice the crank wheel to his left. It adjusts the cooking surface according to the heat and the rise and fall of the flames. Also take note of the slight angle to the v-channels. They are angled down to capture all the juices to be used for baking and sauce preparation.

I am discovering more and more restaurants using wood as a means to cook their culinary specialties. If you find yourself hungry while in Atlantic City NJ, be sure to stop by the Cuba Libre’ restaurant. They offer a few of their signature dishes prepared specifically over the hot coals of a wood fire.


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3 men with woodcutting tools next to stack of firewood

Above, Shane McDaniel, flanked by his sons, Henry McDaniel, left, and Harrison McDaniel, stand in front of their Washington state home with the wood they chopped. (Dave Robertson)



(by Caitlin Huson, Washington Post)

Shane McDaniel posted photos on Facebook of him and his twin sons surrounded by enough chopped wood to fill 80 standard-size pickup trucks. They’d spent months chopping and stacking the firewood, valued at about $10,000.

But they had no intention of selling it — they were giving it away to people in need.

“No one goes cold in our hood this holiday season,” McDaniel, 47, wrote in his post, offering to deliver wood, free of charge, to neighbors who needed a hand heating their homes near Lake Stevens, Wash., about 35 miles north of Seattle.

Within days, the post had spread not only in his Lake Stevens community but also to people across the country and even around the globe. Messages started flooding in — requests for firewood, offers of help, notes of thanks and even marriage proposals.

Nobody was more surprised at the huge response than McDaniel himself, a single father of six. He had logged back onto Facebook only a week earlier, posting a status update saying he hadn’t been on the site in 10 years because he “thought social media would go away by now.”

It turned out that he reached some of the neediest people in Western Washington, many who heat their home with wood only. Firewood is measured in cords — one cord is about four feet high, eight feet wide and four feet deep. In the Lake Stevens area, a cord costs about $400. The McDaniels had 40 of them.

Since early November, McDaniel and his sons have brought the wood to hundreds of people who don’t have money to heat their homes, and there’s still more wood to be delivered.

Piles of wood outside the McDaniel residence in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Shane McDaniel)

Single mom Katelyn Ticer, 28, who lives in a mobile home in Lake Stevens with her 3-year-old daughter, was thrilled to get a delivery from the McDaniels, as a wood-burning stove is her sole source of heat. McDaniel delivered a full truckload of wood, and even came back a second time with a half-load and a chimney sweep coupon.

“To get that much wood and the chimney sweep brought me to tears,” Ticer said. “So much stress and anxiety for my daughter is off my shoulders. I couldn’t be more thankful.”

McDaniel was hoping to help people like Ticer, but it wasn’t the motivation behind all the chopping initially.

As a local business owner with several rental properties to maintain, dealing with downed trees is part of the gig, and chopping firewood is a favorite — and often, mandatory — father-son pastime. Not just for McDaniel and his twins Harrison and Henry, 21, but also for McDaniel and his father, who passed away five years ago.

“I had to cut wood with my dad constantly. I was always helping him cut wood, split wood,” he said. “He just loved doing it.”

Chopping wood all summer with his sons was a way for McDaniel to feel connected to his father. By late summer, the McDaniels’ house was surrounded by 40 cords of firewood, a massive wall of logs that even the McDaniel men admired.

“I started out wanting to connect with my father, and at the end, I thought he was yelling at me,” McDaniel said, laughing. “It was so much cutting, so much splitting.”

Harrison McDaniel said once the wood started piling up high, people would pull up daily and ask to buy a cord.

“We politely told them none of it was for sale, and they’d look at us like we were crazy,” he said, adding that he was surprised at how many people burn wood as their only source of heat.

For some, using a log for a fire is a winter ritual, done mostly for that cozy hygge effect. But, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than 12 million households in the United States use wood to generate heat, and for millions living in older homes or in off-grid rural areas, it is their only heat source. Wood-burning stoves can be more effective and economical than standard heating options, but there’s still a significant cost to firewood, including time and labor.

In early November, Lake Stevens had its first cold snap of the year, with temperatures dropping into the 20s. That’s what prompted McDaniel to hit “share” on the Facebook post, including photos of him and the boys wearing muscle shirts and wielding axes. His mission to give away all the firewood in time for the holidays had officially begun.

Abby Valentine, 42, was one of the people who responded, and she was grateful to have the wood. Making ends meet while living on a set income through disability benefits has been a struggle, she said, made worse this year after her oldest son was killed in April by a drunken driver.

“My home is really old and very cold,” said Valentine, who lives in Seattle. “With the help of the wood for my fireplace, we can cut back on using the heat. I try to save as much as I can, but if my home is way too cold I have to use it because I don’t want my kids getting sick.”

There were hundreds of requests like Valentine’s, many sad, desperate and hard on the heart to read. McDaniel started reading them himself. Then his business, the craft beer emporium Norm’s Market-Keg and Bottleshop, became the hub for firewood donations and requests. Haylie Rude, a manager at Norm’s, was enlisted to tackle the burgeoning Facebook inbox.

“One day it took 11 hours to just get all the comments to load on the post,” Rude said.

Once the McDaniels’ generosity started going viral, others in the Lake Stevens community started pitching in. Local food bank volunteers help sort through the firewood requests and make delivery lists. A company offered free chimney sweeps and inspections. A bulletin board at Norm’s is filled with donation offers, and people show up day or night to drop off truckloads of wood to add to the McDaniels’ pile.

Harrison McDaniel, Shane McDaniel and Henry McDaniel stand in front of a sign at Norm’s Market-Keg and Bottleshop.
(Andrew Grimes)

For Henry McDaniel, his usual reply when someone asks for a delivery? “I’m working a full-time job, but if you’re available for a delivery tonight, I’ve got two hours. Let’s do it.”

Many recipients are effusive with tears and hugs and heartfelt gratitude, but Shane McDaniel said there are plenty who are not.

“Some aren’t even friendly. It’s just not in them. They are mad at the world and mad that they had to ask for help,” he said. “They just have no other option than freezing.”

He understands. He is not put off.

“Some still just say, ‘thanks … put it over there’ and walk back in their house and never say another word or even come back out,” he said. “But I’m okay with that. Giving is the reward — it has nothing to do with how well it’s received, but it’s about how much it’s needed.”

The McDaniels are on track to deliver the last of the donations before Christmas, but that’s not the end. They have their sights set on an even bigger stack of firewood next year.

With an army of volunteers, community work parties and hopefully a couple of donated log splitters, the new goal for next year is to cut 100 cords minimum. There is still so much need.

Kudos to the McDaniels family for helping people in need!


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