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Note: Fire is inherently dangerous. These are suggestions based on personal experience. If you get hurt following these instructions or through your own stupidity, don't hold me accountable.

There are several key things to consider when building a fire. First off, why are you building a fire? Is it for a party? Is there some other reason you want a large amount of potentially dangerous burning material near to you?

Now that you have established purpose, the next thing to consider is environment. Is there currently a drought? Are you in the middle of the woods? Is there a brisk wind blowing? Are you in an area where a fire would cause distress? Is there any reason why you should not be building a fire whatsoever? If so, stop. no seriously, stop.

Ok, we've established motivation and location. Now, technique. There is a difference between bonfires, cooking fires, trash fires, and other miscellaneous fires. A bonfire is the perfect party fire. It's a fire that will keep burning without constant attention, provide ample light/heat, and serve as a central focus for all the action. The steps for a bonfire are as follows.

  • Get the materials
    • You'll need some kindling, to get the fire started, and then some bigger stuff that'll last the life of your fire. For bigger stuff, look for pieces 5-6 feet long and 4-5 inches in diameter. All wood should be dry, but not rotted. Get lots of wood. Get twice as much wood as you ever think you'll need. There's nothing worse than a party going strong and the fire starts to go out. Because then, you'll have to stop partying and go look for wood. Or, if you're making sweet love down by the fire, you don't want to stop what you're doing and go find wood. You'll probably also want a shovel, or a rake, or something else to help control the fire. A bucket of water is recommended as well.
  • Make a pile of kindling.
    • For a bonfire, the pile of kindling should be pretty big. The whole point of kindling is to have something that'll burn. You want stuff that'll catch on fire quickly, so you don't waste matches, but burn long enough to catch your bigger wood on fire. Generally a pile about 4 feet in diameter and of a similar height will be enough. I usually throw a few pieces of bigger wood in there to catch on fire as quickly as possible so the fire doesn't go out while I'm putting more wood on it.
  • Get some bigger wood.
    • This is the stuff you'll want to add later. You shouldn't pile it all on at once, but once you get it all on, you can leave the fire alone for a while. Make a teepee with the bigger stuff once you've lit the kindling on fire. Until you actually start the fire, just leave it off to the side.
  • Start the fire.
    • Now's the fun part. Some paper and a lighter or matches is my favorite method of firestarting. Twist some paper up, shove it into the middle of the kindling where it'll be protected from the wind (if there is any) and light it. Stand back and watch and make sure your kindling starts catching on fire. Once the kindling is well ablaze, start adding bigger pieces. You want to pile them up so that as they burn, they'll fall into the fire. Like so:
         
        / \  
       / @ \
      / @@@ \   the little @ is kindling on fire
      
  • Sit back, enjoy the fire, and keep an eye on the wind.
    • Make sure it doesn't start building so high that it's going to catch something on fire, or that burning logs start falling out of the fire, or the wind picks up, causing danger to nearby property, especially expensive nearby property.
That's it, you're done. Once the fire burns down, throw some dirt on it, using the handy shovel, or empty your bucket of water over it. Or both, if you're feeling redundant that day. Also, (thanks jackthorn) spread the embers out, so they're less likely to catch anything else on fire and so you get them all out.

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