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on behalf of Dr. A.F. Bourbeau

To increase the odds, try these important hints:

  1. This one is by far the most important: in rain, there seems to be less oxygen to feed the fire, and most people will place the sticks further apart than usual so that more oxygen gets to the fire. This is wrong!! Instead, place the sticks at least as tight as usual, and force oxygen to reach the fire by fanning with your hat, a coat whipped around in a circle, a piece of bark, or whatever. I cannot insist enough on this first point- to start a fire in the rain, add more wood and force the air through, do not reduce the amount of wood placed on the fire.
  2. Another trick: build the fire 3 feet above the ground, where there is more air, by starting it on a piece of bark placed on top of an old stump, for instance.
  3. Cover the initial startup spot with some kind of roofing material. After the fire is started, the pieces of wood you place on top of the fire acts as roofing material for the fire underneath - If they are all placed in the same direction.
  4. Do not expect to see flames until the fire is of the correct size. If you see flames, you are wasting precious heat, which you need to dry out the wood on top. Keep putting sticks on every flame that pokes through- and keep forcing air to circulate.
  5. Cut your finest tinder at the very end, after all other bigger stuff as been gathered, for easier starting because the stuff doesn't get damp.
  6. Get to the inside of the wood somehow- it's got to be split so the fire catches on the inner wood.
  7. Poke some fir bubbles with small sticks for incredible fire starters.
  8. Forget about using wood smaller in diameter than a finger - it will be soaked through if the rain has been hitting it for a while.
  9. Look for wood which has not been rained on yet if possible (look under overhangs or under fallen timber.
  10. Start your fire on bark or on wood so that the first coals formed will fall onto something dry so they keep generating heat.

Practice by putting wood in a lake overnight and starting your fires with that wood. Then practice in actual downpours - it's amazing how much the rain running down your raincoat sleeves put out that initial flame. And remember, 99% of the time, the fire goes out because there is not enough fuel, not because there is not enough air. Put more wood on the fire, and then more, and still more, and then even more - and keep it tightly scrunched together, side by side, not crisscrossed.