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In an emergency everything seems to go wrong at once. You evacuate your home and are now scraping by in the wilderness, and the warm sunny days you've been enjoying are replaced with biting winds and incessant rain. When everything around you is wet, getting shelter is your first priority, but you will also need a fire to stay warm and make it through the night. This can be a little tricky, but it's definitely not impossible.

If you've followed your training, you're going to have at least two methods of starting a fire in your bug out bag, as well as a couple of backups. Make sure your kit contains these, as sometimes a particular method will not work. In the freezing cold, a cheap cigarette lighter will struggle to produce a flame, and when it's been raining matches are hard. The more ways you have to get a flame, the easier this process is going to be. Now let's get started.

The right location

Once you decide to start a fire, you need to scope out the right location. In bad weather this is especially important, because your fire will need protection from the elements in order to get going. Find a place that has protection from the wind, rain, and you can keep it clear from any water on the ground. Personally, I like to have my fire protected on three sides during any bad weather, using a "C" shaped windbreak with the open section pointing downwind.

Sheltering your fledging fire from falling rain is usually the hardest part. You need to allow the smoke to escape so it doesn't smother the fire, but you will need a cover to stop any rain from soaking your fire through. Look around and see if there are any large, evergreen trees in your area, as their branches and leaves will for a rudimentary protection from the rain. The bigger the tree, the more protection it will give. Of course, there is a risk to creating a fire under a tree, but you can minimize the chance of anything else catching alight by keeping the flames low, using a fire pit, and keeping any combustible materials away from the fire.

The final step to take in bad weather is to keep your fire elevated, so any dampness in the ground, or running water from the rain does not affect the fires ability to burn. The easiest way to do this is to line the base of your fire pit with rocks (in a pinch you can also use a base of thick branches), so that the coals of your fire are not sitting directly on the ground. It's just one more step, but if the rain gets heavier it ensures the water will not put out your fire.

Sources of fuel

It's almost impossible to start a fire with wet wood (unless you have plenty of accelerant) so keep an eye out for anything that can burn. Essentially you will need three different types of fuel, to coax your fire into life. The first is tinder, a light material that will easily take a flame, and burn for a minute or two. The next is kindling, which are small pieces of dry wood, that are able to catch fire from the burning tinder. Once your kindling is burning, the final step is to add progressively larger pieces of fuel wood to keep your fire going.

If you've prepared your bug out bag you should already have an ample supply of tinder. Perhaps you've soaked cotton balls in petroleum jelly, or mixed some dryer lint with paraffin. Both of these will easily take a spark, and burn for a couple of minutes until your kindling is on fire.

If you've lost your bug out bag, or were caught unawares, there are still plenty of places to find dry tinder in the rain, but it can be a little harder. Search for any dry branches underneath dead trees, or on the underside of any uprooted or fallen trees. You may need to cut through the outer layers of wet bark to find the dry wood inside, and use your knife to shave off small splinters to use as your tinder, and kindling. What you may struggle with is the fuel wood, as this can be harder to find in the rain, so keep an eye out. Once your fire is roaring you can use the heat to dry out any damp fuel wood, but you'll need to find dry pieces initially to get your fire going.

Tipping the odds

The key to survival is to ensure you have every advantage possible, and using accelerants can make it very simple to get a fire going, even in bad weather. An accelerant is simply a chemical that burns easily, and the one you will most likely have on hand is gasoline. Siphon a little out of your car or motorbike and use this to get your fire started, you won't get any points for style but it will get wet wood burning quickly. Paint thinner, turpentine, alcohol, hand sanitizer and even some lip balms will burn, so use a little creativity and see what you can find to tip the odds in your favor.

Starting a fire after it has rained is not an impossible feat, all you really need to do is to put a little foresight into your campsite and use a little more creativity in sourcing the materials for your fire. You'll have a roaring fire to keep you warm in no time.

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