The three parts of the fire triangle are heat, fuel and oxygen.
Most of us will be aware of the fire triangle from those school science lessons.
However, it is worth briefly going over again though, to reinforce its importance when lighting a fire in the field.
Let’s take a look at each of the 3 components.
The fuel needs heat in order for it to release its combustible vapours, which in turn, ignite from a flame or spark.
This heat also dries out the surrounding material, causing that to release combustible vapours also and is how a fire spreads and takes hold.
This is why a wood fire will start slowly at first but start to blaze, once the correct conditions for it to do so are met.
A fire needs fuel to burn. This is pretty obvious, but the type of fuel needs to be considered.
The most common fuel that we use in bushcraft is wood, as it is freely available and for the most part, sustainable.
You can’t usually just set fire to a large log though, as you need to build the fire up in stages.
To light an all-wood fire, we generally need 3 grades of wood fuel:
Tinder: This takes your ignition source and transforms it into a flame or ember.
Kindling: These are small pieces of wood that have either been collected in that state, ie small twigs or that have been chopped down to size from a larger log.
Main fuel: Anything larger than kindling – usually large branches and logs that are dry and form the main fuel source.
A fire requires 16% oxygen to burn.
Oxygen acts as the oxidising agent for the chemical reaction that produces the flame.
A flame will not form without it.
Therefore, oxygen is vital to the success of a fire.
Fresh air contains approximately 21% oxygen, depending on your altitude.
Therefore, as long as you maintain a good supply of fresh air to the fire, it should continue to burn, as long as the other conditions are met.
The Fire Triangle
Without all 3 parts of the triangle present, you will not achieve a sustained fire.
If you have fuel and fresh air for example, but not enough heat to ignite and sustain it, your fire will go out.
Equally, if you have heat and fresh air, with wet fuel, such as very damp wood – your fire will not start.
The fuel element has not been satisfied and the triangle implodes.
An example of not meeting the oxygen requirement would be that you load too much fuel onto the fire, too quickly, in which case you smother the flames and kill off the airflow.
To be successful, you need to keep all 3 elements in balance, ensuring a sustained and controlled fire for you to warm yourself and cook with.
Keeping all 3 parts in mind will ensure greater success.
The video below from Coalcracker Bushcraft explains this visually:
What are the 3 stages of a fire?
Generally speaking, a fire has 3 stages:
Growth stage: when the fire is building and gathering heat and voracity. In this stage, the fire is very much dependent on the oxygen and fuel supply that it has.
Fully developed: this is the stage when the fire has reached its peak and is now giving out a good amount of heat. You should also have a good bed of embers now to keep the fire sustained.
Decay: once you stop feeding the fire with fuel, the fire will enter the decay stage and start to burn down. The embers are still extremely hot at this stage though and will likely ignite any fresh fuel that you put on. If left alone, however, the fire will die out on its own.
What happens when 3 elements of the fire triangle combine?
If you have the correct proportion of heat, fuel and oxygen present and you have a source of ignition, such as a spark, or flame – then you have a good chance that a fire will start, as it has all the required elements.
This could be a good thing if you are looking to start a fire…It could also be a very bad thing if you are not.
Always be mindful of potential ignition sources and keep things such as tinder and stored wood well away from anything that could ignite it.
We hope you found this a good refresher on ‘What are the three parts of the fire triangle?’
It’s a very simple concept, but quite often forgotten about when trying to get a fire lit.
Next time you do light a fire, try and bear all the elements in mind and you should have more success
Want more??? We have loads more articles for you to read in our fire section here.
Yes, gorse flower is edible. You need to make sure that you only use them in small quantities though, as they contain alkaloids, which are mildly toxic.
You would have to eat quite a few for them to have any effects, but it’s worth being aware of that.
Gorse (Ulex Europaeus) starts to flower around late Autumn, continuing through Winter, with the flowers reaching full bloom around Spring.
These edible flowers have a pleasant, almost coconut aroma and can be picked and used for many purposes, including adding to a salad or brewed into a tea.
One of the more popular ways to use these is to ferment them into wine, which if successful, produces a very nice drop indeed and is well worth the effort.
What can you use gorse flowers for?
You can use gorse flowers for a variety of recipes, but the most simple way to consume them is to simply eat them straight from the bush.
Some other ways to consume them include:
Can you make tea from gorse flowers? How do you make gorse flower tea?
Yes. You can make tea from gorse flowers.
Pick a small handful of fresh gorse flowers, place in a teapot and cover with a cup’s worth of freshly boiled water.
Leave for around 8-10 minutes to brew and then serve. A tea strainer will help with this.
Gorse flower tea benefits
Gorse flower tea has been used for its medicinal benefits for years.
This includes ailments such as:
Heartburn and many more
What do gorse flowers smell like?
Gorse flowers have a coconut smell with some citrus notes.
They smell wonderful and are slightly surprising considering the menacing look of the gorse bush itself, which has some pretty hefty spines on it.
When it comes to flowers, the gorse bush wants to be inviting!
Is gorse good for bees?
Yes, gorse is good for bees. The flowers produce nectar and bees love it.
There is also a very small amount of nectar within the flower, which helps attract the bees in the first place and gives them some food in return for their pollination efforts.
Is gorse flower poisonous to humans?
No, gorse is not poisonous to humans (as such!).
You can eat the flowers as mentioned above, or make them into a tea or wine, but don’t overdo it, as the flowers contain small amounts of alkaloids and can be mildly toxic.
Are gorse thorns poisonous?
No, gorse thorns are not poisonous to humans either, but they certainly can cause you a lot of pain!
Although the flowers are a sweet treat to eat, you wouldn’t want to be getting stuck in one of these things, as the thorns are extremely nasty indeed.
When picking flowers (or just being near them in general) watch out, or you may get a good spiking!
Does gorse have pollen?
Yes, gorse does have pollen.
It gets attached to bees when the bee flies into the flower, as well as the flower formed in such a way that it extracts some pollen off the bee that it may have on it from visiting other flowers, therefore allowing for pollination.
Is gorse good for firewood?
Yes, gorse is good for firewood – certainly for getting things started anyway.
Gorse is easy to light burns hot and fast, so be prepared for that.
Keep the fire away from other bushes, as they will easily catch in the right conditions!
Due to its fast burning nature, you may want to add on some slower burning wood in order to have a more sustained fire.
Why is gorse flammable?
Gorse contains a small amount of flammable oils (around 2-4%).
These, along with the dry wood that gorse consists of means it burns easily – and it burns hot!
Is gorse a hardwood?
No. gorse is not a hardwood in the traditional sense of what a hardwood is, like oak etc, however, the branches it produces are very sturdy in construction.
Goats, sheep, cattle and horses are also known to eat it.
If you do decide to get your own animals for this purpose, do check out some breeds that prefer it more than others.
Is gorse native to the UK?
Yes, gorse is native to the UK.
There are 3 types of gorse species in the UK.
Common Gorse (Ulex Europaeus) – This, as the name suggests is the most common species in the UK and what you will typically find when you come across a gorse bush. This is also the only type that will grow to around 2.5-3 metres tall, so if it’s up at this height it will most certainly be Common Gorse.
Western Gorse (Ulex Gallii) – Low growing and found in the West side of Britain, along the Atlantic Coast.
Dwarf Gorse (Ulex Minor) – Another low growing gorse variety, that generally grows to around 30cm in height and is generally found South of the River Thames in Kent and on the South Coast in Sussex and Dorset.
So, Is Gorse Flower Edible? Yes indeed!
Although extremely thorny, its coconut-scented flowers can be used for a variety of things including tea, wine and simply just snacking on them.
Keep the amount you consume to a sensible quantity though, as they do contain alkaloids, which are mildly toxic.
Looking for more foraging? Take a look at our Common Limpet post here.
A good video showing the fire piston in use can be viewed below:
A bow drill set is a great tool to use in the Northern Hemisphere and can create a good ember even with slightly damp wood.
You will need the following parts to create one:
Bow section: the main part that is drawn back and forward to create the drilling action. This is a formed from a carefully selected tree branch.
Cord: this attaches to the bow and is what grips and spins the drill. 550 paracord is usually used for this.
Drill section: this is what spins and ‘drills’ into the hearth below to create an ember.
Bearing block: used to create a low friction ‘cup’ that sits on top of the drill section and is held in place with your non-dominant hand.
Hearth: the base section of wood that stays fixed in place and is ‘drilled’ into, to create an ember.
Ray Mears demonstrates the process in the video below:
For an even more detailed look, MCQBushcraft has an excellent video on this also.
A very basic but effective method is to start a fire from a lense, usually a magnifying glass.
If you carry a standard plate compass, such as the Silva Expedition 4, then you will have a magnifying lens built into the compass.
You do need bright sunlight for this to work, but assuming the sun is strong enough, you can move the lens closer to the tinder until you have a small concentrated spot of light, that is laser focussed on your tinder.
If the beam of light is intense enough, the tinder will start to smoke and with a little help – eventually, ignite.
This is a great method to use, as it enables your compass to have a dual purpose.
Not much use if it’s cloudy though!
As you can see, there are many different ways to get a fire going. I would encourage you to try and master as many methods as you can.
Not only is it fun, it could save your bacon one day and is certainly not wasted effort.
We positively encourage you to leave a comment below or contact us to let us know what you think, good or bad.