5-9 How to Make a Fire

I remember making fire starters out of egg cartons, lint and wax as a Father’s Day gift when I was about eight. Those remained the top-of-the-line fire starters in my world for the next ten years or so.

Here in Vanuatu, I have found a superior and more abundant product. Coconut leaves. Dry coconut leaves are high in oil, thin as paper and dry out while remaining intact. They are ideal fire starters.
Chunk of coconut leaves, ready to burn.

Building a fire here goes like this.
You rip off a chunk of coconut leaves and fold them in half. Really the folding is optional, but we do it to keep things tidier. If you don’t fold, you have to tie them together with another coconut leaf.
Apply match.

Most days, it only takes one match to light the end of the coconut leaves. On windy days or when it is raining it can take two.

Ensure leaves light well.

Tip the coconut leaves at about a 45 degree angle to get the fire really caught. When they start to roast your hand, you know you’re good to go.

Place in stove or pit.

Stick the coconut leaves in the smokeless stove (pictured) or in a fire pit. Cover with kindling. Keep stuffing the coconut leaves further in as they burn away. They burn hot enough to light the wood.

Add wood, cook!

Coconut leaves are basically fire magic. When your food isn’t cooking fast enough, stuff some cocnut leaves under it. When your fire won’t light, stuff some coconut leaves in it. When you have nothing but coals, toss on a few coconut leaves. I don’t know that I’ll remember how to make a fire with all the boyscout methods like “teepee” or “log cabin.” (Side note, why are all the methods named after housing? Isn’t that just encouraging arson?)

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