How to Keep a Fire Burning for Hours

A bonfire burning and beautiful flames.
Your fire won’t really look like that, but this is still a beautiful photo.

It can be really time-consuming to get a fire started. Therefore, once you have a flame going, you don’t want to lose it. So I will reveal all the dirty secrets to keep your fire burning all night long – and with no maintenance!

What you will be able to do after reading this article:

  1. Find pieces of wood that burns for hours.
  2. Place your charcoals like a pro.
  3. Position your logs in the most efficient way.

But before that, comply with the following safety measures:

  • Do not leave the fire unattended.
  • Make sure your fire is built in a safe place. As you already know, even the smallest spark can fly out of your fire and trigger a conflagration. Therefore, your fire pit has to be built at a reasonable distance from trees, bushes, or other flammable materials.

Find the perfect logs

First things first – you need to find the perfect logs to sustain your flames. In order of importance, here are the properties of a wood that will keep your fire burning for hours:

  1. Condition – use only dry wood. Why? Because moisture affects negatively the burning process as the energy used to burn the log is wasted through evaporating the water. So fallen logs or dead trees are the best picks.
  2. Type – any hardwood will do the trick. In fact, hardwood is better to maintain the fire as it lasts longer and burns with more heat. Examples of hardwood trees include Beech, Oak, Maple, Walnut, Birch… If in doubt, this is the video you should watch: How to identify hardwoods and softwoods.
  3. Size – This really depends on the setup of your fire pit (examples below). For a standard fire, your pieces of wood should not be longer than your forearm. Furthermore, you need to split your logs until you can pick them up with one hand on the end.

Now that you have about 5-7 pieces of the perfect wood, it’s time to get serious.

Charcoal placement is key

An amateur would just put the logs on top of the fire in bulk. It would be a terrible mistake, if you leave charcoals across the entire bottom of the fire pit, all the wood will inflame at once,  and this will shorten the combustion time.

This charcoal placement will extend your combustion time.

As shown in the picture above, the key is to keep all your charcoals together at the edge of your fireplace. In this way, only the logs you put right next to the charcoal will ignite.

Positioning the logs

There are many ways to position your logs. We will present two techniques that have already proven themselves.

The Siberian fire

The Siberian fire is the easiest to set up:

  1. Place your bearing log perpendicularly to the fire.
  2. Place 3-5 logs on your bearing log (as shown in the illustration below).
How to set up a Siberian fire.
The infamous Siberian fire.

Why does this set up extend the lifetime of your fire? Because not all your wood will burn at once! First, the bearing log is consumed, then the top of the other logs and finally their bottom.

The self-feeding fire

This technique is harder to set up than the Siberian fire. However, provided it is done correctly, it is the most effective way to make your flames last for hours with no maintenance.

The principle of the self-feeding fire is very ingenious: as soon as the fire has consumed a piece of wood, another one is pushed down by gravity and takes its place.

Self-feeding fire - the ultimate technique
This diabolic self-feeding fire will last for hours – don’t leave it unattended though.

As shown in the illustration above, the setup is pretty straightforward:

  1. Inside your fire pit, secure two bearing logs at an angle on a stone.
  2. Place your pieces of dry wood on the bearing logs.

Don’t forget to consider the following remarks:

  • Your pieces of wood should not be too heavy. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to pick them up with one hand on the end.
  • Make sure the angle of your bearing logs is large enough for the pieces of woods to fall right into the flames.
  • Choose carefully your two bearing logs as they have to be robust enough to support the weight of 5-10 pieces of wood. Cut off all the branches; otherwise, your pieces of wood will stick to the bearing logs.
  • Verify that your bearing logs do not touch the charcoal.

More resources

  • This Youtube video of a self-feeding fire that lasts 14 hours. Note that even though this method is impressive, it is impractical and unnecessarily complex to set up.
  • This Youtube video of a Siberian fire, this is a technique I strongly recommend.
  • Another interesting long-log fire technique, I have never tried it, so let me know if this really works.

Conclusion

Now that you know all the secrets to keep your fire burning all night, just go out there and do it. Don’t forget that after a little effort, you will be rewarded with a splendid fire that will last for hours.

If you have questions or remarks, leave a comment below.

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