Today is American Independence Day, a day often associated with barbecues, campfires, and fireworks – or fire in general. As I write, much of the West is on fire and counties across Colorado are enacting fire bans. For instance, Boulder County has enacted a Stage 1 fire ban for the western, mountainous region of the county, though fires are still allowed on private property and within the bounds of the fire restrictions. We just can’t be too safe with our use of fire during dry times.
In the American tradition of hamburgers and hot dogs, if you are lighting your grill or campfire with a match today, here are a few tips for striking that match.
Sound crazy? Am I serious? Tips on lighting a match? Ridiculous.
Except that the average adult takes nearly a dozen matches to light a gas grill.
Raise your hand if you grew up being told “don’t play with matches”. That has been the lesson for decades. It was well-intentioned advice, but now we have a nation of adults walking around who can’t light a friggin’ match. And in my line of work, that is just plain unacceptable.
Anyone can light a propane grill on a nice day when they have a box full of matches. But what about using just one match? They may be inexpensive to buy (and blow through), but a match’s value isn’t in the monetary cost. I urge you to make each one count.
If you’re into fire-making, you’ll want to check out ‘How to Build the Ultimate Campfire in Seconds‘:
5 Tips for Lighting a Match
- Lend some support to that Cheap-O brand match!
The run-of-the-mill MegaSupermarket type match is notoriously weak. The wooden part of the match is produced without taking the strength of the grain into account (or much quality control). Often the match will break when striking it. I like to hold the match by the bottom between my thumb and middle finger, then support the matchhead with my index finger as I strike. I then lift my index as the match ignites, safely but solidly still holding the match with thumb and middle.
- In which direction does fire burn?
Up. Fire burns up. So hold the match pointed downward, so the flame can climb up the matchstick. (Fire needs fuel to burn, afterall.) Holding the match straight up makes it struggle to burn but completely upside down can choke it out or make it burn too fast. I like to hold a match at a downward angle of about 45-degrees.
- Take advantage of the flare!
As a match ignites, the chemical on the matchhead will flare-up. Most folks strike a match and then look at it to make sure it ignites. Why? You know what the match is supposed to do. No need to watch it like it’s a mystery. If lighting a fire (i.e. twigs, kindling), I’ll get as close as possible before striking. Then I strike down the box, toward what I’m lighting. My stroke doesn’t end at the box, but continues to the exact point where I want to light. By the time the matchhead flares up, my match is in position and I take advantage of the intital, larger flare.
- Wind (and even Gas) can Fan…or Extinguish!
Windy days are some of the worst for wildfire danger (making fires grow substantially). But when it comes to a little match, wind (or the force of the gas from the grill) can be the enemy. If it’s breezy outside, wait for a pause in the wind (which moves in cycles and often has a pause every few minutes, even on breezy days) before striking. If igniting a gas grill/stove, don’t blast your lit match with hurricane-force gas. Gently turn on the gas as you move the match closer.
- Play with Matches!
Practice. That doesn’t mean sit down and light matches all willy-nilly. But when lighting a grill or campfire or whatever, push yourself to use as few matches as possible. Don’t blow through a dozen lighting that grill. Get it right the first time. Don’t use a whole box to light a campfire. Make it work with one. Help change our nation into one with adults who can light a friggin’ match.
In this season of barbecues and wildfire, have fun, play safe, and support your local wildland firefighters.
If you like my style of explaining things, try out a free two-week trial of our online, place-based, independent study program THE PACK.
All the best,