Learning With Maya, Episode 10: How To Make That Sexy Fire

July 18th

By Maya Maya Malan-Gonzalez


Happy July Everyone! The summer has just zoomed by! And I’ve left you all hanging, wondering like crazy, what is La Maya learning?!?!?! Well, as it’s summertime, for me, that means camping trips. Do you know how to build a fire? I’ve known in theory for years….. but in terms of practice, I had never had the opportunity to build a fire outdoors. So for this very special July episode, we’re gonna heat things up and I’m gonna tell you all about how I learned to build that sexy fire!

Santa Margarita Lake, with water that looks so refreshing you just want to jump in it…. But you can’t. It’s the drinking water reservoir for the city of San Luis Obispo. Such a tease.

Santa Margarita Lake, with water that looks so refreshing you just want to jump in it…. But you can’t. It’s the drinking water reservoir for the city of San Luis Obispo. Such a tease.

I love camping. I love feeling the earth beneath me when I sleep. I love looking up at the sky free of city lights and full of tiny little stars. I love hikes and I love seeing the beautiful trees, or hills, or nearby lake, you know, I just love nature! Oh! Aaaaaand I love cooking my food by fire. I make these grilled cheese with turkey bacon that are the bomb. I love that feeling of roughing it- and I like to think if there ever is an apocalypse, or if I ever have to go on the run and live off the land for a bit, my camping trips will have prepared me for… well something.

I need a drive up site and to be near a place where I can buy ice and pre chopped firewood

I need a drive up site and to be near a place where I can buy ice and pre chopped firewood

Pero, you know, let’s not get carried away, I’m by no means a hardcore camper. I like drive-up campsites- none of this hiking a long distance from my car and carrying everything on my back. No, I like pillows, and I like to bring my cast iron skillet to cook; and my comal and the percolator for that good smoked coffee; and I need a cooler for the cheese and butter- otherwise my grilled cheese will suck, plus eggs for migas in the morning.

Every summer Lakin and I go camping and we’ve fallen into these routines and roles. When we arrive to the site (that I usually, not always, but usually find and reserve) I set up the tent as Lakin begins building the fire ‘cause once that’s made we start cooking. Now, it just kinda happened that he started making the fire on that first trip and every time we go camping since then he always makes the fire. We both watched a video on that first trip about how to make a fire- but it kinda just became his thing. And somewhere along the line I started wondering if I was good at making a fire. Like maybe I’m slightly more skilled at making a fire than he is... How would we ever know if I never had the opportunity to try?

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So, in the spirit of learning new things, on our most recent camping trip to Santa Margarita Lake it was time for a role reversal.

I know from movies and t.v. n’ shit that to create fire, you need three components: oxygen, heat and fuel. So, basically you need stuff to burn, a way to create heat, (I’m gonna use a lighter) and you need to get the right mix of air to get the fire to do it’s thang! But like, what does that actually mean? So, before we left the land of wifi, I did my Google search on how to actually make a fire. 

The How:

Start by gathering kindling, which is small twigs and sticks; tinder, which consists of grass, leaves, stuff that lights easily; and (if you’re me) some of those pre cut logs you buy in a bundle. 

There are two main methods to building a fire, the triangle method (that a lot of people call the Tee-pee method) and a box method (known as the Log Cabin method). Inside of a fire ring or some kind of round stone barrier, build your log structure with the tinder placed so when lit, it can catch the kindling, which is placed so it can catch fire onto the logs. Then it will burn all sexy like and you feed new logs in place of the ones that have burnt. 

If you’re familiar with my blogs, you know for me, it’s rarely that easy. 

Ugh! So hungry! And the dry grass is low key scratching my hands. I’m getting espinas in my fingers, I did not think this through.

Ugh! So hungry! And the dry grass is low key scratching my hands. I’m getting espinas in my fingers, I did not think this through.

On the way to the site #6 at the Roadrunner Campground we bought a bundle of firewood- we’re going to be here for two days so why we didn’t get more on the first day, you got me! At the campsite, I gather some kindling— some twigs and dry grass. Per Lakin’s method I start building a triangle structure with the kindling in the center and dry grass all around. The fire pit is still hot from the previous campers, so before I even grab the lighter, a gust of wind makes the dry grass burst into flames. I’m feeling pretty awesome for about 15 seconds before the tinder goes out without catching on any of the wood or twigs. This is gonna require a lot more patience. I gather tinder and kindling and try to get some fucking wood to catch fire.

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As I’m getting annoyed that I’m not naturally good at creating fire, Lakin finds some old envelopes we had in the back of the car. I start ripping the paper and getting it in those sexy crevices between the logs and the kindling, making sure there’s a little bit of space giving it some air- remember when I said, fire needs 3 components: fuel, heat and oxygen? Well, if you cram too much tinder in there so no air can get in, you miss out on that sexy oxygen. 

Now that I’m using paper over dry grass, it’s actually catching the kindling a lot better, and I can see the logs are starting to join in. I occasionally blow on the embers or the dancing little flames, slightly pretending like I know what I’m doing and really just hoping that eventually something magical will happen like that initial gust of wind that created a burst of fire. After some trial and error, I eventually get that fire going strong enough to cook dinner.

The next day After a second attempt at Lakin’s method during breakfast, on my third try, I decide to screw Lakin’s triangle and go square. This was my shit! Since I had gone through all the envelopes the night before, I started ripping up the cardboard container my six pack came in, and throwing some used paper napkins in. While this is probably not the most conventional method, I gotta say: using my recyclable trash made that fire start pretty damn quick- I also attribute the quickness to that sexy log cabin method. 

You know, with the right (slightly specific) materials, I’m actually pretty good at making a fire- one might even say that I make a sexy fire. Now, can I make a fire to save my life in an apocalypse? That I can’t say, but I’m at least like a little step closer.


Now, I’ve got a ton of learning to do!!! I need you, my faithful readers to keep me accountable. I gotta keep expanding that brain of mine and learning those things I keep putting off. Check back in before the month is done, to read about my next lesson- I think it’s time to get physical.