Using Signal Fires: An Overview

When bushcrafting or camping, one never knows when his or her expedition will go awry. In this instance, one might be in a situation where the only way to attract rescue will be through the use of signal fires. One’s ability to create signal fires is often disregarded as an essential component of bushcrafting within wild nature. However, this is a crucial element to bushcrafting that must be learned if one is to be able to survive as one with the wild.

Firstly, the most important aspect of using signal fires is gauging exactly whether or not your smoke signals will need to be either dark or light. It is at this point that one will most likely begin constructing a large fire using dead standing trees, or whatever is easily accessible or in close proximity to your camp at that point in time. Another important aspect to consider when building fires for signaling is the fact that three of anything is almost always considered a distress signal. This being said, it is a good idea to construct your signal fires in a triangular pattern. When seen by those who are flying overhead, this will be easily distinguishable as a signal of distress.

Dark smoke signals are not used very commonly but are of great use in an environment where snow is abundant. In this case, using light smoke signals will not contrast very well against the snow, and will not be very visible to those who are flying overhead. To produce a darker smoke signal, one would want to use petroleum products such as motor oil, brake fluid or cooking oil. Almost any oil substance will be of use in this instance for building a fire with dark smoke to contrast a winter environment.

If one is not in a situation where petroleum products are abundant, one will have to use natural foliage to build his or her signal fire. This will produce a smoke that is light grey in colour, and will almost always contrast against a wooded environment. This type of signal fire can most easily be created by gathering abundant leafy branches from trees around your camp. These should not be too hard to find in a forested environment. Coniferous evergreen trees are very useful in this instance, as their needles are very flammable and produce an excess of smoke. Something to keep in mind when finding fuel for your fire is the idea that you should seek to preserve these trees. That being said, it is recommended that one should use either dead standing trees. If these can not be found, one should take sparing amounts of foliage from each tree. This will ensure that the tree survives, and will be able to produce more foliage in the future.

With this overview, one should be well on their way to creating signal fires that will be of use when one is in need of rescue. However, one should only use signal fires sparingly and when one truly needs them. This guide is only an introduction to the art of creating signal fires for the use of rescue. Plenty more information on this subject is available on the internet. I hope that this information can be of use when needed. Until next time, continue bushcrafting, my fellow survivalists.