8 Reasons Why Your Firewood Isn’t Burning

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Firewood is supposed to burn more than anything at your campsite, so why do you have a tough time keeping it lit? Unfortunately, there are several reasons firewood might not burn, all of which can put a damper on your camping experience. The good news is that each problem has a solution, so you’re in the right place!

The reasons why your firewood isn’t burning include:

  1. There’s too much wood, limiting the fire’s oxygen
  2. The wood is wet
  3. There’s too much debris in the way
  4. Your firewood has wood rot
  5. Wind can prevent campfires
  6. Some woods burn slower
  7. You need a better firelighter
  8. The fire pit is dirty

In this post, we’ll break down the main reasons why your firewood isn’t burning, including a few lesser-known issues. We’ll also dive into all of the easy solutions you need to get your campfire burning as it should. Good luck!

You Might’ve Added Too Much Firewood

According to Cutting Edge Firewood, one of the main explanations people can’t get their firewood to stay lit is that they simply added too much of it. If you want to burn a steady campfire, it’s best to start with two or three logs. There’s no need to pile five, six, or seven logs to start a fire.

Instead, build a triangle (also known as a teepee fire) with three logs of firewood. You can place a few twigs at the bottom, but no more logs. Light the base of the wood since the heat naturally will move upward. If you start the fire too high, it’ll burn out in a matter of minutes.

The Wood is Too Wet to Burn

Wet firewood is another common problem for campers trying to light a fire. If it’s rainy or there’s a lot of morning dew on the firewood, you’re going to have a tough time getting it to catch on fire. Instead, dry the wood and wait until there’s no moisture left on the surface. Moisture levels covering as little as a quarter of the log can prevent it from lighting.

Note: While drying firewood is an important part of the process for many campers, don't overdo it. You don't want the wood to crack or splinter since it can cause it to burn too quickly. All firewood has a small amount of moisture. The goal is to make sure it doesn't get too wet or too dry for the campfire.

There’s Too Much Extra Debris in the Fire Pit

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a good idea to throw all of your camping trash into the campfire. Not only does it make it harder to light the logs, but it also can release toxic chemicals found in plastic packages. Remove all of the excess trash from the fire pit, aside from anything that’s made of wax-free paper or wood.

It’s also wise to remove moss and other plant life found on the firewood. If you recently collected the wood and it has plants growing on it, they can make the wood too wet to light. Like you read in the previous section, wet firewood won’t catch on fire. Moss and other plants harbor tons of moisture since they need it to survive.

The Firewood Could Be Rotten

Ask the Chimney Sweep explains firewood with wood rot, mildew, or mold won’t light quick enough. The wood is decomposing and breaking down, making it harder for it to burn and stay lit throughout the day or night. Wood rot is often caused by excess moisture, so you won’t be able to light it once it’s taken hold of the firewood.

As you can see, the vast majority of firewood issues stem from water. It’s the ultimate way to extinguish a fire, which makes sense that it’d also act as a preventative.

There’s Too Much Wind to Light the Fire

We’ve all tried to light a fire when it’s too windy. The breeze blows the flames away, extinguishing any chance of lighting a nice campfire. If this is the case, your best bet is to place something in front of the wind to block it from hitting the fire. Make sure you anchor the item to the ground with stakes (such as canopy tents, tarps, etc.).

The wind puts out fires and stops them from lighting because the flame can’t catch on the fuel. Fires need a steady amount of oxygen, but the wind pushes them too quickly and doesn’t let the fire build up.

Some Wood Takes Longer to Burn Than Others

Chimney Specialists, Inc. shows there are several different firewoods to choose from. Hickory, oak, maple, and other woods burn a lot longer than low-heat woods. You’ll get a long, easy campfire if you choose these species.

On that note, greenwood, also known as unseasoned wood, won’t light as easily. It’s important to let the wood cure and season by drying out before lighting it. For this reason, freshly chopped firewood isn’t always the best choice.

Your Fire Source Isn’t Cutting It

It’s important to not only analyze the type of wood you’re using but what you’re lighting it with. Are you using an electric lighter with a low-powered battery? Is your handheld lighter running out of fuel? It’s not always the firewood’s fault that it won’t light.

Before you head out on a camping trip, make sure you at least have two types of fire starters. For example, you could bring flint and tinder as a backup to waterproof matches.

The Fire Pit is Dirty

Leftover debris from previous campers, too many bugs, coffee grounds, moisture trapped in the bit, and other items can get in the way of you lighting a nice, relaxing campfire. You’d be better off cleaning the fire pit before loading it up with two or three logs.

A dirty fire pit also comes from long-term neglect. If nobody has used or cleaned the pit in a few months, there’s probably a lot of mold, moss, or mildew (all of which contain moisture).

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