There is evidence of some of our earliest ancestors using fire in a controlled manner. If Homo Erectus knew the importance of fire 1 million years ago you would think it would be a no brainer for modern Homo Sapiens to know that fire is an essential tool for survival today. Yet some people still dispute the use of fire during a zombie apocalypse. Both Matt Mogk and Max Brooks have questioned the use of fire in the face of an undead uprising. As much as I respect both of these peoples work I have to assume that neither of them have spent much time in Canada, or the northern United States during the winter.
Without a fire in the winter you will quickly freeze to death in all but the most southerly parts or the on west coast of Canada. As I have pointed out in other blog posts, the weather in Canada can become very cool and down right cold beginning in late August once the sun goes down. Just the other night I was in Kitchener, Ontario and the temperature dipped to 14ºC. Although this is not hypotherma or frost bite temperature it can be uncomfortable if you are unprotected or without a heat source.
Beyond the obvious source of heat, fire will also serve as a way for you to cook your food, a source of protection, and if needed a way to make primitive tools or weapons. Cooking should need no explanation. Eating raw meat, or water that has not been boiled is a quick way to end up dead in any situation. Wild animals avoid fire, it is in there nature, they know it is dangerous so they will not approach it. African tribes still use fires in the middle of their villages to keep the large predators such as lions, and hyenas at bay. And once again I reference our ancestors. 400 000 years ago they were using fire to make hardened spears for hunting. I would argue that using a spear like this to fend off would be attackers, or several zombies that wandered towards my fire light would be preferable to using my bare hands. Not to mention that a weapon like this would allow you to hunt for your dinner if necessary.
Considering the above points most people would agree that the risk of a fire giving away your position is far out weighed by the benefits of having one. Then again as I have stated; in Canada fire is not really an option, it is essential. The question for all Canadians is not should I make a fire; it is how do I make a fire? Making a fire is relatively simple in almost any circumstance if you have matches or a lighter. However these conveniences will not last for ever. There will come a time after TSHTF when the last lighter and the last match has been used. If you are on the move and not in protected and stable position that time will probably come more quickly than you realize.
To make sure that you will always have the ability to light a life saving fire you should learn alternative or traditional methods of lighting a fire. There are all kinds of stories about how to light a fire without matches or a lighter. We’ve all heard about rubbing two sticks together, or watched as Tom Hanks started a fire on a deserted island with nothing but elbow grease, and two pieces of wood. Some of these actually work, but most don’t. I would suggest that anybody who would really like to learn how to light a fire without the use of flint, matches or a lighter watch Survivorman (which is in the reviews section this week). I personally have learned a lot from watching Les Stroud, who by the way is Canadian. He almost always has a new and interesting way of lighting a fire without matches. Your other options include a boyscout manual; it is one of the first things I learned in Cubs; survivalist books normally have one or two methods outlined. Finally if you happen to live near a First Nations community the elders there are the best source of information you could possibly have. Visit them and I am willing to bet they will have methods for lighting fires and other life saving skills that work best for your region.
The ability to light a fire will mean life or death for you and yours if when you are on the run from hordes of undead, or if you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere due to a disaster of some sort, or a broken down car. When considering fire and your needs can you answer the all important question… Are you prepared?