Pacific Northwest Emergency/Survival Fire: Make Fire in a Rainforest Without a Knife

Pacific Northwest Emergency/Survival Fire: Make Fire in a Rainforest Without a Knife

The purpose of this video is to demonstrate how someone could reasonably build a fire in the wet temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest without a cutting tool.

Bringing even a small knife would make this process easier, but not everyone that goes hiking in these forests will be carrying one.

If you are watching this video, I hope you always carry a reliable way to start a fire, lots of flammable material (like petroleum cottonballs), as well as adequate, clothing, shelter, a cutting tool, and the other essentials. It is foolish to go out there without them.

With rain and temperatures below 45° F almost every day for half the year, hypothermia is a constant threat, and fire is often essential. Of course, the more you need a fire, the harder it will be to start.

The hills and coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest generally receive from 50 to well over 100 inches of rain every year; and with very few sunny days between October and June, there is almost no opportunity for drying. This makes finding dry materials very difficult without practice.

This is not a primitive skills or challenge video. My hope was to keep this simple and highlight two materials and some ways and for breaking them down. Our area is actually full of other amazing fire resources and I encourage you to check out my other videos if you are interested, but this is the most reliable approach for someone unfamiliar with bushcraft and survival skills.

I used a Bic lighter to start the fire because I feel that is the most likely item to be carried by someone that needs this information. Ferro rods have big advantages, but also take practice and fine tinder to be reliable. I love them both, but a lost day hiker or novice camper is much more likely to be carrying a lighter.

In this video I use copious amounts of fatwood. You can get by without it by taking the time to split down piles of cedar branches into thin strips by hand, but it is not nearly as reliable and can require a lot of time.

While I plan to make another video specifically covering locating fatwood in the temperate rainforests of this area, I do want to share a few suggestions here. Most fatwood in other parts of the world come from pines, but our forests are rich with old Douglas fir stumps from decades of logging.

The easiest way to spot it is to look for old stumps with sharp points, break off a piece by hand, and smell it. Douglas fir fatwood has a very citrusy aroma that smells almost exactly like lime candy to me. Some of it is a beautiful red color, but it can look almost identical to regular rotten wood as well.

The stump I used in this video was a good example of fatwood that might not be obvious to the eye, but the aroma is unmistakable. There are lots of old cedar and hemlock stumps out there that will not contain fatwood, but can still be a source of fuel if you can pull off strips of wood. With practice you will get an eye for spotting the fir stumps, and will likely notice them everywhere.

There are exceptions though, and sometimes fatwood can be hard to find. I do plan to follow this up with another video showing some other options, including the cedar branch splitting and splitting wood from downed cedars without a knife.

Even though this is the easiest way to get a fire in my area without a knife, even a small folding knife would make things so much easier and improve your chances of success. While I hope that the information in the video is helpful to some people, the real lesson is that this is an unforgiving environment, and you need to carry the necessities to keep yourself warm and dry.


Luca Stricagnoli – The Last of the Mohicans (Guitar)