Survival fire staring program teaches kids how to start a fire in a survival situation

Item photo by Hilda Hynes Andy Yoder, naturalist, shows children at Schuylkill Valley Community Library how to start a fire.
Item photo by Hilda Hynes Andy Yoder, naturalist, shows children at Schuylkill Valley Community Library how to start a fire.

The Schuylkill Valley Community Library hosted an evening of survival fire starting for kids presented by the Lancaster County Department of Parks and Recreation on Wednesday, July 23.

Andy Yoder, local naturalist with a degree in wildlife and fishing from Penn State University welcomed local kids under the pavilion behind the library to view several techniques on lighting fires in a survival situation.

Before Yoder began to explain and discuss the many ways to start a fire, he gave the kids a bit of advice they may never have heard before in their young lives. “Go home and practice starting fires.” Of course Yoder’s advice included the kids having their parents help but as Yoder explained, “Waiting until you are stranded out in the woods is not a good time to find out if you are good at making fires.”

Yoder went on to teach the kids the “Three’s Rule of Thumb,” three hours without shelter, three days without water and three weeks without food. It is as Yoder taught, important for kids to know what they should be most worried about if they find themselves in a survival situation.


Shelter is first on the list, fire starting and shelter in many ways go hand in hand. Although fire can offer many luxuries in a survival situation such as warmth, smoke signals, protection from animals and water purification, as it turns out one of the most beneficial effects fire has is providing light which helps to improve mood. Keeping ones spirits high in a survival situation is a must.

Yoder then taught the children to S.T.O.P or Stay put, Think, Observe, and Plan, if ever they found themselves stranded or lost in the woods. “Most people are found close to where they went missing so stay put, think about where you have been and how you got there, look, listen and smell what is around you and before you go into the woods make a plan. Tell someone where you are going and when you should be back,“ Yoder told the kids.

At last the moment the kids had been waiting for had come and Yoder began to discuss and demonstrate fire starting. Using several different methods it seemed the flint and steel method got the most “oohs” from the crowd. Although Yoder with years of experience made the fire building process look easy he assured the kids each method would take lots of practice to perfect.

Still, even the most practiced survivalist could use a little help and so the kids learned several fire starting cheats. For example, a cotton ball covered in petroleum jelly will burn longer, strike anywhere matches coated in a thin layer of wax are waterproof, char-cloth can be made easily out of any cotton material and always carry a small waterproof fire starter kit.

After each of the kids took a turn at striking the flint and steel Yoder recommended a few books to further educate the kids. “The Boy Scout Survival Handbook,” Jack London’s “How to Build a Fire” and always keep in your survival kit a pocket sized survival guide.