What is it about fire that fascinates us so much? Starring into a fire is hypnotic. It can be simultaneously comforting, warming, romantic and fear inducing. What is this seemingly primal attraction to fire? And how can we best create fire on demand?
Those are but a few of the questions about fire offered and answered by Annette McGivney in her book Building Wood Fires.
Annette McGivney’s affection for fire grew from her fascination of all things outdoors. For more than twenty years she has been the Southwest Editor for Backpacker Magazine. She is a prolific wilderness writer on the landscape, the people and the preservation of the desert Southwest. Her stories have appeared in periodicals as diverse as Outside, Runners World and The New York Times.
The book begins with an anthropological view of fire. Fire existed in the pre-historical world long before we learned to create it. Fire was harvested from naturally occurring events, and then stoked to ensure it would be sustained.
More than five millennia ago, Neolithic man were the only species on earth that was attracted to fire. All other creatures would flee fire. Hence fire served as a sort of security system to ensure that you were not eaten by a sabre tooth tiger while you slept.
Neolithic man also learned that fire could make food easier to eat, slowed spoilage and tasted great. If you’ve ever been to a BBQ competition, you’ve sure seen some of the direct decedents of that early caveman tending meat by the fire!
Annette devotes time in the book to the physics of fire. It is interesting to read that the mesmerizing that occurs when starring at fire is credited to the blue of the flame. Modern day psychologists credit that same blue wavelength that emanates from our smart phones as a key ingredient in the addictive allure of Facebook.
Being able to create fire on demand was a breakthrough for primitive man. Annette traces techniques for fire starting from harvesting ambers from a forest fire, to rubbing sticks together, to the patenting of the first safety match in Sweden in 1852.
The French patented the “strike anywhere” match in 1898. Modern day matches have changed little from the time.
Annette offers the suggestion that you can make your own waterproof matches simply by taking strike-anywhere matches and dipping them in a thin coating of beeswax. These will light and sustain combustion even when wet. Who knew?
A well stoked fire in your fireplace is adds an awesome ambience to your home. In Denmark they have a word that describes “creating a cozy and convivial atmosphere that promotes well-being”, they call it a “hygge”. (Pronounced HOO-gah)
So popular has hygge become that in 2016 Collins English Dictionary named hygge runner-up for work of the year after the work “Brexit”.
Essential to having hygge in your home is knowing that your fireplace is safe and clean. The destruction of your fireplace and flue is not caused by fire, it is caused by moisture. In Florida it’s the less frequent fires that allow our constant high humidity and rain to destroy our fireplaces.
Much of the musty smell in homes is actually attributed to the accumulation of soot, dust and dead animals in the chimney. When your damper is left open the air that flows down the flue picks up that funk and smell and distributes it into your nostrils.
The Chimney Safety Institute of American recommends you have your chimney cleaned annually regardless of how often you use it. And for that task you can trust the chimney technicians at Chimney Champions. You can get your “hygge” on by calling 904-268-7200 or visit www.ChimneyChampions.com. Have a Hygge New Year!