A flint, fire steel, charred cloth and piece of mushroom...
...can be used to start a campfire

This is an alphabetized glossary of terms pertaining to lighting fires, along with their definitions. Firelighting (also called firestarting, fire making, or fire craft) is the process of starting a fire artificially. Fire was an essential tool in early human cultural development. The ignition of any fire, whether natural or artificial, requires completing the fire triangle, usually by initiating the combustion of a suitably flammable material.



Main article: amadou

A spongy, flammable substance prepared from bracket fungi.

Main article: arson

The crime of intentionally or maliciously lighting structures, wildland areas,[1] cars[2][3] or other property on fire. It is the deliberate setting of fires for personal, monetary or political gain.[4]
auto reignition

Main article: Auto reignition

A process used in gas burners to control ignition devices based on whether a burner flame is lit.
autoignition temperature

Main article: Autoignition temperature

The lowest temperature at which a substance will spontaneously ignite in a normal atmosphere without an external source of ignition, such as a flame or spark.



Main article: Batoning

The technique of cutting or splitting wood by using a baton-sized stick or mallet to repeatedly strike the spine of a sturdy knife, chisel or blade in order to drive it through wood.[5][6][7][8][9] The batoning method can be used to make kindling or desired forms such as boards, slats or notches. The practice is most useful for obtaining dry wood from the inside of logs for the purpose of fire making.

Main article: Bellows

A device constructed to generate a strong blast of air, often as a means of supplying a fire with oxygen.
black match

Main article: Black match

In pyrotechnics, a type of crude fuse constructed of cotton string fibers intimately coated with a dried black powder slurry.
Blow George

Main article: Blow George

An implement used in firelighting to increase the efficiency of firelighting through acceleration of the chimney draw.

Main article: Bonfire

bow drill

Main article: Bow drill

An ancient tool usually used to make fire. It was also used for primitive woodworking and dentistry.

Main article: Bridgewire

A relatively thin resistance wire used to set off a pyrotechnic composition serving as a pyrotechnic initiator.
Bryant and May

Main article: Bryant and May

A United Kingdom (UK) company created in the mid-19th century specifically to make matches.
A small-scale replica of the burning lens owned by Joseph Priestley, in his laboratory
A small-scale replica of the burning lens owned by Joseph Priestley, in his laboratory
burning glass

Main article: Burning glass

Also called a burning lens. A large convex lens that can concentrate the Sun's rays onto a small area, heating up the area and resulting in ignition of the exposed surface.

Main article: Bushfire

See wildfire.



Main article: Campfire

A fire lit at a campsite to serve as a source of light and warmth, a beacon, an insect or apex predator deterrent, for cooking, and/or for a psychological sense of security.
char cloth

Main article: Char cloth

A swatch of fabric made from vegetable fiber (such as linen, cotton or jute) that has been converted via pyrolysis into a slow-burning fuel of very low ignition temperature.

Main article: Combustion

The sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can also result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame.
control of fire by early humans

Main article: Control of fire by early humans

A turning point in the cultural aspect of human evolution that allowed humans to cook food and obtain warmth and protection. The ability to make fire also allowed the expansion of human activity into the colder hours of the night, and provided protection from predators and insects.[10]



Main article: Dickheads (brand)

A brand of matches released by Australian businessman Dick Smith in 1999.[11] The name is a pun on the Redheads brand of matches.
Döbereiner's lamp

Main article: Döbereiner's lamp

A lighter invented in 1823 by German chemist Johann Wolfgang Döbereiner. It is based on the Fürstenberger lighter, and was in production until circa 1880. Zinc metal reacts with sulfuric acid in its jar to produce hydrogen gas. When a valve is opened, a jet of hydrogen is released and bursts into flame. The ignition is catalyzed by platinum metal.


electric match

Main article: Electric match

A device that uses an externally applied electric current to ignite a combustible compound.

Main article: Ember

A hot, glowing coal made of greatly heated wood, coal, or other carbon-based material that remains after, or sometimes precedes, a fire.
England's Glory

Main article: England's Glory

A brand of matches, available in the United Kingdom, using an iconic image of a Victorian battleship, HMS Devastation.


feather stick

Main article: Feather stick

A length of wood which has been shaved to produce a head of thin curls. It is sometimes used when starting an outdoor fire or campfire when dry tinder is difficult to find. It is often used in conjunction with char cloth.
Lighting a firelighter that uses ferrocerium to produce a spark
Lighting a firelighter that uses ferrocerium to produce a spark

Main article: Ferrocerium

A man-made metallic material that gives off a large number of hot sparks at temperatures of 3,000 °F (1,650 °C) when scraped against a rough surface (pyrophoricity), such as ridged steel.

Main article: Fire

fire piston

Main article: Fire piston

A device used to kindle fire. It uses the principle of the heating of a gas (in this case air) by its rapid (adiabatic) compression to ignite a piece of tinder, which is then used to set light to kindling.
fire ring

Main article: Fire ring

A construction or device used to contain an otherwise unenclosed fire, such as a campfire, and prevent it from igniting objects beyond the ring and turning into a wildfire.
fire striker

Main article: Fire striker

Also called a firesteel. A piece of high-carbon steel used for striking a spark, usually kept in a tinderbox together with flint and tinder.
Fire Triangle

Main article: Fire Triangle

A simple model that illustrates the three necessary ingredients needed to ignite most fires: heat, fuel, and an oxidizing agent (usually oxygen).[12] A fire naturally occurs when all of these elements are present and combined in the right mixture,[13] meaning that fire is actually an event rather than a thing. Most fires that can be started with these elements can also be prevented or extinguished by removing any one of the elements of the Fire Triangle.

Main article: Firelighter

Also called a firestarter. A small solid fuel tablet sold as a consumer product and designed to replace kindling for the purpose of quickly and easily starting a fire.

Main article: Firelighting

Also called firestarting, fire making, or fire craft. The process of igniting a fire by artificial means.

Main article: Fireplace


Main article: Firesteel

See fire striker.

Main article: Firewood

Any wooden material that is gathered and used as fuel for a fire.

Main article: Fireworks


Main article: Flammability


Main article: Flint

A hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz,[14][15] categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones.[16][17] Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white, or brown in color, and often has a glassy or waxy appearance. A thin layer on the outside of the nodules is usually different in colour, typically white and rough in texture.
flint spark lighter

Main article: Flint spark lighter

A type of lighter used in many applications to safely light a gaseous fuel to start a flame. It is most commonly used to ignite bunsen burners and oxyacetylene welding torches.
A gas wand lighter, typically used for lighting gas stoves
A gas wand lighter, typically used for lighting gas stoves
A French gasoline lighter in use during World War I
A French gasoline lighter in use during World War I
Fomes fomentarius

Main article: Fomes fomentarius

A species of fungal plant pathogen found in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America that is commonly used as tinder in firestarting.

Main article: Fuel

Any material that stores energy which can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner. Most fuels used by humans undergo combustion, a redox reaction in which a combustible substance releases energy after it ignites and reacts with the oxygen in the air. Other processes used to convert fuel into energy include various other exothermic chemical reactions and nuclear reactions, such as nuclear fission or nuclear fusion.

Main article: Fuse (explosives)

The part of the device that initiates function


gas lighter

Main article: Gas lighter

A firestarting mechanism used to ignite gas stoves which do not have automatic ignition systems. It relies on a physical phenomenon called the piezoelectric effect to generate an electric spark, which ignites the combustible gas from the stove burner.
go-to-bed matchbox

Main article: Go-to-bed matchbox

A variety of match storage box that was popular in the mid-to-late 19th century. Relatively small, about 6 cm high, they were frequently made of metal of some kind, though sometimes of wood or ivory.
Guy Fawkes Night

Main article: Guy Fawkes Night

An annual commemoration observed primarily in England on 5 November. Its history began with the events of 5 November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords.


Lag BaOmer

Main article: Lag BaOmer

A Jewish holiday celebrated on the thirty-third day of the Counting of the Omer, which occurs on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. A well-known custom of Lag BaOmer is the lighting of bonfires throughout Israel and worldwide wherever religious Jews can be found.

Main article: Lighter

Any portable device used to generate a flame. It consists of a metal or plastic container filled with a flammable fluid or pressurized liquid gas, a means of ignition, and some provision for extinguishing the flame.

Main article: Lucifer (match)

Early matches that had a number of problems: an initial violent reaction, an unsteady flame, and unpleasant odor and fumes. Lucifers could ignite explosively, sometimes throwing sparks a considerable distance.



Main article: Match

A typical modern match is made of a small wooden stick or stiff paper. One end is coated with a material that can be ignited by frictional heat generated by striking the match against a suitable surface.[18]
An open matchbook
An open matchbook
A tinderbox (approx. 3 in (7.6 cm) in length) with firesteel and flint
A tinderbox (approx. 3 in (7.6 cm) in length) with firesteel and flint

Main article: Matchbook

A small paperboard folder (matchcover) enclosing a quantity of matches and having a coarse striking surface on the exterior.

Main article: Matchbox

A box made of cardboard or thin wood designed to hold matches.


Native American use of fire

Main article: Native American use of fire

Pre-Columbian Native Americans used fire in many and significant ways, including cooking, protecting an area from fire and for landscape-altering to clear prairie land.[19]

Main article: Nichrome

Among its various uses, nichrome is also used in the explosives and fireworks industries as a bridgewire in electric ignition systems, such as electric matches and model rocket igniters.
novelty lighter

Main article: Novelty lighter

Lighters in the shape of objects that may have audio or visual effects, and oftentimes look like toys. Novelty lighters have been banned in some areas.


piezo ignition

Main article: Piezo ignition

A type of ignition that is used in portable camping stoves, gas grills, some lighters, and potato guns.
potassium permanganate

Main article: Potassium permanganate

Sometimes included in survival kits as a fire starter,[20] water sterilizer and for creating distress signals on snow.[21]

Main article: Punk (fireworks)

A smoldering stick used for lighting firework fuses.

Main article: pyrite

A common sulfide mineral which had brief popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries as a source of ignition in early firearms, most notably the wheellock, where the cock held a lump of pyrite against a circular file to strike the sparks needed to fire the gun.

Main article: Pyrokinesis

The name coined by horror novelist Stephen King for the ability to create or to control fire with the mind that he gave to the protagonist Charlie McGee in Firestarter.[22]

Main article: Pyromania

An impulse control disorder in which individuals repeatedly fail to resist impulses to deliberately start fires,[23] in order to relieve tension or for instant gratification.

Main article: Pyrotechnics



Main article: Redheads (matches)

An iconic Australian brand of matches originally manufactured in Richmond, Victoria by Bryant and May but now manufactured in Sweden by Swedish Match.[24] It is the top-selling brand in the country.[25]

Main article: Ronson (company)

A producer of lighters and lighter accessories once known for its stylish and dependable cigarette lighter line, and the advertising slogan, "You're a winner - with a Ronson!" The Ronson brand is now owned by Zippo Manufacturing Company.


slow match

Main article: Slow match

The very slow burning cord or twine fuse used by early gunpowder musketeers, artillerymen, and soldiers to ignite matchlock muskets, cannons, and petards.

Main article: Smoulder

The slow, low-temperature, flameless form of combustion, sustained by the heat evolved when oxygen directly attacks the surface of a condensed-phase fuel.[26]
sodium permanganate

Main article: Sodium permanganate

Chemically similar to potassium permanganate, but generally less desirable because it is more expensive to produce.
Solar Spark Lighter

Main article: Solar Spark Lighter

A pocket-sized stainless steel parabolic mirror, shaped to concentrate sunlight on a small prong holding combustible material at the focal point.
Swan Vesta

Main article: Swan Vesta

A brand name for the most popular brand of 'strike-anywhere' matches currently available in the United Kingdom.



Main article: Tinder

Any easily combustible material used to ignite fires by rudimentary methods. A small fire consisting of tinder is then used to ignite kindling.

Main article: Tinderbox

A small container containing flint, firesteel, and tinder (typically char cloth but sometimes a small quantity of dry, finely-divided fibrous matter such as straw), used together to help kindle a fire. Tinderboxes fell out of general usage when matches were invented.


vesta case

Main article: Vesta case

A small portable box made in a great variety of forms with snapshut covers to contain vestas (short matches) and keep them dry.



Main article: Wildfire

Also called a wildland fire, forest fire, or bushfire.
wilful fire raising

Main article: Wilful fire raising

A Common Law offence under Scots Law applicable to the destruction of property or possessions by fire. See also arson.
wood ash

Main article: Wood ash

The residue powder left after the combustion of wood. The main producers of wood ash are wood industries and power plants.
wood fuel

Main article: Wood fuel

Any wood that is used as fuel for a fire. The burning of wood is currently the largest use of energy derived from a solid fuel biomass.


Zip cube

Main article: Zip cube

A small, packaged block of solid fuel containing kerosene and sold as a firelighter.

Main article: Zippo

A refillable metal lighter manufactured by Zippo Manufacturing Company of Bradford, Pennsylvania, United States.[27] Thousands of different styles and designs have been made in the eight decades since their introduction, including military ones for specific regiments.


  1. ^ Kumar, Kris (February 2008). Deliberately lit vegetation fires in Australia. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice. Lynnwood: Australian Institute of Criminology. ISBN 978-1-921185-71-7. ISSN 0817-8542. Archived from the original on 2008-07-22. Retrieved 2009-01-09.
  2. ^ "Cops race to stop Hollywood-area arson car fires". CBS News. December 31, 2011. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  3. ^ "Kintbury car fire was arson". Newbury Weekly News. January 19, 2012. Retrieved January 23, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Hales, Robert E. (2008). The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry. ISBN 9781585622573. Archived from the original on 2017-07-08. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  5. ^ Field & Stream Mar 2006, p.45
  6. ^ Field & Stream Dec 2008 - Jan 200, p.113
  7. ^ 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive!, Cody Lundin, Russ Miller, p.175
  8. ^ Fundamentals of search and rescue, Donald C. Cooper, p.72
  9. ^ "Batoning Chisel - Lee Valley Tools". Leevalley.com. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
  10. ^ Price, David. "Energy and Human Evolution". Archived from the original on 2012-05-14. Retrieved 2007-11-12.
  11. ^ Barkham, Patrick (26 February 2001). "Aussie icons under siege". guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 1 April 2009.
  12. ^ The Fire Triangle Archived 2012-04-06 at the Wayback Machine, Hants Fire brigade, accessed June 2009
  13. ^ IFSTA, 2008 p. 88.
  14. ^ General Quartz Information - Webmineral.com (page contains java applets depicting 3d molecular structure)
  15. ^ Flint and Chert - quartzpage.de
  16. ^ The Flints from Portsdown Hill Archived 2007-11-13 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Flint vs Chert Authentic Artefacts Collectors Assn. Archived August 17, 2004, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Concise Oxford Dictionary (10 ed.). London: Oxford University Press. 1999.
  19. ^ Williams, Gerald W. (Summer 2000). "Introduction to Aboriginal Fire Use in North America" (PDF). Fire Management Today. USDA Forest Service. 60 (3): 8–12. Retrieved 2008-08-24.
  20. ^ Bob Gillis and Dino Labiste. "Chemical Fire".
  21. ^ "Distress Signals", Evening Post, Volume CXXI, Issue 107, 7 May 1936, Page 5
  22. ^ SciFiNow. Dorset, England, UK: Imagine Publishing Ltd. (47). 2010. ((cite journal)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ "Pyromania | BehaveNet". behavenet.com. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  24. ^ "Redheads". Retrieved 2010-04-05.
  25. ^ Chapman, S. (2001). "Australia: game, set, and advocacy match". Tobacco Control. 10 (91): 91f–91. doi:10.1136/tc.10.2.91f. PMC 1747538.
  26. ^ Ohlemiller, T.J. (2002). "Smoldering Combustion." SFPE Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering (3rd Edition).
  27. ^ David Lander Archived 2006-05-21 at the Wayback Machine "The Buyable Past," American Heritage, February/March 2006.