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When I was a youngster I had the experience of camping in the fall and winter in Michigan. Being a city boy I had no idea of how to start or maintain a fire in situations where high winds were always present.

I knew that it was critical for us campers to maintain the fire, but how to do that when winds were consistently high? I could only image what it would be like if I were alone in the woods. My survival would depend on having a fire and keeping it going, and I needed to know how.

The answer was shown to me by my scoutmaster who always brought along various digging and trenching tools when we went camping. On our first late fall camping trip, I believe it was late November or early December, we were engaged by constant high winds that literally blew our attempts to start a fire apart. It was then that our scoutmaster showed us how to make what he called a "Dakota Fire".

We first traced a triangle on the ground which had three equal sides about 24 to 30 inches (61-74 cm) long. He then pulled out a posthole digger and dug three holes, one at each corner of the triangle, about 18-24 inches(46-74 cm)deep. He then connected the holes by digging three tunnels toward the center where they met and formed a sort furnace chamber. The tunnels were inclined slightly downwards, and holes were about 24 inches in diameter.

Wood was placed in one of the holes and the fire was started. The advantage of method of fire building became clear amost immediately. Being underground it was beyond being affected by the wind. The additional holes could be used as draft controls and moisture controls in case of rain. And if rain did come the wood fuel could be pushed back toward the center chamber and there be sheltered from all but the most servere storm.

I later found out that many variation could be made on this design; linking along the outside of the triangle; forming triangles from two sides and the center chamber, and other variations. The key however always remained the same, safety and control. This fire is extreme safe and easily controlled.

The beauty of this fire is that it can work almost anywhere. Any trenching tool can be used to do the digging and with the choice of a sandy soil you could possibly do it with just your hands.

In extreme weather a campfire may be critical for the outdoorsman. For the recreational camper the need my not be as critical, but knowledge of how to make a campfire that can withstand the highest winds and the most extreme weather conditions is. Survival may depend on the ability to make and keep a fire going. The skill of making a Dakota fire could prove the difference between survival and diaster.