The top down fire or self feeding fire is a fire building technique that’s much different than building a conventional fire.
Typically, when building a fire you start out with a hand full of crumpled up newspaper and place it under small pieces of kindling.
Then you add larger pieces of wood on top of the kindling followed by even larger pieces of wood.
While this method works pretty well, there’s a better and even more efficient way to build a fire.
The problem with the “conventional way” of building a fire is the amount of time it takes before the fire really takes off.
During this slow, smoldering process, smoke and unburnt gases enter your cold chimney where they can potentially adhere to the chimney walls causing creosote.
To create a hot burning fire right from the beginning you have to think outside the box and create a fire that’s built in reverse!
Building A Self Feeding Fire
Although the top down fire seems completely backwards at first, once you try one it will quickly become your favorite choice. It works great in fireplaces, wood stoves, firepits and even campfires.
The setup process takes a little longer than the conventional fire, but it will burn longer without constantly adding more logs to it. You can pretty much light the fire and just let it burn.
The fire will also burn hotter and cleaner right from the start. When you try this method watch how much smoke the fire produces. You’ll be surprised how little smoke you see and just how clean this fire burns!
The most important part of this whole process is to use dry, seasoned firewood. The fire works by having the coals and embers from the top layer fall into the layer of wood below it. If the wood is wet it won’t catch on fire and you’ll become frustrated.
Start by placing a row of large logs along the bottom of your fireplace, wood stove or fire pit. These will be the largest logs you use.
Next, place another row of slightly smaller logs criss crossing in the other direction.
Follow this by placing a third row of even smaller wood. This row should consist of kindling which is about and inch wide.
Finally, place a firelighter on top and some small kindling that will easily light.
You can choose to use any kind of firelighter here. I prefer to use waxies or some bark from my birch firewood which lights easily and creates a hot flame.
To light the fire, simply light the firelighter which in turn will ignite the small pieces of kindling.
After just a few minutes your fire should look like this. Notice how it’s burning very clean and hot? Theres no smoldering and the fire is not being smothered by any larger logs on top.
This picture shows how the fire has burnt through the top layers and it’s starting to ignite the layers below.
Although the pieces of firewood we used for this fire were fairly small (due to a small fireplace) the fire burnt for almost 2 hours before we needed to add any additional firewood.
With a little practice, building a top down fire is really easy and they burn great. They’re clean burning, supply a lot of heat and they don’t require any maintenance once you light it.