One of the most stressful requirements of the Counselor in Leadership Training program at camp is the one match fire. The girls are supposed to be able to, with only one match, light a fire that burns for 10 minutes (and that they can roast a marshmallow over). If the fire goes out or the match does not light, they must deconstruct their fire (remove all the wood) and start again.
I was never one of the girls who liked to play with or build fires for fun, even at camp. I knew the basic technique, but I had very little practice, so I was terrified of the one match fire. I’d practiced some that summer because I knew it was coming, but I still felt ill-prepared.
When the time finally came, there were gray skies, but it wasn’t raining yet. I carefully arranged my large wood (known as fuel) in an A-frame and put a sizable pile of tinder and birchbark pieces in the middle. We don’t use paper to start fires at camp, if we can help it. I struck the match on a rock and it lit! I quickly lit my birchbark and tinder from the bottom, like I’d been taught, and watched a tiny flame erupt.
I’d been so worried about starting the fire I hadn’t really thought through what came next. I started grabbing pieces of kindling and throwing them on top of my little flame. It managed to keep burning for 10 minutes- but it wasn’t pretty. Instead of trying to spread the fire onto my larger logs, I just continually added small sticks for 10 minutes until I had a ridiculous looking pile of burnt twigs in the middle and three pristine logs on the outside. I passed the requirement, so I felt accomplished, but don’t worry, my fire building skills have improved dramatically since then.