One of the nice things about the chill of fall is that we are able to make use of the two lovely fireplaces we have in our apartment (yes, that was me bragging just now). Hauling firewood up four flights of stairs is sort of ridiculous, but worth it once you get that warm, glowing fire burning.
My husband, JM, considers himself a bit of a fire-making expert. (And I usually have the good taste to bite my tongue about the Great Valentine's Day Smoke-Out of 2003. Hey, everybody makes mistakes.)
JM has his own special method that consistently (except that one time) works like a charm in creating a long-lasting, beautiful-looking fire that lights right up. I made him teach me how he does it, since I'm such a know-it-all and not the kind of girl who likes to sit back and have things done for me. (Why am I not that kind of girl? My life would be so much easier...) And now I teach it to you, so you, too, can be a pyro-maestro. But lest you start feeling sorry for my husband, what with me edging him out of his favorite job, and blabbing his secret techniques on the Internet, don't worry -- I still let him carry the wood.
How to Light a Fire in a Fireplace
1. Start by taking a sheet of newspaper and rolling it loosely on the diagonal into a long strip and then tying it in a knot. Make 3 or 4 of these newspaper knots, and then stuff them under the fireplace grate (something about the way they are rolled makes them burn much longer and better than wadded up newspaper, which, JM asserts, is for amateurs).
2. If you have some, place some kindling, like small sticks or pine cones on top of the grate. JM insists you do not need kindling, as long as your wood is dry enough, but I always use a little, just in case.
3. Arrange your logs on top of the kindling. JM says the best arrangement is with three logs to start. Place the first two logs parallel to one another and about 2 inches apart. Place the third one on top of the first two, at a diagonal angle. This arrangement is compact enough that the fire will spread from log to log, but leaves enough air around each log to keep the fire fed.
4. Make sure the flue is open (look up the chimney, and you will see a little lever which opens and closes a hatch. The hatch must be open, or you will flood the whole room in smoke, which is decidedly unromantic). You also have to make sure that the chimney is drawing (a downdraft in the chimney will also make the smoke move in the wrong direction). To do this, take another piece of newspaper, roll it up and light the end on fire. Hold the flame up to the chimney, and warm the air there, until you see the smoke being pulled up the chimney.
5. Use the piece of burning newspaper to ignite the newspaper knots in the fireplace. Sit back, relax and enjoy your roaring fire.
photo credit: www.ukhomeideas.co.uk
6 hours ago