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How to Start a Fire in the Snow
 
The drought conditions in California took a toll on the forests. It’s important to clean the dead trees to reduce ground fuel and eliminate habitat for destructive bugs. And it’s fun to get outside and work in the woods giving me a good dose of exercise. Does the arrival of snow mean my work in the forest has to end until spring? Not if if I’ve learned from experience.
 
The dead trees and limbs need to be cut up and burned. It’s dangerous to burn in the summer for obvious reasons. But starting a fire in the snow isn’t easy. I used to spend hours trying to get a fire going. Most of the day would be wasted nursing a little flame and trying to get enough heat to dry out a few pine needles. Most of the time I’d get too cold and have to give up after a couple hours.
 
Experience is a good teacher if we pay attention in class. I did and it paid off as you can see in my picture above. That fire was started with one match. No fuel was used. It took about 20 minutes to get going. But how?
 
Planning
 
Over the summer, I made piles that would burn even in the snow. I layered lots of pine needles with small sticks. The piles are pretty big as you can see. Layering the needles had the same effect as creating a thatched roof. The outer layer was wet but the inner layers were dry in spite of several days of rain which then turned to heavy snow. My friends said I wouldn’t be able to start the fire. I was surprised at how easily it started. The planning paid off.
 
Rather than abandoning this work until spring, I have a lot of piles to light. Once burning, I can add wet wood and it will burn nicely.
 
Business is much like starting a fire in the snow. If all you have is matches, it’s going to be pretty tough to get a fire started.
 
Some people think fuel is the answer. [Money] Believe me, I’ve spent hours trying to get a fire lit with fuel. It dissipates quickly in the snow. Even if you get it started, once the fuel burns off, and that happens fast, the snow melts and everything is just wet. Then you have to be careful because adding fuel to the pile is potentially dangerous. If there is an ember, you can spark an explosion.
 
The key is to do the thinking in advance. By thinking about the winter I was able to plan my projects in the summer. My neighbors quit. I’m able to clean up.
 
The business metaphor is obvious.
 
But it’s not too obvious. The key isn’t planning. The key is thinking.
 
Lots of plans go wrong. Plans based on good thinking usually work out. So yes, by all means, plan. But do the thinking first.
 
Thinking and planning go together. Do some thinking and I guarantee you’ll see better times ahead.
 
You can start a fire in the snow with one match if you think in advance.
 
Chris Reich, Business Adviser
TeachU