Fires differ from each other in terms of both firewood and the type of the hearth. Earlier, a variety of wood, branches and twigs – according to the season – were used as firewood. In summer, the water was boiled on a fire of twigs, whereas in winter the fire was made with bigger birch logs.
All trees and small bushes can be burnt, but as they all have their distinct qualities, they are used as firewood according to the weather, season and needs. In the sod hut, the fire is made in an open fireplace, and, in the Sámi tent, in an open hearth encircled by stones. Outside, the fire is a camp-fire. Dry bracket fungus keeps the fire smouldering. The breath of fire stays alive in the hearth through the night, when the live coals are covered with ash. In rain, fire can be kept alive inside an empty, rotten tree.
In a conical pile birchwood keeps good for years. However, the stack has to be erected in a dry place, on a small mound. Otherwise, the wood will absorb water from the ground. Horizontally piled wood, in turn, moulds, because water gets under the bark of the wood.
A forest that provides firewood needs to be managed. If the forest is a mountain birch forest, it is wise to fall only older and rotting trees, not the beautiful healthy and straight trees. The difference is not big in terms of how the wood burns, but, from the perspective of the whole forest, this is important.
”When you make a fire, it feels as if you have a companion there. The fire is like a healer. When I stayed alone in the woods, the fire was like a friend, and when I roasted some meat or fish over it, it was a source of enjoyment.”
”In Utsjoki, almost no-one burns pinewood. Birchwood radiates more heat. First you cut branches of birch and place them on pieces of dry birch-bark. After the twigs have caught fire, you add more wood to the fire. When we still lived in tents, we never made a fire out of pinewood. The flying sparks and the soot would have damaged the tent cloth.”