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How to Make a Criss Cross Fire

If you’re looking for a stable-based fire that is easy to build, you should try the criss cross fire. It always surprises me that the teepee fire is the most popular. When a fire is represented in films or games it is almost always this kind of fire. In my opinion, the teepee fire is the most complicated fire lay of them all. In contrast, the criss cross fire is a fire that is easy to lay and very stable which makes it a perfect choice for your camping or survival fire.

A criss cross fire
A criss cross fire

What is the Criss Cross Fire

The criss cross fire, also known as the council fire, is built by layering fuel on a sturdy base. This fire, which I call the Jenga fire, is built just like the game except for the bottom row. I like the airflow and the amount of fuel that is present in the early stages of this fire.

This is one of the most stable and easy-to-build fires that you can learn.

How to Build a Criss Cross Fire

The building of a criss cross fire is pretty easy. If you ever played Jenga then this is going to be a simple fire for you.

Start with two pieces of fuel that are similar in size and flat. These should be pretty thick pieces of wood as they will be the base of the fire but also the area between the ground and those two pieces of wood are going to really help with airflow.

On these two pieces of wood, you are going to stack 3 large pieces of wood fuel. Then you are going to stack three pieces of fuel across those. Stack each layer and turn the next layer 90 degrees. it should start to look just like the Jenga game but with more space between the wood.

When you have 3-4 layers then you can get the fire started. Using a nice big tinder nest and kindling you are going to start the fire on the topmost layer and allow it to burn down. This is one of the most unique parts of this fire is that you start the fire on top rather than underneath.

Similar to the game Jenga, lay the wood in a criss cross pattern
Similar to the game Jenga, lay the wood in a criss cross pattern


The most important factor when it comes to building this fire is to find a nice flat location. This fire is built on two flat pieces of fuel so those two pieces have to be on as flat a surface as possible. If not your fire is likely to fall over as it burns.

Types of Wood

If you are building a survival fire then quickly use whichever fire is easiest to access. However, if you have a little time to be exact you could use pine as your top layers, which is a resinous softwood. The high resin content of pine makes it a very hot and fast-burning fuel.

The rest of the layers should be hardwood which burns consistently for a longer time. This will create a fire that lasts longer and puts off a nice steady heat.


Tinder is important for the criss cross fire because you need to establish hot coals to burn downward so the early stage of your fire will require lots of tinder and kindling.

Fire Extender

Since your fire is going to start on top of the wood you should use a fire extender to keep the fire going in its early stages. A fire extender will help you establish that nice bed of coals that will burn down into the layers.

Tools Needed

Tools needed to build a criss cross fire
Tools needed to build a criss cross fire

Folding Saw

Probably the most important tool to carry when you are going to build a criss cross fire is the folding saw. It’s the easiest way to get a bunch of larger branches cut down to the exact same size.

Woodsman’s Ax

Splitting larger pieces of wood is important for building this fire, too. Having a woodsman’s ax that is around 24-36 inches. This is a great tool to carry and I prefer it over a hatchet.

Survival Knife

If you are building a tinder bundle from wild resources then you are going to want a good survival knife. Get yourself a high carbon steel knife with a nice wide, full tang, blade. This type of knife will allow you to trim the bark off trees for tinder and you can also use a strong blade to split wood by batoning it.

Use your survival knife to remove bark from a fallen tree for kindling
Use your survival knife to remove bark from a fallen tree for kindling

Batoning is the practice of placing the blade of a knife on the top of the standing wood and using a baton, or large stick, to beat the knife through the wood, splitting it.

When to Use a Criss Cross Fire

There are a few scenarios where this fire is best used. The first is when you are dealing with a high wind situation. Getting a fire started in high winds is always a lot of trouble. It can be really tough to get tinder lit when you are dealing with wind. Even worse can be the struggle to get the fire from its earliest stages.

You can actually remove the centerpiece of wood from the top layer and build the wood between the two using them as a wind block.

The criss cross is also great if you are trying to get some shut-eye while having a fire burn. We showed you how to build a criss cross fire that has 2-3 layers of fuel. However, there is no reason why you couldn’t start this fire in a nice large fire ring and build it 5-10 layers high. It will take some time for all this wood to burn out.

For Your Next Outdoor Adventure

These flat-laying fires like the criss cross fire and the log cabin fire are sturdy and easy to manage. When I started building fires like the criss cross I never built the typical teepee fire again. I taught my children to build these kinds of fires because they are just easier and more reliable.

Give your go-to method of building fire a rest and use the criss cross fire on your next camping trip or outdoor adventure.

Go here for more information about Campfires and Survival fires.