In my younger/cheaper days, I used to scavenge firewood after the crowds would leave the camping area at the end of the weekend. Generally, this meant grabbing piles of unused firewood from near the fire rings of vacant campsites. Every once in a while I would come across a prime log (think 2 ft diameter x 4 ft long unsplit hardwood) that was still smoldering in the fire ring. As this was in the desert where water was scarce, dousing the logs was not really an option. On more than one occasion, I was able to simply kick the log out of the bed of my pickup into the fire ring and with a couple of lung fulls of air get a raging fire going.

While I doubt one can truly safely transport a smoldering log, what is the best way to do so. For example, putting it in the trunk of a car would minimize airflow, but be really dangerous if it ignited.

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    It's not what you're asking, therefore in a comment: What about "physical" smoldering instead of transporting it hot: Rolling on the ground, hitting the smoldering parts with other logs, ...
    – imsodin
    Feb 14, 2018 at 20:24
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    I stamped on, hit and rolled a lot of smoldering wood in my scout days when no water was available. It's certainly not 100% but can go a long way.
    – imsodin
    Feb 14, 2018 at 20:35
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    @JourneymanGeek knocking the burny bits off with a machete or axe can work, then smother the glowing bits or leave them in the fireplace. But you still have to worry about the rest as it's so hot.
    – Chris H
    Feb 15, 2018 at 10:02
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    @Aaron I've certainly seen oak get back up to glowing hot in an instant after half a CO2 extinguisher was dumped on it (that was chosen for the electrical fire on top). But enough water that it puddled on the surface soon dealt with that -- it probably evaporated the first 1/2 litre in a few seconds, but the next sat there until it soaked in. This was a flat benchtop though; to get a log that wet would take a lot of spraying, or immersion.
    – Chris H
    Feb 15, 2018 at 10:04
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    On more than one occasion, I was able to simply kick the log out of the bed of my pickup into the fire ring and with a couple of lung fulls of air get a raging fire going. +1 for this. so butch!
    – henning
    Feb 15, 2018 at 13:10

5 Answers 5


Not inside anything you're in.

A smouldering fire is pretty much the worst thing for generating carbon monoxide. That will poison you. I'd include the boot of a saloon car (trunk of a sedan?) as there's normally plenty of ventilation between that and the cabin.

Another reason for this is in case it ignites something - you don't want to be too close.

As an absolute minimum, in a pickup or other open vehicle. I'd want something to serve as a fire bowl, held down with metal fixings in the bed, and a tight-fitting metal lid, fastened. And still not for long or too fast (airflow). Wrapping it in a fire blanket would insulate it and keep the air off it to some extent. Too little air and it will go out, but it should light again easily, maybe even by retaining enough heat to get tinder going.

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    – Rory Alsop
    Feb 16, 2018 at 17:15

Yes you can. It's called a long match and here's an example of how to make one.

I've seen several variations on this theme but basically you want a method to hold the heat of the fire with a limited oxygen supply and insulation. You need some Oxygen to get to the fire to keep it smouldering and you need some fuel for that fire but the trick is just enough and not too much.

Pre burnt but extinguished wood also has advantages when starting fires. The wood will typically take a match a lot quicker than freshly cut or found wood. So it can be worth transporting this with you if you're in a situation where good tinder or fuel is scarce. but ensuring a log is completely out is hard. Wood can hold a lot of heat internally and hot wood is only lacking oxygen to turn into burning wood.

Obviously carrying around a fire has inherent risks. Like a lot of bushcraft you need to weigh up effort vs benefit vs risk. A long match is high risk and requires a lot of effort so it's only really useful in a situation where you need a fire fast and you will struggle for dry tinder, etc.

So, I can, but should I?

90% of the time your better off just building a fire from scratch where and when you want it. A simple bundle of good tinder and a fire stick is much more practical than a long match.

A long match can be very useful for transporting a fire short distances.

I would never ever put a long match in a car

...like just don't this is crazy

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    Wasn't a long match mostly used because carrying around fire was easier than starting a new one in the pre-matches and -lighter era? (i.e. it was actually less effort)
    – fgysin
    Feb 15, 2018 at 11:59
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    In a word, originally yes.
    – user2766
    Feb 15, 2018 at 12:02
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    That's two words :P Feb 15, 2018 at 12:43
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    orig00.deviantart.net/3969/f/2013/010/6/b/… :D
    – user2766
    Feb 15, 2018 at 12:46

What firefighter could resist a question like this?

As a rule of thumb, never kick a smoldering log to put it out, especially not in a dry environment where water is scarce.

Smoke is the byproduct of incomplete combustion, so if it's smoldering, it's burning.

Kicking a burning log dislodges burning embers into the air, where they can be carried further than expected and in many, unexpected directions. The same thing happens as the wood moves around while you're driving down the road with smoldering logs in the bed of your truck.

A better solution is to place the logs in a metal box where they will be partially deprived of oxygen, which is essential to combustion. This is going to result in a great deal of smoke, as combustion becomes less and less complete until the fire goes out.

Of course the best option and the only thing that should be taught to children is to put the fire out with water.

While I have your attention: It's quite common for houses to burn down days and weeks after a woodland fire event, because burning embers became airborne and get caught in air vents in the roof, under the eves of the roof, or in any other opening where they can go unnoticed.

The best way to protect your home against forest fires is to create a defensible space around your home, using least combustible materials in landscaping.

UPDATE: Check out some cool pictures that illustrate the topics above.

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    PS: In the desert, you can use sand to smother it in place of water.
    – rbsdca
    Feb 15, 2018 at 14:40
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    Do you have a reference for the statement "It's quite common for houses to burn down days and weeks after a woodland fire event," I was never taught that when I learned wildland fire fighting (long ago) nor have I ever heard of it occurring. Also you focus on landscaping as of primary importance for protection. While this is true for the time the fire line is crossing the homes location, embers (as you mention) can travel long distances (miles) and start structure fires long distances from the fire line. The entire structure and roof materials need to be built to consider fire danger. Feb 15, 2018 at 15:00
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    Hi @JamesJenkins, woodland is now required per NFPA recommendation since 2006 I believe, as part of FF type 1, FF 2 and Fire Officer. I'll admit, I paid little attention in my first fire academy back in Pennsylvania, but it's a huge thing out here in California, where the air is dryer and water sources sparse. I'll ask someone at the academy for a reference. I was speaking out of experience and I was only referring to the proportion of structures that combusted after the fire event was declared contained.
    – rbsdca
    Feb 15, 2018 at 16:54
  • @JamesJenkins, I wasn't able to get a firm statistic for you, but I have a note in my woodland fire book that says less than 40% of structure fires that are the result of wildland fire were actually in the path of the fire, with the lion share attributed to burning embers transported by wind. I did find this FEMA PSA and this NFPA PSA with cover the topic though.
    – rbsdca
    Feb 16, 2018 at 14:54
  • Also, San Diego County Fire Code was written into law after a major fire we had here in 2016 to address the need to protect stucco, soffit and fascia from burning embers. You can check that fire code out here.
    – rbsdca
    Feb 16, 2018 at 15:02

I’ve moved many smoldering fires and hot coals with metal buckets. They can be obtained easily and cheaply. I’d never suggest putting it inside the trunk of your car though.

One such as this:



The answers you've received so far touch on several key elements of this situation:

  • Liam's answer nicely addresses the how of carrying burning embers around with you, though it's not strictly applicable to the question of salvaging an entire already-smoldering log from a fire-pit.
  • Chris H's answer offers a fairly reasonable approach to carrying around a smoldering log in the bed of a pickup (and is quite correct that any variation on "smoldering fuel of any kind inside an enclosed vehicle" is a recipe for carbon monoxide poisoning, and as such is a hard no).
  • rbsdca's answer highlights the hazards of keeping a smoldering log around in the first place (embers may go places you never expected, and wood can smolder a shockingly long time then burst into flame at some later point).

But What Is It You Really Want?

The question doesn't specify whether keeping the log smoldering is actually an objective, or you just want to salvage a log which happens to be smoldering when you get there. So:

  1. If you really do want to devise a way to safely transport a log while keeping it smoldering, I'd say that Chris H's approach is on the right track, but I would take it farther. To really keep the heat trapped and properly control the airflow, I would suggest a metal box within a larger metal box, with some fiberglass insulation between the two. The whole arrangement should be firmly secured to the open bed of a pickup truck. You would have to experiment with adjustable vents in both boxes to let just enough air reach the log, and ideally the vents should be baffled to minimize the effect of driving speed on airflow. And even then, the risk that Lightness Races in Orbit pointed out about possibly getting a flash-up from built-up wood gas igniting suddenly when introduced to open air is still a possibility. Not to mention the chance of a traffic accident, with a box of fire in the back of a pickup truck and gas dripping, leaking, or spraying from a damaged vehicle...
  2. If you just want the log, the task is much easier. Put a metal job-box (as tightly-closing as possible) in the back of your pickup, shovel a few inches of sand in the bottom, and then when you can't resist that smoldering log, you throw it in the box, bury it thoroughly with more sand, close up the job-box, and off you go. The combination of sand and closed metal box should smother the fire quite effectively. A fiberglass fire-blanket soaked in water or fire-retardant gel wrapped around the log on its way into the box could serve as extra assurance too, even if there isn't enough water available to douse and soak the log.

Oh, and also, I don't know where you live, but I wouldn't be surprised if many jurisdictions have laws against carrying a fire around in a moving vehicle. All in all, there's no circumstance in which transporting a burning log in a car or truck is genuinely safe or advisable, though there's lots you can do to mitigate the risk if you're really determined.

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