A bonfire is the quintessential centerpiece to any outdoor party or camping excursion, and knowing the right techniques to build one will save you a lot of smoky frustration. When making a backyard bonfire, check with the local fire department to see if you need a burn permit. Otherwise, you could be fined hundreds of dollars.
Create a large and safe fire pit to contain your bonfire. First make sure you are far enough away from any overhanging trees, buildings or your camping gear. Then use rocks to make a fire ring at least 4 to 5 feet in diameter, and dig the pit down about 12 to 18 inches.
Lay two logs parallel to each other in the center of the pit, leaving about 1 foot of space between them. Use logs approximately 12 to 18 inches in length.
Place a large pile of tinder (wood chips, bark or lots of balled-up newspaper) in between the two logs. This will act as your fire starter, so make sure you have enough to create a large flame that will light the kindling.
Gather a bundle of dry kindling (small sticks about the thickness of pencils) and place it on top of the tinder leaning at an angle against one of the logs. Then lean two more bundles of kindling across the first bundle, but make sure to leave enough room for you to reach an arm in to light the tinder.
Lay two more logs on top of the pile perpendicular to the original logs. Fill the gap in between the new logs with larger pieces of kindling, and repeat this process until you have a stack of wood about knee high.
Surround your stack of wood with long pieces of vertically leaning kindling. Then make a tepee with three or four long logs around the structure, and surround it with even longer pieces of thick kindling. Make sure to leave yourself a door to reach in to light the tinder.
Reach in and light the tinder, making sure not to bump the structure. Lightly blow on the tinder to fuel the flame if it doesn't start up right away. Within a few minutes you'll be breaking out the marshmallows and standing next to your very own bonfire.