How to build a simple survival signal fire

Paul Pinkerton

If you are ever lost, one of the best ways to get the attention of people for help is to make a signal fire. This survival DIY smoke signal should only be used and lit in an emergency situation or in a closed location because it might attract the fire department or people may mistake it as a forest fire.

Our friend over at CanadianMilitaryProjects takes us through the basics.

Burning natural materials such as wood and leaves will create white smoke, but if you want a black or dark grey smoke signal, use rubbers and plastics to create this.



. 3 Long sticks
. Small piece of paracord
. Lots of cedar or pine leaves (Any type of think leaves will work)
. Firewood
. Lighter (Only light the smoke signal if in an survival situation or in a closed location)


. Rubber (Creates black / dark grey smoke)
. Flammable material such as paper
Step 1: Building the main frame

Picture of Building the main frame


Once you have gathered the necessary materials, start by building the main frame which is a tripod out of the wooden sticks. If necessary tie the sticks together at the top to kept the structure firm.

Step 2: Adding the fire


After completion of the tripod, start on building a fire under the tripod, use firewood and other burnables to create it. The more fuel the fire has the better the smoke out put will be as well as how long it will burn.
Step 3: Covering the frame

Picture of Covering the frame





With the fire built under the middle of the tripod, it’s time to start covering the tripod with leaves. Using the branches with leaves, tie the larger branches with paracord to the tripod frame, then stick the other branches through the leaves and continue this until you cover the entire structure. Leave a small gap somewhere, so you can light the fire inside the tripod.

Step 4: Using the signal fire


Here you can see the gap I left, now all I have to do I light it and cover the gap. I could not test it because there were fire regulations in affect and as well because I didn’t want people thinking that there was a fire. Use this only if in a emergency situation, or a survival situation.
Step 5: Modifications and improvements

Some improvements and mods for this smoke signal would be:
. Using rubber since it makes it look human cause and is most likely to attract human attention
. Using super long sticks to create a bigger smoke signal frame and creating thicker layers of leaves to thicken the smoke
. Building a bigger fire underneath for more fuel


jack-beckett is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival