Top Down Fire

The top down fire or self-feeding fire is a fire building technique that’s completely different from building a conventional fire.

Typically, when building a fire, you start out with a hand full of crumpled up newspaper and place it under small pieces of kindling. Then you add larger pieces of wood on top of the kindling followed by even larger pieces of wood. While this method works quite well, there’s a better and even more efficient way to build a fire. The problem with the “conventional way” of building a fire is the amount time it takes before the fire really takes off.

During this slow, smoldering process, smoke and unburnt gases enter your cold chimney and come back into the room and where they can potentially adhere to the chimney walls causing creosote.

Now to try something new

To create a hot burning fire right from the beginning you must think outside the box and create a fire that’s built in reverse!

Building A Self Feeding Fire

Although the top down fire seems completely backwards at first, once you try one, it will quickly become your favorite choice. It works great in fireplaces, wood stoves and even campfires.

The setup process takes a little longer than the conventional fire, but it will burn longer without constantly adding more logs to it. You can pretty much light the fire and just let it burn.

The fire will also burn hotter and cleaner right from the start. When you try this method watch how much smoke the fire produces. You’ll be surprised how little smoke you see and just how clean this fire burns!

The most important part of this whole process is to use dry, seasoned firewood under 20%. The fire works by having the embers from the top layer fall into the layer of wood below it. If the wood is wet, it won’t catch on fire, it will just smolder and won’t give out much heat which will make you frustrated.

cold fireplace

Start by placing a row of large logs along the bottom of your fireplace or wood stove. These will be the largest logs you use. About 100mm max split logs. Follow this by placing small kindling about 10mm the same way as your logs jenga style.

These rows should consist of kindling which is about 5 to 30mm. Finally, place 2/3 fire lighters on top and then light them. You can choose to use any long, small pieces of kindling as shown in picture as long as they are dry and light easily to create a hot flame.

step 2

To light the fire, simply light the fire lighters which in turn will ignite the small pieces of kindling. I use about 10 to 20 bits of kindling 2 across then 2 the other way and so on in a tower with top vent open and bottom vent open.

After a few minutes your fire should look like this. Notice how its burning very clean and hot? There no smoldering and the fire is not being smothered by any larger logs on top.

At this stage if room is still cold you will have to keep both vents open fully.

This picture shows how the fire has burnt through the top layers and it’s starting to ignite the layers below.


The vent at the top and the bottom should be fully open till most of the sticks are going good red hot When you get room up to temperature then close the bottom vent and use the top to control the heat.

  1. Big sticks last longer but don’t give a good heat
  2. Little sticks burn quicker but give you more heat
  3. The box of the fire needs to be used to its full potential. If the is 400mm x
    300mm, then you need fuel that is 400mm long or 300mm deep, whatever you want.
  4. Wet sticks over 20% moisture should never be used.


With a little practice, building a top down fire is really easy and they burn great. They’re clean burning, supply a lot of heat and they don’t require any maintenance once you light it.