How to Build a Dakota Fire Hole

Considering that the Dakota fire hole is an obscure fire building tradition, I sure get asked about it quite often. People want to know if it really works, is it worth the trouble, and a whole host of other questions.

The Dakota fire hole is a Native American fireplace style that burns wood efficiently like a wood stove. It also provides a greater margin of fire safety by keeping coals and flames fairly contained when you must have an open fire in windy conditions.

By spending some extra effort on the front end to dig the fire hole, you can burn a hot fire with less wood. This can be a huge time and material saver in areas where wood is limited.

Here's how to make it.

Start off by selecting a place where you can dig into soft soil with few roots or rocks. Good drainage is important, too. You won't keep a fire going long if the hole fills with ground water. Begin by digging a hole that is one foot deep with a wider bottom than the opening. The bottom of the hole should be a little more than one foot across, and the hole opening at ground level should be a little less than a foot wide.

Now, dig a second hole upwind, going down about one foot deep and connecting to the first hole that you dug. This second hole acts as a wind tunnel, feeding fresh air into the bottom of the other hole, which will be used as the fire pit. The second hole can go straight down, and connect to the first hole in a U-shaped fashion. Or, the second hole can simply be a shaft dug at an angle to connect to the bottom of the fire pit hole.

If you have tried this technique out, or plan to, please share your ideas in the comments section below!