Getting airflow into a smoldering fire is key to a meat-cooking, firelight-­cheering, lifesaving blaze. The problem: Sticking your face into the flames invites smoke-filled lungs and a disturbing lack of eyebrows, and still doesn’t deliver the right kind of breeze. Here are three ways to turn a sputtering pile of half-burned sticks into Dante’s inferno.

Paper Plate
It cools off little old ladies at church dinners, and it’ll get your fire going in a pinch. Grab a paper plate and start fanning. Make sure to get on ground level so the breeze doesn’t create a mushroom cloud of ash, and keep it up at medium speed.

Air-Mattress Pump
You won’t believe this trick until you see it. Hose down a meager coal with air from a battery-powered pump like those used to inflate air mattresses. Just remember to go easy—too much of a breeze will stifle a fire, not supercharge it.

Surgical Tubing Attach
3 feet of surgical tubing to a 5-inch length of copper tubing for a precision instrument that can turn a puff into a fire blast. Place the copper tube near the cinders, and blow gently for as long as you can. Just be careful not to inhale through the tube.

Photo by Nathaniel Welch