A sizable percentage of the readership of this blog are people that either know me personally or from other forums. If you fall into one of these categories, chances are you have heard me weigh in (likely more than once) on my opinion on eternally-maintained Fire Hatches.
For those unaware, a Fire Hatch is a small, low flame kept in a small cavity in out of the wind. The intent is that there will always be fire readily available when needed, without having to use a flint or a match or a lighter.
That's all well and good, but for years I have been a pretty outspoken critic of the Fire Hatch philosophy. Unless someone is going to continually maintain it, I have always maintained that this sort of operation is just more trouble than it's worth. It takes more effort, more supplies (wasted kindling!) and more attention than benefit. If a group has a man that can constantly maintain it, sure, I always said, I guess that's ok, although it seems like wasted effort for someone who could otherwise be out foraging or earning.
And don't get me started on the alternative--those of you who maintain a Fire Hatch on your own, without constant maintenance throughout the day (and night), you forever run the risk of having it die, having it be stolen, or--heaven forbid--burning down a city block or two. It's happened!
But! The Steam Men I am currently housing with have a dedicated Fire Hatch, and I must admit it is damn nice to have around. Not only does it keep the area nice and warm, but it saves the annoyance of having to rustle up kindling when you're hungry, not to mention trying to start a fire in wet conditions. Our Fire Hatch even constantly boils a pot of water, and I can't tell you how beautiful it is to have constant, easy access to hot water through the night and into the morning. Coffee, anyone?
It does come at a price, as all Fire Hatches will, and I'm not saying I have completely reverted on my opinion in all respects. It still seems silly to me to maintain a Fire Hatch by yourself or in a small group. But there are 9 of us here in the old abandoned industrial complex, and each day one stays behind. Not exclusively for the Fire Hatch, but to do basic homemaker type duties which includes stoking the Fire Hatch and collecting kindling.
I know I'm going to get a lot of "told you so!" e-mail messages, and that's fine. I'll admit it, having a Fire Hatch handy is a luxory that will be difficult to ever break myself of--it's wonderful to have around. But just be careful before you create one, and know that it certainly helps if it can be shared communally.