I appreciate all the info. I agree that preperation is best. I was thinking about worst case scenario. My son camps with the Scouts. Let say he sets up camp and he (and presumably a buddy) wander away to explore some and get disoriented. Now they are lost. A great way to get found is a big plume of smoke. A fire would keep you warm and has some positive pyschological benefits as well. So if you had to start a fire with only what is in your pocket. He carries a knife and a lighter in his pocket.
I will work with him on finding the dry tinder with the many suggestions offered here.
As a parent there is a lot of comfort in knowing that your son knows what to do and how to take care of himself. As a scout leader you see that even well trained boys sometimes make bad decisions. Sometimes it takes a lot of going over things to get it though.
Being a scoutmaster, I would say first, get the kid a whistle. If he wanders off, he is much more likely to be found by blowing a whistle, then lighting a fire. But, it is still a skill he needs. I have noticed that scouts need a lot of training before they understand how to get a good fire going. Actually, the same applies to adults as well. Practice.
To add to that, it is important that he carry a lighter AND matches. He also needs to know how to properly use both. I let my scouts play with matches (with safety in mind, of course). They need to see the problems that matches have, and how to overcome them. The same with lighters.