Three Letter Re: Fire Suppression and Firefighting at Retreats

A few hours after I wrote the most recent Weekly Survival Real Estate Market Update (Fri 12-14-07) I was awakened at 2 a.m. Friday morning with a page out to respond as a member of our local volunteer fire department to a fully involved structure fire with multiple occupants trapped. Like I stated in my update it takes us 15 to 30 minutes to arrive on scene as we respond from our homes to the station then on to the scene. As far as I can estimate there were emergency personnel on scene in about 14 minutes and we arrived at about 19 minutes from the initial page out, as the roads were icy and slippery. Obviously without going into details the outcome was devastating for the family, for us, and for the community as a whole. We have gone without a structure fire fatality for about 11 years according to local sources.

Remember, it’s not the actual flames that will kill you, it’s the poisonous smoke and fumes from the fire that will incapacitate you in seconds, stopping your escape and or rescue effort of your loved ones. I moved from a higher end subdivision in California where the city building code called for a water suppression system in every room with hard wired smoke alarms. Although I disagree with government mandates about building codes (none in our north Idaho county outside of city limits!) I did appreciate the system we had in that particular home. In closing, whether you’ll be building a retreat, buying a stock one or still living at your home in the perilous ‘burbs, spending the cash to install some kind of fire suppression system may seem nuts but the chance that you’ll be very thankful. Smoke detectors are worthless without a system to suppress the fire so that you can escape!

The bottom line is that having a fire suppression system in place, no matter the cost, would have saved one very precious child last night. Most of us concentrate on tactical gear, growing veggies and ammo purchases rather than taking the time to run the odds. Realistically speaking if you figure the odds of needing such a system versus needing your firearm in an actual defensive situation, I’d take my bets on the fire. – Todd Savage


I am on the local Volunteer Fire Department here in the communist state of New Jersey. Instead of posting things that will compromise your OPSEC outside of your home. Find out when your local fire department has drills and go down and talk to the Chief or one of his officers. Invite them over for a walk through. They will most likely do this just because they are good people (we also appreciate a case or two of beer). Show them where your water supply is (if you have one on your property). They most likely know where the water supply is on the roads (Hydrants, Stand-pipes, Drafting sites). Show them where to shut off your gas and electric, because if your house is burning they need to shut it off. If you have ammunition stored please explain to them that it is in a certain part of the house so if it’s on fire nobody gets injured from rounds cooking off. What I have outlined seems a lot better in my mind than ruining OPSEC by posting things like that outside of your home. – TD


Mr. Rawles,
Having been through a few fires, I have the following suggestions: A sign or placard near the driveway with instructions to the firefighters has some merit. If you have a NO TRESPASSING sign, it should read something like this: “Absolutely NO Trespassing except for Emergency Personnel, Delivery Personnel, and Invited Guests. Others by appointment only. Call 555-5555.” This implies that the house is occupied, which is a good thing, and it acknowledges the possible need for Firefighters or Paramedics. The phone number is important so they can call you if your house is burning. Your instructions to firefighters should include the location of every fuel tank, propane tank, or any other volatile substance. This is very important to them for their own safety as well as their strategy in fighting the fire. If you have a large cache of ammunition, it could be a problem in a fire. I’ve never known anyone to get “shot” by loose ammo in a fire, but I’ve seen some real meltdowns. The intense heat just makes a bad situation even worse. I would suggest that however you store your ammo, make sure it’s totally fireproof. – K.L. in Alaska

JWR Replies: The risk posed by stored ammunition during a house fire is often exaggerated by the sensationalistic mass media. It does indeed “cook off”, sounding like firecrackers. But when ammunition that is not contained by a firearm chamber, the bullets don’t go anywhere. It is the cartridge cases that move, not the heavier lead bullets. Typically the brass will fly no more that 10 feet, and at fairly low velocity.