– You’ve either bugged out to your bug out location (BOL)
– You’ve bugged in
– You’ve bugged out to wilderness.
– You’re living at your retreat because “sumpthin bad dun happened sumwhere”.
After a couple of days, you’ve settled in, you’ve set whatever level of security you can establish, you’ve started adjusting to living the primitive life.
Suddenly you smell smoke.
If you’ve bugged in – the house/apartment next door is on fire. Or the vegetation up wind from you is on fire – grass, brush, woods, whatever.
If you’ve bugged out or living at your retreat- the vegetation up wind from you is on fire – grass, brush, woods, whatever.
Have you prepared for firefighting? Is your area fire defensible?
I’ve been a volunteer firefighter since the 4th grade. I’m 59 now. I have a two-year degree in Fire Protection and Safety. After the service I worked 8 years as a Fire Fighter/EMT on a rescue truck and have continued volunteering.
I’ve fought my share of wildfires. I’ve never fought a forest fire. Part of my degree included how to make your home fire safe and your land fire defensible.
I know that I don’t know it all. What I am suggesting you do below has proven to work.
For a bug-out or bug-in location, I’m a big fan of pressurized water extinguishers for most first aid Class A firefighting. You can fill them yourself and use a hand air pump to pressurize them. I also have what would be considered an “over abundance” of BC and ABC dry chemical extinguishers handy.
Here is a review of the classes of fires and the common agents/extinguishers used to fight them.
A – Ordinary combustibles – wood, fibers, plastics – can be easily extinguished by “putting the blue stuff on the red stuff” that is by applying an appropriate stream of water to the base of the fire or droplets of water into the superheated area/gasses above the fire. The latter causes the water droplets to flash to steam smothering the fire. The former cools the fuel below the point that it will burn. ABC extinguishers (generally monoammonium phosphate) can be used on Class A fires.
B – Flammable liquids/gases – gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas – Foam systems will smother the fire. Dry chemical extinguishers work by interfering chemically with the fire. BC (sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate (purple K) or ABC extinguishers can be used. Also foam and carbon dioxide extinguishers can be used.
C – Fires in electrical equipment – electric motors, stereos, DVD/CD players, computers – once the electricity is shut off then the fire can be fought as a class A fire. If you’re not sure about whether the electricity is off – attack it with a BC or ABC rated extinguisher.
There are two other types of fires using American standards, class D and class K.
Class D fires – combustible metal – titanium, magnesium, potassium, steel, uranium, lithium, etc. Requires special and sometimes specific extinguishing agents. Water reacts with such metals by being split into Hydrogen and Oxygen. When they recombine – you get explosions etc. Explosions around fires are not good things.
Class K fires – cooking oil or fat like deep fryers – You can use class ABC extinguishers on them. You do have to be careful about not blowing burning grease all over the place; same issue with most Class B foam extinguishers. There are also specific Class K extinguishers designed to fight cooking grease fires. As I understand them, the “specially-formulated, aqueous solution of organic salts” reacts with the hot grease to form grease saponified foam. I’ve never used them. I do know of one fire where a built in Ansul system was triggered and the Class K agent worked as it should. Cooled, extinguished the fire without any flare up etc.
1. Make you place defensible:
You have two main areas of concern here. The first being the roofs of your buildings and the second being type/distance of defensible space you have from your buildings to the natural environment.
The simplest, easiest way to take care of your roofs is to have metal roofs. If not then tile roofs or any other roof that will not burn. If not, then uses Class C or better rated building materials. Plumbing sprinklers on the roof has been done before. I’m don’t know if roof sprinklers will help reduce the cost of fire insurance. Generally non-combustible or at the very least Class C or better rated roofs do help with insurance. YMMV.
If you can – have your space/distance from your buildings to be further away than the tallest tree at your site. Having metal roofs doesn’t help much if a burning tree crashes down thru it.
You’ll have 2 to 4 areas of space defense. The closer to the house the fewer plants, bushes etc the better. Having a sidewalk around the house keeps the grasses and weeds from growing immediately against the house. And in the hot dry parts of summer, keeps them from being an ignition point adjacent the house.
As you get further away from your house/building you’ll need to keep the amount of burnable material down as in mowing the grass, cutting branches, getting rid of scrub woody bushes etc. Also you’ll need to be aware of where you place items such as your wood piles and gasoline/diesel/propane fuel storage tanks.
I realize that some of you may have planed blackberry bushes around your house as a “natural” barrier. That’s fine – keep them pruned and green. A big pile of brown [low moisture] bushes close to the house is a fire danger.
This page goes into much better detail as well as a better explanation of what to do concerning sloping land..
2. Active Defense:
Active defense is a somewhat new idea. I’ve heard great reports about how effective it is.
One site talks about a fire prevention gel you spray on your house to defend against an active wild fire bearing down on you. A wet gel on any combustible surface including side walls will keep embers, sparks, and radiant heat from being able to start a fire.
3. Inside the house. You should have at least one medium to large ABC extinguisher (at least a 4A rating – a 4A rating on an ABC extinguisher always has a 60+BC rating). I also have four pressurized water extinguishers I keep. I always take one or two with me when I car camp.
4. It does work. An example: 20 years ago, a friend of mine asked me how he could make his place less likely to burn down from grass fires.
He implemented my suggestions:
1. Clear out all brush for at least 100 feet from home fence line and all buildings.
2. Do controlled burns around the area to help keep grass fires from his house/outbuildings.
3. Permanently plumb in some lawn sprinklers (the impact type) . Make sure the sprinkler coverage will either do the ground around the house/outbuildings and/or the sides of the house/outbuildings around your home/buildings.
4. Spend the money to purchase a pump that and water storage system that will enable all of the sprinklers to run for 45 minutes and as many 3/4″ x 100′ garden hose stands as he will have. (Tips are the straight bore type with a shut off). A local volunteer fire department had just put a 750 gpm fire truck up for sale – he bought it and put it up on blocks, built a concrete tank that took overflow from an existing windmill supplied water tank, and plumbed them all in.
His home and outbuildings all had metal roofs. Most of his outbuildings are all metal. His big barn is 100 year old wood with a tin roof.
About five years ago a county in Texas had a wildfire that burned 30,000+ acres of land. (That’s slightly more than 48 square miles).
After that happened he called me and said what I had suggested kept his home and barn from burning down. The fire burned up to and around his home and outbuildings. He said he started the sprinklers when the fire was about 500 yards away. He and his wife and 2 sons manned the garden hose sections and used them to put out spot fires while his daughter ran the pump station. He said the water supply ran out about 10 minutes after the fire had burned past. He and his sustained no injuries and lost nothing in the home area to the fire.
As part of the discussion he told me that the fire truck he had bought had three (3) 150’ 1-½ inch pre-connects, two (2) 200’ ¾ inch booster lines, and about 1,000 feet of 1” forestry hose. He said he did some hard thinking/evaluation and then plumbed the equipment in at various locations. He said that the sprinklers did a very good job of keeping everything wet while they were able to hustle to the various hose stations to be able to fight the few spot fires. He did say that if someone had not been there to start the system up they probably would have lost the big barn and maybe the house. He said he had not kept the 100 foot boundary from each building like I had suggested and that allowed some of the fire to get as close as 15 feet to some buildings. He said that from then on, he was going to keep a 200’ line. He said based on what he saw that day – for his place – a 200’ fire line would keep the place safe if no one was home. I told him about the new fire gels and he said he’d look into them. I was out that way a year ago and stopped in. I could easily become used to being treated like a King.
Please understand, what I advised my friend to do worked like it did because he took time to carefully understand the exposures/risks and took appropriate action way ahead of time. You’ll have to do the same evaluations, planning, and actions as they apply to your situation.