Fire Fight, by J.M.

Are you ready for a fire fight? One of the most discussed topics in the “preppersphere” is how to start fires. There are tons of articles, blogs, books, and products geared towards helping you start fires in wilderness or TEOTWAWKI scenarios. However, there’s one aspect of fires that tends to be overlooked—how to put them out when you don’t want them. Every year in the U.S., fires cause thousands of deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, and billions of dollars in damage. And that’s with fully functional fire departments in almost every city, town, and county.

Imagine how much worse the situation will be once fire departments are no longer able to respond and careless angry mobs are running around starting fires to keep warm, cook food, or just enjoy the pretty flames. Most of you reading this are probably at least partially prepared for the loss of healthcare, law enforcement, water, and food services. But how prepared are you to protect your family, supplies, and property from fires?

An Ounce of Prevention

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So let’s look at some simple steps that can be taken to prevent fires from impacting you, or at least minimize their impact. In a post-TEOTWAWKI world, we’ll probably be using fire a lot more. We’ll use it for everything from cooking to heating to providing light. The first step to containing your fires is to control the fuel they have available, and that means making sure they only burn what you want them to burn. Keep your property clean and clear, both inside and out. Get rid of flammable trash, brush piles, oil-soaked rags, and anything else that can easily catch fire.

If you’re starting a fire for any purpose, make sure there’s nothing close by that can catch a spark or ember and start burning. Keep the area around your house clear of trees, bushes, and brush out to at least 100’. (This also gives you clear shooting lanes.) Also, regularly trim back grass and weeds. (Get a scythe or push lawnmower.) And, probably most importantly, make sure everyone is regularly aware of and trained on good fire handling practices. This is includes children, who seem to find fire fascinating! If you’re building a house or other structure, look at using materials like concrete or stone, metal structural members, fire-rated drywall, and fire-resistant paint, like FireGuard E-84.

Disperse Assets

You should also understand that there’s no way to guarantee that there will never be a fire. So, disperse your assets so that one fire can’t wipe everything out. Put up multiple sheds, outbuildings, caches, root cellars, et cetera around your property, and disperse enough supplies into each to ensure you can restart your life, if one of them burns down.

Preventing Smoke Inhalation

Once you’ve accepted that there’s a good chance of a fire happening despite your best efforts, how do you handle it? One of the leading causes of death in fires is smoke inhalation. Usually smoke inhalation could have been avoided if the residents had enough warning and/or a good escape capability. Start with the warning. Take a look at your smoke detectors. They’re most likely either hardwired into your electrical system, which probably won’t be working post-TEOTWAWKI, or they use 9V batteries, which will probably be hard to find. Consider picking up a stash of detectors that operate on easily recharged AA batteries, like the First Alert SA320. Pick up some for all of the buildings on your property, as well as some spares, since they have a limited functioning lifetime. Obviously you need to make sure you have the capability to recharge the AA batteries.

Escaping a Fire

Once you can detect a fire, make sure everyone is trained on an escape plan, and drill on it regularly. You can increase everyone’s chances of surviving by stocking up and training with emergency escape supplies, such as breathing masks (Technon Breath of Life, FireMask, ReadiMask, et cetera), flashlights, whistles, and fire escape ladders (for multi-story buildings) or just put up a zip-line. Be honest. When was the last time you held a family fire drill?

Types of Fire

Preventing and escaping fires is a good start. But sometimes you’ll also want to be able to put out smaller fires before they get out of control. Before getting into this, you need to understand that there are different types of fires (depending on the fuel source), and different ways of putting them out:

  • Class-A – Fires in ordinary combustibles, such as wood, paper, cloth, trash, and plastics.
  • Class-B – Fires in flammable liquids, such as gasoline, petroleum oil and paint (also includes flammable gases such as propane and butane, but not grease or cooking oil).
  • Class-C – Fires involving energized electrical equipment.
  • Class-D – Fires in combustible metals, such as potassium, sodium, aluminum, and magnesium.
  • Class-K – Fires in cooking oils and greases, such as animals and vegetable fats.

In a post-TEOTWAWKI world, the most common type of fires will most likely be Class A, followed by Class B & K, so that’s what I’ll focus on here.

Fire Extinguisher Resources

Most of us (hopefully) have at least one store-bought fire extinguisher at home. The inexpensive fire extinguishers you can buy at big-box stores are okay. They’re typically single-use and have a limited functional lifetime. (The pressure inside falls over time.) This may be fine, if you’re 100% certain you’ll only ever have to worry about one fire in the first few years post-TEOTWAWKI. However, if you’re reading this, you’re probably the type of person that prefers longer-term sustainable capabilities, so let’s look at a few:

  • Buckets of sand – Sand puts out fire by cutting off its supply of oxygen. Buy some buckets, paint them red, stencil ‘FIRE’ on them and place them around your house and property. Sand has been used to extinguish fires for thousands of years. It can be used on many types of fires.
  • Fire blankets – Fire blankets can be used to smother small fires. Make sure you get fire-rated blankets, which are fireproof!
  • Baking soda – Baking soda releases CO2 when it’s heated, thereby smothering the fire of oxygen. It’s best on small grease fires. You can store some air-tight bags of it in strategic locations, and it has many other great uses.
  • Monoammonium Phosphate – This is actually the dry chemical that’s inside many of the small ABC fire extinguishers you buy at the store. It works by coating the fuel and preventing it from burning. Keep some airtight containers of monoammonium phosphate in strategic locations. As an added benefit, you can also use it in your garden as a fertilizer.
  • Water – One of the most common methods of putting out fires. There are many ways to use it.

Water-based Pumps and Pressurized Extinguishers

Most of the fires you’ll encounter will be Class A (e.g. paper/wood/et cetera). It’s worth paying some extra attention to how you can implement and sustain at least a minimal water-based firefighting capability. If you’re old enough, you probably remember those old manual-pump fire extinguishers that used to be everywhere. Well, they’re still available, but they’re not cheap. Companies like Miller Peerless still make them, but they cost several hundred dollars.

If you’re lucky you can still find them for a decent price at yard sales or flea markets. A more modern alternative would be some of the gear from companies, like Smith Indian/Fedco, which is designed for smoke-eaters fighting brush fires, and it’s usually meant to be carried on your back. A more traditional option would be something like the Amerex 240, which is a pressurized extinguisher that can be re-filled with water and re-pressurized with air using an appropriate fitting and a decent bike tire floor pump (minimum of 100 psi).

Large Scale Capabilities

If you’re part of a compound or group, or you would just like a larger-scale capability, you have a couple of options. One is to have a large water tank stored above the ground and then rely on gravity to provide the water pressure. This could work, but you’re going to be limited in both the water pressure as well as the amount of water available. If you’re near a decent water supply, like a pond, lake, river, et cetera, you can get a gas- or diesel-powered high-pressure water pump, which will cost somewhere between $700 and $5000. Don’t forget to set up some long-term gas/diesel storage, and to run and test the pump regularly. It’s an expensive investment. Isn’t protecting your property and possessions from fire worth the cost of at least a high-end battle rifle?

Other Options

There are a lot more options available for putting out fires, such as the Auto Fire Out Fireball. I have a bunch of these around my basement, home fire sprinkler systems, et cetera.

Do Your Own Research

My goal here wasn’t to make anyone an expert fire fighter or to provide a comprehensive list of every option available but to get you thinking of how you will handle fire safety issues in a post-TEOTWAWKI world. I’d highly recommend spending some time learning about fires and what you can and should/should not do.

Do some research on the web (,, et cetera.). Visit your local fire department. Many of them offer free training courses and other resources.

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been another entry for Round 71 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

First Prize:

  1. A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
  2. A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
  3. A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses, excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
  4. DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper. These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
  5. An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
  6. Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
  7. A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
  8. Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of (a $180 value).

Second Prize:

  1. A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
  2. A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4 Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
  3. A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
  4. A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
  5. A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
  6. A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by,
  7. A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
  8. RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
  9. American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.

Third Prize:

  1. A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
  2. A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
  3. A large handmade clothes drying rack, a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
  4. Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
  5. Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
  6. Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
  7. Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
  8. Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from (a $240 value), and

Round 71 ends on July 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. A few things: first, RE: the 100 ft “clear zone” around the dwelling. During construction, when the equipment is on site and it’s easier to do, install a sprinkler (lawn irrigation) system using gear-driven, pop-up rotary sprinklers. There are models that, with adequate pressure and volume of water, can reach 50 feet to keep grass too wet to burn (needless to say, when wildfires are in the area, Step One is “mow real short” and discharge cuttings away from the structure; if your mower will windrow, mowing a circular pattern around the structure will keep throwing cutings farther away).

    You may not use the lawn irrigation system for actual lawn watering, but placing heads adjacent to the structure and aiming them out will give you one more tool to prevent structure damage. (Metal roofs are an extremely good idea, too). Watch out for embers that hit the roof, slide down and get captured by gutters.

    Next, an indoor sprinkler – fire suppression – system. Connected to a 250 gallon pressure tank, or 250 gallon tank with a pump that has a battery backup, can save a house. Fire sprinklers are property protection devices, and they’ll trigger automatically (usually at 130-140 degrees F) to extinguish fires. Is 250 gallons enough? Usually, since residental sprinklers flow at 20-25 gallons per minute per sprinkler head, that’s 10 minutes of fire-dousing water. Since sprinklers will trigger early in a fire, 10 minutes is usually enough to put out a fire when it’s caught early, and 250 gallons limits the amount of water damage to the structure. However, since sometimes more than one sprinkler head may trigger at once, having more than 250 gallons on tap couldn’t hurt.

    Again, installation during construction is much, much cheaper than retrofitting, and newer building codes may allow – in some areas – using plastic pipes, keeping cost low, plus that water tank in the basement also can be a source of emergency water. Just make sure it’s refilled quickly after emergency use because your fire suppression system depends on it.

  2. Nice article JM on one of the less “sexy” but vitally important parts of preparedness. For community or large property use after TEOTWAWKI, old fire apparatus can be found online for sale. I know a couple large acreage owners that have them not only as neat vintage vehicles but also as their first line of defense against fire on their property.

  3. 29 years professional FF. In our water cans and pressurized water extinguishers we would ad a little AFFF, or one of the newer wetting agents. These agents cut the surface tension of water and substantially increase the waters performance. We actually started using it on our pumpers you could flick a switch and our 900 gallon tank would become what we called wet water, or depending on the mix, foam. I don’t know if the stuff is commercially available, but if you stop at your local fire station they usually have empty five gallon pails of the stuff. The Venturi tube can’t pick it all up so there will be about a cup of product left in the jug; more than enough for our purposes in an extinguisher. Dish soap may also work in a pinch as it is also a surfactant. Hope this helps.

  4. Thanks for an excellent article. The subject of a catastrophic fire event is rarely brought up in prepping. I admit this was a blind spot in my own planning, although I do have 4 or 5 fire extinguishers around the house and shop. I particularly like the idea of smoke detectors with AA batteries, and fire blankets strategically placed. I am thankful you provided this information, along with links for products that can fill the gaps.

  5. The need for Fire Self-defense maybe closer than a Post-Apocalyptic Event. I have been a Volunteer Firefighter for over 17 years and we see in many rural areas the lack of volunteers requires more support from neighboring communities. This means more travel time, which now the fire is much bigger by the time neighboring departments get there. Fuel loads are different today, our plastic laden homes burn hotter and much more toxic.
    So get some training on fire extinguishers and wild-land fire defensive measures, just buying stuff will do you no good if you don’t know how to use it and use it properly.
    And learn about your Fire Department, ask for a tour.

  6. Redoubter here. Wildfires are a real threat. The 100 ft.setback from potential fuel and dispersion of assets are very sound advice!

    As an aside, we formed a local AmRRON ham radio group a couple of years ago. Two wildfires have taken off close to us and we heard about both of them immediately via the ham net. One member had to evacuate and fellow hams immediately showed up to help him.

  7. With the massive Detwiler fire ongoing near Central California. What many livestock owners are doing is painting their address on the animals and letting them go in hopes that the animal’s instincts will allow it to escape the fire and be found and returned. This fire has exceeded 70,000 acres, please pray for the resident of the area. I have family in the area and they received evacuation notices several days ago and are finally being allowed to return.

    1. In response to wildfires, they have become very common all over the Rocky Mountain West due to the 100’s of thousands of acres of dead timber caused by the Pine Bark Beetles. So when they say “make sure your campfire is dead out” please do. And to my shame I must admit that a few years back I built a lean-to in the mountains and then built a fire ring and a small fire, it was in the winter and there was patches of snow all around so when I left I put the fire out or so I thought, and about 10 days later I returned to the spot and to my disbelief there was a patch of burnt ground about 8 or 10 square feet and it was still smoldering in the old pine duff on the ground and some roots of a dead tree, fortunately it was winter and not in the dry season or it could have been a disaster. So dose that camp fire and scatter the ashes and then double check. Trekker Out

  8. What’s Inside? (2016, Oct. 22). What’s inside EXPLODING Fire Extinguisher Balls? [YouTube Video].
    Retrieved from

    “What in the world are these fire extinguisher balls and do they work??? We almost blow up trying to find out!! CRAZY!!!”

    Danger, Don’t try this at home…

    Very informative, but very unsafe testing…

    1. I’m not a farmer, and I don’t have any livestock, so I don’t have any experience in this area. Maybe some of the other readers could help out?

  9. I keep a shovel, a metal bucket and a pressurized water extinguisher all summer long in my truck here in eastern WA; I’ve used it more than once. A shovel and dirt work very well. Wait long enough, though and it is too late. Do not die in a wildfire; fall back and regroup.

    1. If it has a plastic top/nozzle you probably can’t get it refilled – just point it someplace safe, empty it out, unscrew the top, put it in your metal recycling bin and buy a new one (with a metal top this time 8-)). If it has a metal top/nozzle, check your local area for fire protection companies – many of them can inspect & refill them.

    1. There’s a product called FireGuard® E-84 (see link in the article above) that you can paint on pretty much any building material. When fire come in contact with it the dried paint expands and forms a char layer that thermally insulates the underlying material. It won’t make something completely fireproof, but it can greatly slow down the spread of a fire and allow you to either put the fire out (if you can safely) or exit the building. It’s not cheap, though – $400 or so for a 5 gallon bucket.

  10. Former volunteer firefighter here. I second the recommendation of pressurized water extinguishers, because they can be recharged and reused indefinitely with only a good hand tire pump. Many talk about how much more dangerous home fires are now because of toxic fumes form plastics. You can take measures to minimize the toxic components in your house. The best advice I will offer is to JOIN your local volunteer fire company. In addition to doing your own civic duty in the defense of your neighbors, you will tap into a network of capable folks who care about their community..What better preparedness is there than that? Also, you will get TRAINING, and familiarity with putting out fires. It’s not rocket science, but knowing what to do makes the difference between being able to put out a pretty big fire with a little water, and wasting a lot of water while failing to put out a small one.

  11. Thanks for the article on fire protection. I am more afraid of fire than I am of a tornado or other disaster. While my location rarely has wild fires,I do live in the country where there are no hydrants and the closest fire department is 20-25 minutes away.

    I have smoke alarms plus CO2 alarms plus a dozen “household” size fire extinguishers in and around the house, garage, vehicles, barns and out-buildings. Thanks to your article I will be adding containers of baking soda around the kitchen stove and fireplace.

    The next time I’m in town I’ll stop by the nearest fire house with some beef jerky and cookies.

  12. The book “Off Grid and Free” is by Ron Melchiore who lives w/ his wife in an extremely rural area in Northern Alberta, Canada. He say forest fires scare him more than anything else & devotes a long chapter to them in his book. He even posted a system of water sprinklers (up on posts) in the clearing around their home. Their last resort was to get into the boat & put into the middle of their small lake.

    1. My preffered extingishers are the compressed nitrogen or CO2,they work by depriving the fire of 2 of its needs;oxygen and heat. Plus it leaves no mess like the chemical ones(try to clean up that stuff)

  13. +1 on having baking soda in the kitchen. My daughter now knows why there is a large box of it on the counter by the stove..

    I came home from work one day to a house full of smoke. She was cooking something and the grease caught fire in the oven. So she is standing there watching it burn and tells me she was just about to go outside and let it burn…yeah really. I tossed some baking soda on it and it went out immediately.

    In a way I am glad she got her own place so she won’t burn down mine. Better though, teach your kids about fire safety, and how to deal with them.

  14. has a variety of fire systems including foam, gel, pumps, hoses, nozzles in different sizes and price ranges. I can’t believe people who live in areas of fire danger aren’t aware and prepared for it

  15. Volunteer FF here, when using a water extinguisher, if you add 3 or 4 tablespoons of dawn dish soap, it gives you a poor man’s foam. It works by cutting the surface tension of the water, making it penetrate much better than plain water. You’ll put out more fire with less water. Just add it to the water after you fill it up and pressurize. Doesn’t need to be shaken or anything like that.

Comments are closed.