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.
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?
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 (http://www.femalifesafety.org/, http://www.nfpa.org/public-education/resources/safety-tip-sheets, 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:
- 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.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,195 value),
- 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,
- 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),
- An infrared sensor/imaging camouflage shelter from Snakebite Tactical in Eureka, Montana (A $350+ value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product from Sunflower Ammo,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- 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,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site, and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A custom made Sage Grouse model utility/field knife from custom knife-maker Jon Kelly Designs, of Eureka, Montana,
- 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,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners, donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections, a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances,
- Montie Gear is donating a Y-Shot Slingshot and a $125 Montie gear Gift certificate.,
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (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.