Letter: California’s December Wildfires

Hello Hugh,

As I write this, the Thomas Fire is still ravaging Ventura County, California. Three lessons need to be taken away:

  • Gather your own intel,
  • Be ready to go if it gets close, even if the threat seems remote; and,
  • Live miles away from brushy or forested areas at risk of fire.
  • This gives people more time to evacuate with more of their possessions, or at least have better comfort about the fire. The more information that is available allows people to make better decisions in real time, rather than wait until the water is so high they need to crawl on the roof.

    I believe that many more members of the public could have been informed and evacuated their homes with more than the clothes on their backs if the fire fighters communicated early concerns about the foothills of Ventura being threatened hours before it happened. It’s not … Continue reading

    Letter: Observations on the Fires in Canada


    I wanted to comment on the article about the folks fleeing the wildfires in Fort McMurray, Canada. I saw some classic SurvivalBlog themes in there:

  • Keep your gas tanks full. The gas station owner noted that people were “fighting each other to get gas, growing more and more desperate as the afternoon wore on.”
  • Keep your gas tanks full, (yes I’m repeating myself). Later on the writer notes people were abandoning their cars on the highway since they knew they wouldn’t have enough fuel to make it to their destination.
  • Don’t be a refugee. The folks that went to the camps not only were now at the whim of the government, but the same government that sent them there now had to try and get them out of there since it was no longer safe.
  • Keep your head about you and use common sense. The writer … Continue reading

  • Surviving the 2015 Fire of Lake County California- Part 2, by B.G.

    Looters- Lessons Learned

  • You don’t need to be an expert killer to deter an attacker. The people who loot an evacuated area are generally cowardly. You need only appear more of a threat than the average person.
  • Buy a gun, learn to use it, but don’t obsess. The survivalist fantasy of defending your home against squads of organized killers is just that– fantasy. What is more realistic is that you will stumble into the opportunist that thinks “mandatory evacuation” means “no one is at home”.
  • Encounters can happen any time. If you are staying, start carrying a gun shortly after mandatory evacuations are called. Stay out of sight and in an area were it is unlikely for anyone to sneak up on you. Getting the drop on an intruder is 99% of the game.
  • Dogs or geese are very useful. The food and water you need to keep them alive … Continue reading

  • Surviving the 2015 Fire of Lake County California- Part 1, by B.G.

    This is a true story of a thirty-something survivalist/engineer and his family as well as some lessons learned in the second most destructive fire in California history.

    I had seen other large fires in Lake County over the years, and they would arrive in apocalyptic fashion, as the up swelling of a mushroom cloud. This one started no differently on a windy afternoon as I was pulling pork chops off of the grill. At about one o’clock in the afternoon, the wall of black smoke that erupted to our south immediately flattened out due to the wind. It formed an anvil shape with its horns stabbing like a dagger at the hamlet of Middletown. We immediately got out the portable scanner that I had bought in response to two other large fires that had recently missed our home. The day suddenly became night, and the roosters crowed. The underbelly of … Continue reading

    Wilderness Fire: An Unexpected Retreat From Our Retreat, by L.F.P.

    We have a boat-in only glamorous camping (“glamping”) retreat on a large lake in the West on the very edge of Wilderness-designated public forest land. The nearest road is more than three miles away. We were there in early August on summer vacation from the city. Several small lightning-caused wilderness fires had been burning for more than a month during the ongoing drought conditions. These fires flared up in very rugged terrain due to a rare severe August windstorm with gusts above 60 mph. The smoke had started to get noticeable on the lake and light ash was raining down from the fires which were over fifteen miles away and on the other side of the lake. Firefighters were quickly overwhelmed by the wind-driven flames with dry conditions and retreated. Containment of the fires was suddenly near 0%. Air assets were deployed mostly elsewhere in the state and region. These … Continue reading

    Letter Re: Lessons Learned

    This article is not be representative of many insurance policies. I am a insurance agent. First, I am sorry they had to go through such a horrible tragedy. People need to remember insurance policies vary from state to state and policy to policy. For the policies that I manage, these are the issues that are different:

    • First auto policies are not replacement cost. They are blue book value (aka NADA), less your deductible. You could very well end up upside down, meaning you could still be paying payments on a destroyed vehicle, where you owe more than it’s worth.
    • The bank usually doesn’t force you to rebuild the home. They just want their “interest of the home” paid back.
    • Some insurance policies do cover trees and shrubs up to $250, depending on the company and type of homeowners policy.
    • You can also insure your … Continue reading

    Letter Re: Fire Suppression


    I’ve been thinking more and more about possible fire suppression methods (a.k.a. “Fire Traps”) for SHTF, and I was wondering if you ever considered pre-staging fire-retardant materials in high-risk areas. This is just a theory, but have you considered hanging or placing materials that would dispense fire retardant if an actual fire broke out? This could be something like a bag or bucket hanging in a tree, so when the fire hits it, it melts the bag and dispenses the material. I realize in SHTF scenarios, you neither have the resources to fight a huge forest fire nor even have the expensive equipment (breathing gear, fire suits, et cetera) to combat a fire. Also, finite resources (like water) would probably be:

    • Not sufficient enough to do any significant damage to a fire,
    • Only localized to one area (the direction of the water being dispensed), and
    • A danger to … Continue reading

    Home Fire Prevention and Firefighting , by P.T.H.

    Her name was Dawn. The fire that took her life started in the living room directly below her bedroom and spread quickly. It followed her father up the stairs as he tried to rescue her, setting his clothes on fire as he went. He grabbed the doorknob to Dawn’s room. It was red hot. There was no longer life on the other side of that door. It was 0045, New Year’s Day, 1976. Things like this are never forgotten. The wounds never heal. Dealing with the loss of a loved one this way is horrible in itself. Having it happen during a TEOTWAWKI situation may very well break you and your group. If these words save one person, I’ll put it down as an answered prayer, no matter what.

    First, the disclaimer: I’m not a firefighter. I did, however, spend twenty-one years in the military; several … Continue reading

    Letter Re: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure for TEOTWAWKI

    K.M. in Ohio’s post “Ounce of Prevention…” warns that “If the needles are 1 per hole, that’s NOT Pine” is not true. The warning about Fir needles being toxic is valid, but there are one needle pines. The state tree of Nevada is the Single Leaf Pinyon, Pinus monophylla. It is found almost exclusively in The Great Basin with two subspecies in California and Arizona. Besides the needles being a source of vitamin C as with other pines, it produces nutritious and delicious pine nuts. (It also makes the perfectly shaped Christmas tree!) – David in Carson City, Nevada

    Orange Jeep Dad’s House Fire Tragedy: How You Can Help

    Many SurvivalBlog readers are familiar with the Orange Jeep Dad (OJD) blog. It is a great blog written by an X-ray technician prepper with a wife and six daughters. For more than two years, he’s been earnestly striving to live self-sufficiently. Two days ago, he posted about the tragedy of his house burning down. And today, he posted a follow-up. As I mentioned before, I doubt that his renter’s insurance will cover all of their losses, especially for things like storage food and ammo.

    In a recent e-mail, OJD mentioned these details:

    “For now, I for sure lost my Glock 27 and old double barrel side-by-side hammerless. Hadn’t verified the age yet. It was not one of the $1,000 type. More like $250. My thousands of rounds of ammo in every caliber is gone.

    My wife’s .38 Special revolver survived in our safe as did our certificates … Continue reading

    Second Chances, by Dirt Surgeon

    Introductory Note: I originally composed this story in August of 2011 just months after our family went through a devastating event.  At the time of writing the essay was short, sweet and to the point.  I have reconstructed my family’s journey of the past 24 months to the present.

    Thanks for all that you and others do by sharing information, educating and inspiring the thought process. It is my hope that this short family history will provoke some to think about their lifestyle, what is important and the effect an event like this has on a family.

    Four years ago my wife and I purchased fifty acres that join our families’ three hundred and fifty acre farm, built a new home and a seven acre lake (we built both the house and lake ourselves, our labor our time).  We sold a business that we built at a … Continue reading

    Letter Re: Lessons Learned from the Black Forest, Colorado Fire

    Dear JWR;
    There is nothing like a real emergency to get you checked out in a quick way for your evacuation plan. During the Black Forest Fire, which began on June 11, 2013, at least 511 homeowners completely lost their homes, many more were damaged and are uninhabitable, two people and countless animals perished in the fire. Our family and business were in the direct path of the fire, but a major wind shift the first night, along with hard-working first responders saved us.

    Sitting at the office ready for our afternoon of work, a friend walked in and sid, “did you see the fire?” Expecting a wispy white trail of smoke when I peered out the window, I was immediately floored when what I saw was a GIANT plume of black smoke heading our way.

    LESSON ONE – Take Action. My husband and I took 30 seconds to … Continue reading

    Letter Re: Preparedness for Hazardous Chemical Spills

    Dear Sir,
    I work as an firefighter/EMT and Hazardous Materials Tech in the Greater Louisville, Kentucky region. I would like to provide your readership with two examples of ‘stabilized’ emergencies going wrong in the last year in the Louisville area alone. Both could have been catastrophic had it not been for quick thinking and pure dumb luck.

    The first incident began in late October of last year when 11 cars of a 57-car Paducah and Louisville line (a CSX owned company) derailed in the southwest corner of Jefferson County, very near Fort Knox. The cars that derailed were carrying Butadiene and Hydrogen Fluoride. Understand that Hydrogen Fluoride is a very powerful asphyxiant and as an added bonus is heavier than air so it doesn’t easily disperse into the atmosphere. The incident was stabilized and just about to leave the front of the news when three days later, … Continue reading

    Letter Re: Post-TEOTWAWKI Welding

    James Wesley;
    I’m worried about keeping farm machinery operating, in a long-term TEOTWAWKI whammy. Some of my equipment is horse-drawn and a full century old. God forbid we go through a multi-generational scenario like you’ve talked about. How will we repair broken metal, or cast metal, or join metal (‘cept drilling and nuts and bolts)? Obviously arc welding is out, unless someone has a huge solar battery bank, and I’m not at that Pay Grade. (I live almost paycheck to paycheck, other than a seasonal bump when I sell hay each year.) And gas welding will be non-functional once the available welding gas supplies run out. I also saw the SurvivalBlog piece on the giant fresnel lens solar oven (for aluminum casting) but beyond that I’m stumped. What am I missing? Thanks for your time, – Rod C.

    JWR Replies: Missing? In a word: Continue reading

    Traditional Skills: What Value are You to Other Preppers?, by Blacksmith Tom

    Prepper communities and compounds rely on each members worth to their group, cooking, sewing, carpentry, leatherwork, gardening. There is one skill that cannot be over looked as one of the most valuable skills/trade for a prepper to possess.  Blacksmithing.  All other crafts and trades will require once again the skills of a blacksmith to replace stolen, broken tools.  In addition to making these tools a blacksmith can also make weapons, swords, axes, daggers, spears, arrow heads. 

    But how would one go about obtaining these skills?  Look in your local areas for classes offered, some community colleges are now offering blacksmithing courses. Look for a local blacksmith group, a living museum that has a working blacksmith shop can help locate a blacksmith that’s willing to teach the basics. After taking the lessons or classes, it’s just a matter of practice before you’re looking for more complicated projects. A blacksmith with … Continue reading