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 Re: Fireproof Safes


    I did some consulting for a well-known gun safe manufacturer. They make a premium product, and their clients never suffered loss due to either break-in or fire damage. The only heat resistant insulation they used was common sheetrock. They used multiple layers with offset corners and edges, similar to the wall between living space and garage in a modern home. They did not tape or use any mud, just a snug fit. It seems reasonable that the heat resistance of an ordinary inexpensive safe could be enhanced by fabricating a welded enclosure insulated with sheetrock and inserting the safe inside this outer shell. Remember: most safes are not water resistant! If you have a raging house fire, your valuables may not get burned up, but they may be water damaged during firefighting. – +P+

    Guest Article: Lessons Learned From The Pioneer Fire 2016, by Tanker Jack

    This all happened within our first month into our relocation to the Redoubt. To start off correctly, we must give you a little background on our family. I was a retired Army tanker ( for 20 years), then in 2009 we started our next career as a government employee with Corp of Engineers and the Navy. Chasing promotions had us moving every two years, taking several jobs with the purpose of climbing the corporate ladder as fast as possible. Then the “come to Jesus” moment” that turned us into the preppers we are today happened. The Kentucky ice storm of 2007– a 8 to 10 inch ice storm– hit us outside of Louisville. This storm left over 50% of the state without power for two weeks in 5 degree weather. That event made me feel helpless as the provider of our family and woke me up as a Christian/man, and … 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 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

    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

    Loss Prevention for Your Long Term Retreat or Bug-In Location, by Manatee

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For the preparedness minded individual, this old cliche couldn’t be more important.

    In my primary profession in the insurance industry, I observe on a regular basis all sorts of damage that happens to people’s homes. Today, there are ample available supplies to repair damage, contractors to complete repairs, and insurance coverage to help cover the costs. Tomorrow, we may not be so lucky.

    This is where our “ounce of prevention” comes into play. Whether you are preparing to live through a short-term event, a natural disaster, a grid-down event, or a long term TEOTWAWKI event, you’ve likely put a significant amount of thought and resources towards the location at which you plan to weather the storm.

    Obviously, a catastrophic loss to your primary retreat or bug-in location after the event for which you’ve prepared would be … Continue reading

    Letter Re: A Dual Ring Village

    Mr Rawles, thank you for the service you provide.

    A comment on the dual ring village concept. If it is advanced as a defense tactic, I would urge remembering that the walled-town versus siegecraft dynamic is thousands of years old, and the survival of walled towns and cities is only possible if they are:

    1. Provisioned to last longer than the besieging force, which is of course free to forage and be resupplied
    2. Fireproof
    3. Relieved by a friendly force from outside.

    They are also utterly obsolete since the development of artillery bombardment, still more so since the airplane and missile. Sad but true.

    IMHO, safety today must rely on:

    1. Invisibility or insignificance to possible enemy
    2. Effective surveillance of a wide perimeter
    3. mobile defense force to engage potential enemy at a distance

    War is not only Hell, but quite … Continue reading

    Odds And Ends That You Won’t Want To Be Without, by Sonny Jim

    I believe in having all the “big” things, to prepare for the possible breakdown of civil society.   I have a large home outside of a small mid-west town, and expect 12 people to arrive to hunker down, if things do fall apart.  I need to be able to feed and supply of them, perhaps for years.

    So I have 1,200 gallons of Kerosene.  This is intended for heating the home for 3 winters, and I have 3 Kerosene heaters to do the job.  The Kerosene is stored in in 3 large 330 gallon plastic totes, half buried in my back yard, hidden by a wood pile, as well as four 55 gallon drums buried under my deck. I have a hand-crank pump to get fuel from either type of container.  I have treated it all with PRI-D, and I expect it to last for decades.  I have stored more PRI-D … Continue reading

    From David in Israel: Off Grid Alternatives to Utility-Supplied Electricity

    One of the most troubling things I see when speaking to people about going off grid is how badly they want to keep all of their electrical appliances and just spend many thousands of dollars on a battery bank more appropriate for a U-boat and solar cells or generators to keep them topped off. Having had a minor role in a micro-satellite system design proposal one thing you learn when confronted by limited power supply is to either economize or do without.

    The appliances you own for on grid use are not efficient. They are built to be inexpensive or if you are better off durable, even the fancy electrical appliances out of Europe with the Energy Star are in reality a big waste of power once you are paying by the off grid watt for solar panels and battery banks. There is no reason a normal family … Continue reading

    Gear Up — Appropriate and Redundant Technologies for Prepared Families

    I frequently stress the importance of well-balanced preparedness in my writings. All too often, I’ve seen people that go to extremes, to the point that these extremes actually detract from the ability to survive a disaster situation. These range from the “all the gear that I’ll need to survive is in my backpack” mentality to the “a truckload of this or that” fixation. But genuine preparedness lies in comprehensive planning, strict budgeting, and moderation. Blowing your entire preparedness budget on just one category of gear is detrimental to your overall preparedness.

    Another common mistake that I see among my consulting clients is an over-emphasis on either very old technologies or on the “latest and greatest” technologies. In the real world, preparedness necessitates having a bit of both. At the Rawles Ranch we have both 19th century technology (like hand-powered tools) and a few of the latest technologies like … Continue reading

    Letter Re: Some Technologies for Retreat Security

    I’ve put together a few ideas on retreat security that I haven’t seen on your great site. I may have missed them but I think they would bear repeating. I presently live near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but will soon be moving to my 280 acre ranch in central Nevada. What got me to write this was a realization during my semiannual chore of servicing the emergency generator. Changing out the gas (It is also set up to run it on propane) changing the oil, and testing the circuitry, I realized that what I thought was a good setup was actually lacking. I have always made the preparedness of our home priority. If a storm knocks out the power, I go start the generator and switch the control box. My “Ah-ha” moment came with the realization that if the power were ever cut intentionally, all security would be off until … Continue reading

    Letter Re: A Recent Fire Evacuation Experience


    Last weekend my town was threatened by a pretty big fire. Dozens of homes burned, thousands of citizens were evacuated. My neighborhood was among those ordered to flee the advancing flames. (Drama!)

    My family was prepared to leave ahead of time and evacuated safely in large part because of the advice and encouragement I have found at SurvivalBlog. Thank you.

    I did learn a few things. Theory flies out the window when panic is in the air. What is organized and prepared ahead of time actually works, what is thrown together at the last minute tends to fall apart. I had my Bug Out Vehicle (B.O.V.) fueled and standing by the night before but many did not and I saw long lines at every gas station as people were struggling to flee. The major exits were all jammed with vehicles and as tensions rose, tempers flared. Several collisions were … Continue reading

    Letter Re: Advice on Stocking Up on Batteries


    I was wondering: How many batteries should I store for all my radios, flashlights, smoke detectors, and so forth? I’m also planning to get night vision goggles, soon. I assume rechargeables, right? If so, what kind [of rechargeables], and who has the best prices? – T.E. in Memphis.

    JWR Replies: I recommend buying mainly nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. Stock up plenty of them, including some extras for barter and charity. Unlike the older Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) technology, NiMHs do not have a “memory” effect. (The diminished capacity because of the memory effect has always been one of the greatest drawbacks to NiCds batteries.) The best of the breed are the latest Low Self Discharge (LSD) variants, such as the Sanyo Eneloop.

    One discount supplier with a very good selection that I can enthusiastically recommend is All-Battery.com. They also have great prices on “throw away” batteries, such … Continue reading

    From the SurvivalBlog Archives: Start With a “List of Lists”

    Start your retreat stocking effort by first composing a List of Lists, then draft prioritized lists for each subject, on separate sheets of paper. (Or in a spreadsheet if you are a techno-nerd like me. Just be sure to print out a hard copy for use when the power grid goes down!) It is important to tailor your lists to suit your particular geography, climate, and population density as well as your peculiar needs and likes/dislikes. Someone setting up a retreat in a coastal area is likely to have a far different list than someone living in the Rockies.

    As I often mention in my lectures and radio interviews, a great way to create truly commonsense preparedness lists is to take a three-day weekend TEOTWAWKI Weekend Experiment” with your family. When you come home from work on Friday evening, turn off your main circuit breaker, turn off your … Continue reading