Author Topic: FIRE PREVENTION FOR PREPPERS  (Read 1917 times)

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Offline Buggie

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« on: March 20, 2014, 11:10:26 PM »
This is an old post of mine from another forum. I have updated it slightly, and added some points that others contributed. Please read and take to heart!


This post is to help everyone understand the need to protect ourselves from Fire emergency events in a SHTF scenario, or if our local resources are to thinly spread to assist us immediately. I hope you will all read this and start adding Fire Prevention methods to your preps, if you haven't already. I feel that Fire is one of the most misunderstood and underestimated threats to a prepper, both before and after shtf.

Before I go any further, here are some links to provide you with some information in regards to the City of Calgary's Official Disaster Emergency plans (as requested at one of the meetings). If you are located in another city or region, you should be able to find similar information on your Municipal governments website. CEMA (Calgary Emergency Management Agency) is the governing body in Calgary that is responsible for dealing with any major Emergency. It is a conglomerate of several different branches of emergency service providers such as Police, Fire, Medical, Infrastructure, just to name a few. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you will find a link for The City of Calgary's Municipal Emergency Plan. This is for public viewing, so please look it over if you want clarification on CEMA and its responsibilities. The City of Calgary recommends every household have a 72 hour kit prepped and ready at all times. They even put together a video and an external website to assist people in Prepping. (try to tell me that the government doesn't know its all going to hell!).


Ok, So to start us all off, I think it would be prudent to explain a few things about Fire.

1) Fire is the great destroyer. It will consume everything in its path if you let it.
2) It only takes a minute for a fire to go from a small flame to engulfing an entire room and being out of control. see the following video to watch this happen:
3) Solid and Liquid Fuel (ie: wood, gasoline, etc) do NOT burn. The vapors they give off when heated to a specific temperature (depending on the material) do. The process in which solid fuels are heated to a temperature sufficient enough to "off gas" is called pyrolysis. The process in which liquids are heated to produce a gas is called vaporization. The reason the gasoline will ignite without being heated is because the required temperature for gasoline to vaporize is -65 C. if it is colder than that, gasoline will not produce sufficient vapors to ignite. However, in most places in the world, the temperature is not cold enough to prevent gas from vaporizing, hence its flammable nature. You can actually see the vapors rising off of a pool of gas. At the 30 second mark of the video above, you can see what looks like steam rising from the couch, carpet, and wooden furniture. That is the off gas (result of the pyrolysis of the solid material in this case). Watch as moments after the gas is released from heat, it reaches is flashpoint temperature and ignites, spreading the flames across the room.

Now that's out of the way, let me educate you on some Fire Theory. There is something called the "Fire Tetrahedron" Essentially what it means is that in order for a combustion to exist, it technically needs 4 things: Oxygen, Fuel, Heat, and a chemical chain reaction. If you can eliminate or inhibit one of these things, then the fire simply cannot exist. This theory is what all modern fire fighting techniques are based upon.

Here are some examples of stopping each segment of the tetrahedron:

Heat: the most common method is by cooling the atmosphere around the fire, with things such as Water, or another cooling agent.
Oxygen: smothering the fire (think putting a lid on a burning frying pan), or cutting off oxygen from getting into a burning room by closing the doors. In the video above, the fire goes out at around the 1 minute mark because the room is sealed, and it has consumed all of the oxygen, even though there is still plenty of heat and fuel left. If a door was opened and oxygen re-introduced, the flame would re-ignite almost instantly.
Fuel: Something as simple as shutting off a propane tank, or pulling logs out of a campfire.
Chemical Chain Reaction: certain products such as Baking Soda or the dry chemicals found in some Fire extinguishers can stop the reaction between heat, fuel, and oxygen.

Obviously for everyone, as Smokey the Bear said: the best method of dealing with a Fire Emergency is by preventing it before it happens.

Here is where our lesson begins!

1) Smoke Detectors and CO detectors: First and foremost, SMOKE DETECTORS / CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS SAVE LIVES. Make sure that your home is equipped with a smoke detector in every room/area of the house, and that they are functioning properly. Make sure that you have at least 1 CO detector on each floor, and especially near your furnace (as this is the most common culprit for CO leaks in a home. Remember to check your detectors regularly by pressing the "Test" button. If you are not sure how to do this, you can take them in to your local fire department, and they will check them for you, and will also give you advice on maintenance and installation (however there are usually very simple directions written on the back of the detector. Smoke Detectors are not always attached to the grid, and sometimes run solely on battery power (most will have a battery as backup anyways. Other then after a Carrington sized emp event, they should continue to function indefinitely as long as they are maintained and supplied with power. Most modern detectors will be good for 10 years. They provide early detection of a fire, allowing you to deal with it before it gets out of hand (so long as you have methods of putting it out quickly on hand!)

2) Properly Discard Your Oily Rags: Linseed oil rags can spontaneously combust. Some other household chemicals can also spontaneously combust if used with a rag and not properly cleaned or discarded. What happens is that as the oil begins to vaporize it produces heat as a byproduct. when it produces enough heat it will ignite the fumes and viola... fire. here is a video demonstrating it: This is especially dangerous because linseed oil is a very common product used for wood polishing. Anyone with a wooden stock on their fire arm will most likely have done exactly what these people did.

3) Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets: Another somewhat obvious danger are overloaded electrical outlets. The resistance caused by having too much power going through a lead electrical line will cause the wiring to smoke and eventually catch fire. In a sense, it cause friction within the line, causing heat as a byproduct, leading to ignition. Electrical fires are very tricky to deal with because you cant just simply spray water on them to quench the flames. You must either shut off the power sources completely, or use a special smothering agent such as the dry chemicals found in SOME fire extinguishers (I will list these below). The best way to prevent this si to simply not overload the sockets. we've all seen the multi-plug into a multi plug into 24 different appliances before. This is a serious no-no. try to keep it to one plug per socket. If you must have more then one line coming from an individual socket, make sure you have it going through a surge protector power bar. these can be found at places like London Drugs, Staples, Wal-Mart, etc. They are very common, very cheap, and can help prevent fire.

4) Fire Extinguishers: I believe it is paramount to have Fire extinguishers on hand in every major area of your home. Areas where Fire incidents are common in a normal household are the kitchen, the garage, the workshop, and the furnace room. There are 5 different classes of fire, based on their fuel or energy source: A (wood, cardboard, etc), B (flammable or combustible liquids like gasoline), C (electrical fires), D (combustible metals such as magnesium, etc), and K (kitchen grease fires). A Fire extinguisher will be labeled with its class type, and this will tell you what kind of fires they can be used on. So for example, a fire extinguisher rated "A", can only be use don a class "A" fire. it is essentially filled with pressurized water, so would be of no use in a gas or electrical fire. However, and extinguisher rated "ABC" would be good for all 3 of the most common household fires. For this reason, I recommend having at least 1 ABC rated Fire extinguisher in the major areas of your home. They should also be available for easy and quick access as you will not have much time to deal with the Fire threat. Extinguishers rated for D and K class fires will most likely not have any use to you, unless you have a machine shop where you deal with combustible metals, or you do a lot of cooking with deep-fryer grease. If you do use grease cooking, then it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a K class extinguisher in your kitchen, just in case.
Also, don't buy the cheapo fire extinguishers. As always, when it is a prep that your life may one day depend on... buy the best you can afford. Its is better to have one very high quality extinguisher then a half dozen of the Wal-Mart plastic topped ones.

5) Baking Soda as an Extinguishing Agent: Baking Soda has many uses in the Prepper wheelhouse, as many of us already know. It also makes an excellent fire extinguishing agent. It can be used to put out K class (grease) fires in the kitchen, and can also be used to put out smaller fires and smoldering embers. The only problem with Baking Soda is that it will only work if the fire is relatively small and contained. Dumping a whole box of baking soda onto a fully involved room as seen in the Christmas tree video would not do anything to stem the damage. However a small fire in the corner of a room, or a grease fire in the kitchen can easily be dealt with by pouring baking soda onto it. Here is the science behind how it works: at 158 degrees Fahrenheit Baking Soda undergoes thermal decomposition to produce Carbon Dioxide as one of the by-products. The Carbon Dioxide reduces the amount of Oxygen in the atmosphere which takes away one component of the Fire Tetrahedron... thus eliminating the fire. Ideally for a kitchen grease fire, you would be better off putting a lid on the pot or pan and smothering the fire by leaving it closed for at least 30 minutes (to allow it to cool enough to not re-ignite). However, if a lid is not available, use a liberal amount of baking soda. DO NOT PUT WATER ON A GREASE OR LIQUID FUEL FIRE!!!!!!

6) Our Homes are Designed to Burn: Household fires are very different today then they used to be. In decades past, homes used to be constructed from solid wood trusses and supports, Solid wood doors, wooden furniture, etc. Today (to save costs, and as a result of the exportation of most of our straight pieces of wooden lumber to the US), more and more Canadian homes are being constructed with engineered wood products. These are essentially products made from wood shavings and glue (think plywood). even our trusses and supports are made of these. Engineered wood products burn at a much faster rate then standard lumber because the Glue acts as an accelerant, and the wood shavings allow for greater surface area exposure to the heat. Drywall is has an excellent fire rating (meaning it takes long to burn through), with some products featuring a 1 Hour burn resist time. However, in order to get this burn rating the layers must be doubled upon each other in two layers. Newer homes are no longer required to use 2 layers of drywall, and have instead gone with one layer (again, to save the builders the cost). this leaves you with a much lower fire rating (fire can spread quicker). Also a new hazard to our homes is what we furnish them with. Older homes had natural materials and products furnishing their rooms, but nowadays everything is made from plastic and petroleum products. So in a sense, EVERYTHING in your house is an accelerate. With modern furnishings, a Room can become completely involved in a fire in under 3 minutes. Always be sure of what new furniture you purchase is made of, and try to stay away from synthetic materials if you can help it. By removing easy fuel for a fire, you will be able to contain it better and buy yourself some time to deal with it.

7) Construction Materials: as stated above, modern building materials are chosen for their inexpensiveness. However these products are usually derived from plastics or petroleum products, and as a result have a much lower ignition temperature then natural products. The best building materials for preventing Fire spread and damage are natural earth based building materials, such as Brick, Concrete, metals (such as steel... but it must be a high quality, heat tolerable steel... hard to find nowadays in building material). If you have the option, live in a solid wood framed home (basically anything built pre-1990), or better yet something built from brick, concrete, or stone. this will allow your walls to maintain their structural integrity during a fire helping prevent a collapse. Also it prevents fire spread because these materials do not burn... where as vinyl siding burns like a wick, allowing fire to spread wherever it wants.

8) Water storage: The majority of fires can be dealt with using water. There are some exceptions as I have outlined above, but for the most part and for our purposes as preppers, Water will usually do the trick (except gas... once again NEVER PUT WATER ON A LIQUID OR ELECTRICAL FIRE!!!). Having access to ample water will give you a great edge in dealing with a fire .

What to do if you've found a fire, and its too big to be extinguished

1) If the door to the room is open, CLOSE IT! this will help contain the heat and smoke within the involved room, buying you and your loved ones time to escape. Remember, the average fire will take only a few minutes to spread into a total hellfire, so every second counts.

2) If you believe there is a fire behind a closed door, check the door handle for heat. Most door handles will be warm if there is a fire in the house, but the one that leads to the seat of the fire will be extremely hot. Do not go in. If the fire has been starving for oxygen, opening the door will feed it and it will ignite, and could possibly cause a backdraft explosion.

3) Have a Bugout Bag ready to go. I know that there is a lot of discussion on these forums about the choice of Bugging in or Bugging out, but lets face it. even if you plan to Bug in, you never know what could happen! Always have a survival kit ready to go incase something (such as a fire) forces you out of your house in a hurry. The last thing you want to do is be crawling around in the smoke trying to remember what important things you need to grab and save from the fire. Have everything ready to go PRIOR TOO!

4) keep copies of important documents somewhere outside of your home. There is no such thing as a fire proof safe, so do not be fooled by advertisement. The best you can hope for is that the resistant qualities will last long enough to outlive the fire. It can be devastating to lose things like birth certificates, wills, insurance policies (especially now that your home is on fire), so by keeping off site copies you will have protected yourself from that mishap.

5) Have Regularly Scheduled Fire Drills in Your Home: I cant stress this enough. as Preppers we should understand the importance of pre-planning, and I think it should go without saying that a Fire in your Home will definitely cause panic. You need to have a plan of action. Here is a good website describing the importance of fire drills, as well as tips on how to prepare one for your family

6) When fleeing from a fire, get down as low to the ground as you can. Heat and Smoke will rise to the ceiling, and as they accumulate they will push downwards towards the ground, forming what is know as a "heat ceiling". the distance of a few inches lower could make as much as 200-300 degrees difference in temperature. Also, cover your face with as much fabric as you can to filter the air you breath, It will not be 100% effective, but it may buy you enough time to get out. Having an N95 particle mask hanging with your fire extinguisher is also a very good idea, as this will provide some breathing protection.

7) Once outside of a burning building, DO NOT GO BACK IN. even as much as 24 hours after a fire has completely gone out, there may be enough toxic gasses such as Carbon Monoxide in the air to kill you without personal protective equipment. Unfortunately without dedicated Professional Fire Department Personnel, once a building has become fully involved in Fire, there is little chance of it being extinguished. It will eventually burn itself out.

Just a quick note in addition to what I wrote about Fire ratings for building materials.

The first important aspect of direct flame contact is flame spread, which is the rate at which flame travels over the surface of a substance. Interior building materials and finishes have what is called a "flame spread rating", which indicates the relative rate at which flame will spread over the surface of the material. This rating is a number determined from laboratory testing. The higher the number, the faster the flame will travel over the materialís surface. A zero rating indicates there will be no flame spread over that material. The highest value assigned to flame spread is 200.

Flame Spread ratings:

Brick......0 (This number applies to nearly ALL earth based building materials... ie: stone, concrete, etc)
Fire-retardant-treated Plywood...... 0-25
Gypsum Wallboard...... 10-15
Western Red Cedar...... 69
Plywood, Pine ......120-140
Fiberboard, Medium Density...... 167
Particle Board...... 116-178
Gasoline...... 200 (threw this in here just for reference sake)

Unfortunatley as I stated earlier... the higher the flame spread rating, the cheaper the product, and of course the cheaper the product, the more it is used in our building construction. Make an effort to find out what your home is made out of!!!

Once again, your best bet for Fire protection is to stop it before it starts. Next I would recommend several ABC rated Fire extinguishers in all major areas of your home or property. If it is to much for you to handle, GET OUT IMMEDIATLEY! grab your bugout bag and run out with your loved ones. a few breaths of toxic smoke can cause you to pass out. one to two breaths of searing hot air will burn your lungs and you will choke on yourself and die. There is a reason fire fighters wear all that equipment.

Obviously, the first thing you should do in Any fire is escape and call 9-11, but if the day ever comes where they don't answer, you need to be prepared. Please feel free to ask me any question, and Post ideas for others!

additional links and videos:

How fast does a fire grow:
Protecting your home from forest fires:
City of Calgary Home Safety Program

*Disclaimer: Please do your own research to confirm the opinions and information above. I am not posting this as a representative of any organization and my opinions are my own*
« Last Edit: March 20, 2014, 11:14:59 PM by Buggie »

Offline icrcc

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« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2014, 11:48:07 PM »
Good post with great advice, thanks Buggie.
It may never happen. Best to be prepared just in case.

Offline Mountainman

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« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2014, 11:19:20 PM »
Thanks Buggie!!


Offline zeker

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« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2014, 07:16:59 AM »
thanx buggie.. good stuff to know.. and one more important point..
it aint out.. til its out..
case in point.. we had a housefire.. the vol fire dept came and spent many hrs and put it out.(we thot). 6am next morning cop bangs on my motel window says "ya better get home now..its gone"
we all thot the fire was out.. there was some salvageable stuff but we opted to get it the next day..
the next day there was zero left. we got out with the clothes on our back..
its a long road back.. there are still days that I reach for something only to remember.. darn, that was in the fire.
I didnt blame the dept even tho the chief got fired.. I thot his firing was wrong and protested , but they needed a scapegoat. everyone did what best they could and we never found that stray ember that burned back to ignition in the wee small hrs of zero daRK THIRTY.
of all the things I,ve lost.. I miss my mind, the most

Offline iamusul

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« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2014, 09:55:34 AM »
Thank you for posting this important information