In today’s survival literature, you can find a lot of information on how to build a campfire, what setup you should stick to, based on your survival needs, and various other tips to help you start and maintain a fire. However, there is little to no information when it comes to the dangers associated with fire, how you should control and extinguish a fire in case something goes wrong. Today we will cover the most important fire safety rules.
Without a doubt, fire is your friend in a survival situation, and without it, you will not be able to stay warm, purify water, cook food and keep predators at bay. The problem with fire is that it can turn into an enemy rather quickly, and handling it improperly can lead to a national disaster.
📅 It happens every year
The U.S. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has reported that since 2017 the number of home structure fires has constantly been increasing. Many people lost their lives while others ended up homeless after they’ve lost everything.
How many of these fires could have been prevented? According to NFPA, most of these fires could have been avoided if people would have learned the basic fire safety rules. Some fires were caused by creosote buildup in the chimneys, while others started while an open flame was put to close to a shelter or because flammable materials were stored incorrectly.
The bottom line here is that fire safety rules should play an important role in our lives, and just as it is important to learn how to start a fire, it is equally as important to know how to control and put out a fire.
🎆 What causes most fires?
As we’ve seen this past couple of weeks, fire is one of the most destructive forces known to man. A lighting and even a careless match will start a fire that, if not controlled quickly, will destroy large areas in hours, and everything in its path will be turned to ashes.
Dry material on the forest floor or dry grass in a field can be easily ignited, and if you add man-made materials to the equation, it’s easy to understand how effortlessly you can start a fire without planning to do so. Litter in the wilderness can often ignite dry material, and a bottle tossed in the forest, or any other material with light-reflective properties can spell disaster.
Even more, the thing we bring with us when exploring the great outdoors can become part of the problem. Many of the camping, hiking, and hunting gear you have, such as tents, clothing, gun cases, and what not are made from synthetic materials.
Fibers such as polyester and nylon ignite easily if a source of fire is placed in their vicinity. Besides burning easily, they can become a problem even when they are not exposed directly to a flame. When melting under the hot sun, such materials will turn into a molten liquid that will ignite everything it sticks to.
There were many cases in which such materials melting in cars or homes started fires that caused a lot if not, total damage.
A fire will grow depending on the material that is ignited, and the older the structure is, the quicker it will burn and spread. Nowadays, construction regulations impose the use of fire-retardant materials, which makes most newer structures to burn slow and provide enough time to control the fire.
You’ve seen people protecting their homes with wood paneling, but these materials contain a lot of glue, and they will burn quickly and hot. You will protect your home from the wrath of a hurricane, but if a fire starts nearby, your home will quickly ignite.
Log cabins are also a fire hazard, and the dry wood used in their construction will burn long and hot.
Regardless of the incident that started the fire or the materials being involved, the result is always a bad one. Not only you may lose your house, but your neighbors could also be affected, and entire counties will suffer if the fire spreads quickly and gets out of control.
Just look at what’s going on in California these days, and you will understand the vast devastation even a small accidental fire can cause. Many structures and lives have been lost, and the lives of many people have been changed forever. The economic loss will be huge this year for California, and many valuable resources will be lost forever because of the careless actions of people.
🔥 Prevention is the keyword in fire safety
Since fire is an important aid in our lives, we have to learn to treat it with respect. It has the power to help, but it also has the power to harm you and everyone you love. In most cases handling a fire, common sense is more than enough to prevent a tragedy. Just like you will not handle a firearm without following safety rules, the same should be the case when dealing with a fire. Don’t treat a fire any differently and learn about safety fire rules.
Since you will definitely need fire in your shelter, may it be a house in the city, a cabin in the woods, or a tent, when properly used, it will become a safe and efficient way of keeping your shelter warm. The fire needs to be contained, and you have to acknowledge that there’s always the possibility of something going wrong.
For example, the stove you are using may not be properly cleaned, or maybe you stored flammable objects close to it without realizing it. It may not have a proper fireproof backing, or the chimney might be faulty. There are plenty of things to take into account before you start a fire in your own home, and you should be aware of such things to avoid having to fight the fire.
All open fires you build in the wilderness come with a couple of fire safety rules. As a first rule, you should make sure the area where you plan to build the campfire is clean of dry and flammable materials such as leaves, twigs, grass, etc. I learned years ago that for my own safety and the safety of others, I need to have a 3-foot buffer zone around the campfire, and I always clean that area properly.
Also, when it comes to building a shelter, never put it too close, and if you plan to build a fire inside your shelter, take proper precautions. When I do so, I dig a hole that servers as my fire pit, and I never make the fire larger than it should be. Such a setup helps me cook food, dry clothes, and it also helps me conserve fuel. Not to mention that it is much easier to be controlled, and I have no problems extinguish it when the time comes.
If you like to bring a portable stove when you get into the woods, the types that use propane cylinders, or some other fuel, you have to understand that these are also potential dangers in an environment that can be easily ignited. Make sure you take the same precautions of clearing the area and assure a buffer zone between the fire and your other stuff.
Regardless of what fire starting method you are using or the fuel you have at hand, it’s always recommended to have handy means of putting the fire out quickly. I recommend getting a fire extinguisher and learn about their ratings.
There are A, B, or C rated fire extinguisher
- A is for trash, wood, paper, and other easily ignitable dry materials,
- B is for liquids,
- C is for electrical equipment.
In my personal case, besides having a fire extinguisher in my vehicle whenever I’m on the road. One of the fire safety rules I follow is to have a bucket of dirt/sand or water near my campsite that can be used to put out a fire in case the fire extinguisher fails to do the job. I have three collapsible buckets in my truck. These are not expensive and can be used for multiple survival uses.
🚒 How about firefighting?
As part of the fire safety rules, firefighting is your main option to put out a fire that cannot be controlled anymore. While this operation is best left to professionals and qualified volunteers that are properly trained and equipped, sometimes you must make sure you do whatever you can before things get out of control.
When a fire can no longer be controlled, you should get away from the danger and call 911. This is the ideal course of action, but sometimes such an option may not be available. You will have to control the situation the best way you can, and it all starts with the basics.
By now, everyone should know that fire requires two things to keep burning. It requires oxygen and fuel. If you manage to eliminate one of these requirements, the fire will die. To be able and do so, you need to act quickly and avoid panicking. The more time you waste, the longer the fire will burn, and the stronger it will get. As time goes by, it can get larger and larger, and you will no longer be able to control the damage.
If you notice that the fire is getting larger and your gut tells you there’s something wrong, you should douse the fire with water to make the combustible material less likely to burn. Keep in mind that this is not a foolproof method, but even so, it’s a start.
The next thing would be to smother the fire using something that’s inflammable. Sand would be ideal, but a water-soaked blanket will also work. The inflammable materials you are using to suffocate the fire should cut all the oxygen supply, or at least partially so that you can buy more time.
If, on the other hand, you are using a fire extinguisher, avoid going nuts with it like most people. Always remember that you have a limited quantity of fire retardant. Use just short bursts and always aim at the base of the fire. You need to avoid aiming at the flames and concentrate your aim at the fuel source.
When dealing with a grease fire, understand that such fire will spread incredibly quickly, and you need to act fast. A fire safety rule, in this case, is to avoid using water on a grease fire. If you do so, you will create an explosion, and the burning grease will spread to other areas, increasing the action of the fire.
Rather than causing more damage, try to remove the pan from the heat source carefully without burning yourself and without spilling it. Some people panic and start running with the pan carrying the burning grease everywhere and eventually making the situation worse. Just slide it off the heat source and smother it by covering the pan with a lid or by putting baking soda in it.
Some people will experience malfunctions with their propane stove, and when that’s the case, the main thing you have to do is carefully disconnect the fuel cylinder from the stove. You also need to follow the same fire safety rules as in the case of a burning grease fire if you cannot remove the propane cylinder.
🔥 Fire safety rules
There are certain fire safety rules that should be part of your daily life. These rules will help you prevent a fire, but also deal with one should you have to. Here are our main suggestions regarding fire safety rules:
🗒️ Plan beforehand
Just like you plan for bugging out, or make specific preparations for certain types of disaster, the same you should do in case you and your family have to deal with a fire emergency. Practice this plan over and over, since it’s the only thing that can save your life. Don’t fight the flame unless you absolutely have to and when that time comes, make sure you have all the needed tools to do so.
Even more, there are always things you can do in and around your house to prevent a fire from destroying your property. The article below will provide you with more details:
👨🚒 Ask for help
Communication is an important part of your fire prevention plan, and you have to make sure you are able to call for help. Keep a fully charge phone hand and consider getting a two-way radio in case your phone fails you. In the US, most local and state, but also federal agencies monitor emergency radio frequencies. Learn about these frequencies and keep a list of all of them so you can use your radio when the cell phone doesn’t work.
🪓 Have proper tools
The most depicted tools of firefighters you see in movies and TV shows are the axe and the shovel, and for a good reason. You should have both these tools in your disaster tool kit since they will come in handy. The axe will be used to remove combustible debris, to open locked or jammed doors, while the shovel will be used to move dirt and sand.
🌊 Have a good supply of water
If you live in a forested area, or an area that is prone to wildfires, you can never have enough water. You need to have access to a source of water regardless if you will do so with a bucket or a water pump connected to a hose. Some people I know have an underground cistern that they will be able to use during an emergency, while others gather water in plastic barrels and various other containers. If you douse your house with water and if you do so early enough, you could save the day before firefighters arrive.
⏳ Keep sand at hand
Some have a few buckets filled with sand hand, while others have large containers filled with this material. Even making a pile near your home will do the job and help you put out fires that cannot be controlled or extinguished with water.
🧯 Don’t forget about fire extinguishes
These are a must for my family and me and should be a no-brainer for every homeowner. Keep at least one fully charged within reach and away from potential flammable locations. In our home, we have three of these, and I check them regularly to see if the expiration date still holds.
⚠️ Early warning signs
Every room in our home has a smoke and CO detector, and if you consider the fact that most house fires start during the night when everyone is asleep, you can easily understand while these are a sound investment. In fact, smoke inhalation can kill people long before the fire gets to them. You might not have the time to save your home, but if you have working smoke detectors, you and yours will have a chance to escape. Check them regularly and make sure to change the batteries (I do so every four months).
Thank you for visiting Prepper’s Will and for reading this article!
The best way to prevent a fire from causing damage to your property or the properties of your neighbors would be not having to deal with an uncontrollable fire in the first place. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and fire safety rules were created for a reason.
Always use common sense when dealing with fire and make sure to have a plan in place when things go wrong.
Suggested resources for survivalists: