The need for some means to control and combat fire should be high on our list of priorities. With the flammable building materials used in most modern construction, fire prevention is something all of us need to take seriously. This is why every home needs a fire extinguisher within easy reach.
I have a bit of vicarious personal experience here.
In the oil and gas industry, our training includes fire fighting. Therefore, we got an edge over the general public when it comes to this knowledge. It’s not uncommon here for there to be car fires burning on the side of the road, and in many of them, company employees passing by have helped to extinguish the fire.
It was in one of these roadside car fires that a relative of one of my neighbors was severely burned in an awful accident that shouldn’t have ever happened. Had he had even the tiniest amount of fire safety training under his belt or some degree of caution, everything would have been fine. But this isn’t what happened.
This young man received a call from a friend and went to help with the problem. Without any special training (every Venezuelan knows a little bit of mechanical knowledge for when a car stalls), he went to assist and provide some support.
As he arrived, he found that the car’s engine was on fire as smoke billowed from the closed hood. He made a terrible mistake: he opened the hood quickly. The amount of incoming oxygen produced a fireball that caught his synthetic clothing on fire.
This type of material is very common in clothing here in Venezuela. It’s light, dry, and comfortable for our type of weather, and I find myself wearing it regularly as well. However, this type of clothing is very flammable. After the fire on him was put out, the local hospital could not remove the burned clothes from his charred skin without taking off the skin itself.
He was in a private hospital for months, with the only thing saving his life being that his brother-in-law lives in the USA and could afford the treatments and medicines.
Can you fight a fire?
It’s highly advisable to watch a few videos or receive formal training from the fire department before even thinking about fighting these events.
In Venezuela, businesses are obliged to perform maintenance of their fire safety systems once every five years. However, households are usually not inspected. Until a tragedy happens, that is.
I know that different countries make their citizens own and maintain fire combat means, like smoke detectors (affordable and compulsory) and fire extinguishers. However, these are not cheap, and their maintenance can be relatively high.
And here is where I am going to elaborate a little bit.
The fire department authorities usually inspect a household and support the owners or inhabitants with advice about the best location for the extinguisher, its numbers, and its features. That is standard in every country, as far as I know.
As I’m sure many of you are probably already aware, extinguishers exhibit different features depending on the type of fire. Therefore, people select extinguishers depending on necessity. The most common ones are powder extinguishers. I do recommend doing a bit of research on the type of fire extinguisher you would need to put out what you think could likely cause a fire at your place, however.
The good news is that Powder Extinguishers cover a variety of fires we can find in a compound. You can buy these in a number of sizes as well.
The extinguishers under $50 are compact, usually under five pounds, and they will be effective only on smaller fires. I wouldn’t rely on such small capacities.
That said, usually, the dry chemical powder type of extinguisher is enough for the majority of fires out you will come across. This one blasts a cloud of white powder that quickly extinguishes the flames. It’s not worth bothering with others like foam extinguishers. These spread like a blanket over burning hydrocarbon products in large areas. If you want more detail about this, it is always a good idea to ask your fire department.
Place it wisely.
A mistake I see commonly happening in many places, even in those where a fire can suddenly appear, is the placement of the bottle or bottles.
Putting it next to a possible fire hazard location is a bad idea (ideally, the fire inspector will mention it and suggest where to locate it). The flames and heat can be so intense that you won’t be able to reach it, and it can even explode, albeit this is rare.
I wonder how many of us have received practical training in fire extinguishing. In the company I worked for, it was almost mandatory; for the general public, not so much.
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The best advice I have based on the experience of my neighbor’s relative’s accident is:
- Always keep a pair of cheap, denim overalls in your car, a pair of safety goggles, and also heavy-duty gloves next to your fire extinguisher. Even better, a specially treated fire blanket! It will protect you from a fireball like the one that almost killed my neighbor’s relative. These overalls have some degree of fireproofing, and if they ever get on fire, they will be easier to handle than those fancy 100% polyester clothing. It doesn’t matter if you lose a few seconds putting on the overalls. The potential injuries are so dangerous that it’s preferable.
- Have fun with the drill to see how fast you can put this on, and break your record. It’s worth it. Much better than taking care of fire with just plain daily work clothes.
With the fuel problem generated by the ruling cronies, the fires in cars have almost doubled here and caused property damage in buildings not suited for fuel storage.
Read the following article (Spanish, must use your browser translator) to see what I mean.
What do you do when society collapses?
I traveled on my motorcycle a little bit back in the day. Some of the things I never left behind were a couple of tire inflation/puncture sealant cans and a fire extinguisher. It was a light one, the kind you use in cars, but I never left it at home at home. Everywhere my motorcycle went that little fire extinguisher went too.
This caused a bit of wear and tear, but it was no big deal. Under normal circumstances, you can go to a workshop that offers fire extinguisher maintenance services and get them to refill it with CO2 (the fire-neutralizing gas to keep them with good pressure).
But how do we do this if the workshop is closed when SHTF? We still need to refill the propellant to keep them operative! This is why I think you need to make sure to include the pressure gauge inspection on the general checklist of your preparations.
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You do need multiple fire extinguishers.
Make sure that you have the training that goes with them too. Your local fire department can help. Fire is something that you need to be able to deal with both before and after catastrophe. Hopefully, what I have to say here will spur you to make sure you are set in this area.
Do you have fire extinguishers? Where do you keep them? Have you ever had to use them? Do you have other advice? Let me know in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading!
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.
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I have three fire extinguishers at home (5 & 10 lb) and a 5 lb in the car. I’ve never met anyone else who has them. Most people are a catastrophe waiting to happen.
Absolutely! That´s why I had to write about it!
One in the kitchen.
Two in the basement where the electrical box is, the wood furnace, and the water heater.
I have two, one on each floor. They’re industrial type, the kind used in businesses. With all of the rioting going on these days, it’s just a matter of time until it hits my neighborhood. It’s come close already, in fact, and just because there’s a fire station almost within sight doesn’t mean I want to use them! They may not be available so it’s best if I can help myself.
We keep 20# extinguishers in the upstairs and downstairs kitchens. A 20# in the Laundry room, a 20# in the Mechanical room (where the Furnace and water heater are located) and a 20# in the Garage. In the pouch behind the driver’s seat a 1# in the car.
I’ve been through countless inservices on fir extinguisher use.
A little safery tip for those that may ownbOxy/Acetylene Bottles for welding and cutting torches. Do Not attempt to put out a burning acetylene bottle. These bottles have a special lead alloy safety plug in case the bottle is in a fire. The plug will melt, and you will see a 3 or 4 foot jet of ignited gas, but let it burn. Extinguishing that jet of flame before enough gas is burned off could be catastrophic, as it can cause the cylinder to explode (like a bomb going off).
It’s worthwhile to train with an extinguisher. I once attempted to put out a grease fire in a Chinese wok, but blew flaming oil all over the counter. Oops!
That was the exact original intention of me writing this article!
Thanks for sharing that experience!
Don’t forget some mnemonics for fire safety
RACE (Rescue, Alarm, Contain, Extinguish)
most fire extinguishers to help put out the fire
PASS (Pull,Aim,Sweep ,Squeeze)
I have those fire blankets ( in cars,by bedside table and 6 feet away from wood burning stove) accessible and hopefully never needed
They sell them in multiple packs and worth it
Pull the pin
Aim at base of fire
Sweep the nozzle side to side
I love the acronyms you guys use up there. 🙂
Thanks for that amigo.
I have several. 1 under couch, 1 under bed, 1 next to kitchen door, 1 next to office door, 1 next to shop door, 1 each in 2 cars.
Never buy a spray-like (that cheap one) fire extinguisher. That will not work. Never buy a fire extinguisher with a plastic handle. It will break in the worst moment.
Buy one with a pressure checking device on it.
You´re right. The insecticide-like sized bottle I had in my car had lost pressure…and I found out when tried to put down a car fire in the curb.
My kitchen and garage are adjacent to each other. I keep extinguishers in both places and have instructed my family that if the fire’s in the garage, remember the extinguisher in the kitchen, and vice versa. NEVER keep the extinguisher directly adjacent to the potential source of ignition, and NEVER put the thing where its location will be forgotten, like in a drawer or closed cabinet! Fire causes even the level-headed to panic. People don’t think straight when they panic.
When opening a closed space where smoke is emanating from, use the BACK of your hand to feel around the point of entry, as well as the doorknob before opening. Why the back of the hand? For one, the skin is sensitive to heat there. For another, if you burn the back of your hand, you can still use your hand. Realistically, if the doorknob is hot to the touch, the fire is WAY beyond your extinguisher’s capability anyway. The closed space is actually CONTROLLING the fire. If possible, wait for the firefighters to show up! If you MUST go in, stand TO THE SIDE of the entry point if possible! Many times, when you come upon a room or vehicle compartment emitting a lot of smoke, the fire is starving for air, but is producing copious flammable vapors. Opening the door, hood, or window will provide an inrush of oxygen for combustion with EXPLOSIVE results!
Above all, keep your head and keep it simple! Yes, you can put out a grease fire in a kitchen skillet with a dry chemical extinguisher, but it will make a HELL of a mess! Better to just throw a lid on the thing to cut off the fire’s oxygen supply! If you do this, shut off the burner and LEAVE THE LID ON UNTIL IT COOLS! Removing the lid immediately after killing the fire will produce a hellish, grease-laden reflash!!! Electricity-induced fire? shut off the breakers! Often, the fire will just go out at that point.
If you keep dry-chem extinguishers, the pressure gauge is only half the story. Every once in a while, turn the extinguisher upside-down and tap it LGIHTLY with a rubber mallet or even the palm of your hand. This will keep the powder from caking.
A few years ago, I replaced a fire extinguisher that had expired. Since I had never used one before, I decided to get some experience with the old one that would need to be disposed of anyway.
I draped some towels over a bench to prop them up diagonally, then I put a large drop cloth over all that that I didn’t care about ruining. Then I let loose with the extinguisher.
Well, everything covered was fine…but I didn’t realize literally the whole room would get dusted! Damn TV shows make it look like you can just quickly put a fire out and go about your business. At least I was in an unfinished basement with nothing important, but I still had half an hour of cleanup to do!
That´s why the training is made outdoors with live fire. Being guided by people who knows what they´re doing is the easiest way to learn. If you cut the shot too early, fire can re-ignite. Thanks for sharing that!
Maybe a little off topic, but mentioned in the article. Synthetic clothing.
I avoid it whenever possible. I prefer cotton or wool, mostly for the reasons mentioned in the article. I have read articles by frequent flyiers who say they will only wear cotton when flying.
I need to replace the extinguisher in the RV. It is original to it from 2018, and I wouldn’t trust it. Another item on the to-do list.
Dear Not So Free.
I mentioned in the article because of the horrendous experience of this neighbor of mine…and I usually wear it too, as in our hot climate is more comfortable. You´re right, an almost 5 years old extinguisher should be refilled already. 🙂
For a simple fire extinguisher, fill a large-mouth plastic bottle (Gatorade is good) with baking soda. When using it hold one finger over the opening to control the amount of soda being thrown out. Works great, costs little, weighs little. Shake it once a year to see if it has caked up.
Another great option is getting some of the chemical dust mixture they use in the extinguishers, and have a few buckets laying handy. This doesn´t get caked, as we had a box for years in our Jeep. At the end of the day, the gas for pressure only throws the dust far away so you don´t have to get close to the fire, but properly protected you could throw it with a bucket from a similar distance.
inexpensive powder units have a nature of settling. Shake the unit before use.
I’ve also had the benefit of training at work and with CERT teams. Never had to actually use one … until one day last year when I did! My wife noticed that the neighbors’ compost pile was burning — right next to a wooden fence and a garage. I grabbed the kitchen extinguisher (which was too small, but it was the closest one), my wife called the Fire Department, and our daughter ran next door to alert the neighbors. Even though it wasn’t big enough to fully extinguish the fire, even the small extinguisher managed to knock the fire down quite a bit and buy enough time for the folks in the red truck to arrive and finish the job. The small kitchen extinguisher has now been replaced by a much larger one, as the feeling you get watching the powder run out when the fire isn’t quite out yet is not something I want to repeat.