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How To Survive If You Cannot Call The Fire Department

fire prepping

image credit McArthur Fire Department

When the SHTF, what will you do when you cannot call the fire department? Thwarting a roaring blaze from swallowing up you home and carefully stored preps is one of the least discussed preparedness plans we should be making. During a recent Off The Grid News radio show, Brian Brawdy and I talked about the very real fire dangers should a solar flare or EMP attack take down the power grid.

While serving as a rural newspaper editor, I went to a multitude of fire scenes. Transformer fires are not uncommon during seasonal storms and pose a grave threat to both property and human life. A solar flare or EMP attack would most likely result in not only the destruction of transformers along the power grid, but cause fires to the electric poles—which would then quickly spread. Vehicles manufactured after the early 1950s have electrical systems which would also be destroyed by an electromagnetic pulse. Not only would citizen vehicles refuses to start, fire trucks would no longer be able to roll to the rescue.

Off-grid and homesteading families, as well as rural preppers, almost certainly have a “bug in” plan for a SHTF scenario. The safety aspects of living in a non-urban environment could rapidly erode if fire preps are not worked into the overall survival plan. A cabin in the woods with an adjacent barn filled with livestock and a garage filled with #10 cans of food would be reduced to ashes in less than an hour if necessary fire suppression steps are not taken both in advance and when the flames first appear.

Fires can double in size approximately once every 30 seconds to a minute. According to my rural firefighter husband, brush fires can be the most deadly. Dry brush and trees will be caught ablaze quickly and shifts in the wind can take you from a point of safety into a death, even though you have not taken a single step.

There are three categories of flammable materials—Class A, B, and C. Class A flammables are common combustibles such as wood, paper, and plastic. Class B items include grease and flammable liquids. Class C blazes are basically electrical fires which often stem from either Class A or B flammables. Understanding what types of fire you are most likely to be faced with is extremely important from a preparedness planning aspect.

The Essential Survival Secrets of The Most Vigilant…Most Skilled…Most Savvy Survivalists in the World!

Fire Prevention Preps

Fire Detectors: Purchase multiple detectors and replacement batteries and place them inside a Faraday cage.

Fire Extinguishers: Multiple ABC fire extinguishers are recommended. The typical residential grade extinguisher has only about 15-20 seconds of suppression agent inside. If financially feasible, invest in BC and CO2 fire extinguishers as well.

SCBA Gear: More people die from smoke inhalation than from actually being burned from a fire. Although such equipment is expensive and an oxygen refill will not likely be possible in a doomsday scenario, a mask and an air tank might give you and your family the time necessary to escape from a building or wild fire.

Indian Pack: These portable water pouches with a hose are also not cheap to purchase, but will allow you to put out fires in a wooded area near your home before it reaches loved ones or the shelter and preps you need to survive.

Baking Soda: The soda smothers the flames from a grease fire before it can spread.

Chimfex: The commercial chimney fire extinguisher and an ABC extinguisher can help save your bug-in dwelling should a fire start inside the home heat and cooking source.

Bunker Gear: These are the suits firefighters wear to battle blazes. Different suits are used when fighting brush or wildland fires and typical building fires. These are also expensive, but used ones can often be found on eBay, or perhaps from local fire departments which are upgrading their gear.

Fire Preparedness Building Tips

Log cabins or small wood homes are commonplace for rural preppers. Choose instead to build a simple concrete block house and opt for a metal pole barn and storage sheds instead of traditional wood structures. Do not forget to place fire detectors inside outbuildings.

Fire Preparedness Education

You do not have to plan on becoming either a professional or volunteer firefighter in order to sign up for the basic 40-hour class. Ask local firefighters about training sessions and community college courses so you can learn how to use firefighting hand tools and how to dig fire breaks, and other life-saving tips now, before the power grid goes down and a popping and cracking transformers destroys your barn, livestock, garden, and home.

© Copyright Off The Grid News


  1. You touched on one of the keys, for off-grid, post-calamity fire awareness, that being stopping fires every quickly/early after they start. This means having the tools for doing so readily available, for quick retrieval and application.

    It is unlikely that pumped water, either from a well pump, or municipal system, will be available, so we need to have ways of delivering extinguishing agents. Fire extinguishers have this built in, and there is a need for many of these around the house, post-calamity.

    2.5 gallon water fire extinguishers also afford a renewable extinguishing system I found one at a flea market for under $20, tested and worked well.

    These can be refilled as needed, re-pressurized, unlike commercial chemical extinguishers, though they are not suitable for all fires. Having these readily available will go a long ways to keeping accidental small fires from engulfing a whole house….if one assumes no electricity due to circumstances, then one of the unsuitable fire sources for this type of extinguisher is eliminated. Considering oil type fires are most common in the kitchen, or garage, then this is where the chemical extinguishers can be stationed.

    Having plenty of shovels, rakes, and such for brush fires, especially on scene where there is outdoor flames, like fire pits, trash burn barrels, or clearing fires, will help allow those in attendance to contain these fires.

    Just the realization that uncontained fires will carry much more grievous consequences will go a long ways toward prevention and early reaction.

    • One note about extinguishing with water, however – remember NOT to use it in on things like grease fires. That can flare it up into a huge fireball which will make your indoor problem worse. Just look up yt videos on the subject. If you have a skillet or something burning, cover it with a lid, or even a damp towel if nothing else to just cut off the air.

  2. This article says that vehicles manufactured after the early 1950s have electrical systems which would be destroyed by an electromagnetic pulse, but this is not true. Until the 1980s, previous vehicles did not have any computer systems, so how could this be true? My daily driver is a 1970 Pontiac Grand Prix and it is virtually the same as a 1950s vehicle, as far as the electrical goes, it’s the same as my 1955 Chevy pickup. These vehicles are as “dumb” as they get, not like the “smart” cars of today. Please explain what makes them susceptible to electromagnetic pulses.

    • Carole – My same question after seeing the warnings change from 1980s to 1950s vehicles. Wires, switches, points, coil, condenser, solenoid – which are the most vulnerable??? Was considering getting a points distributor set up for my ’68, but the 1950s reference slowed me down.

      3 day maritime fire training course refreshed and renewed alertness to fire. SCBA necessary for fighting internal fires, fire hood suggested for escaping internal fires. Extinguish fire by removing one or more of it’s requirements: oxygen, fuel or heat.

      • JJM~ I have points on my ’70, but I want to go to HEI. I would sure like to know what the diff is between pre 1950s and later cars, I just don’t get it. Your training sounds like a good thing to have! God Bless

        • I’ll keep the HEI on my 68 Goat but still look at obtaining a complete back-up Points system. Of course at 15 MPG it won’t drive too far without using an Arkansas credit card.
          Any industry firefighting course will be expensive. Best bet is to contact your fire dept for any classes or recommendations.

          • 15 is better than my 11mpg. 🙁 I sold my ’69 Judge in ’10 to a collector in Quebec. I still have a ’66 and ’67 Goat though. As far as gas, if we have an EMP attack, there will be no gas, as all of the gas stations around here are tied to computers and they don’t have back up generators, and we’re talking Love’s truck stop too.

        • Forgot to mention – As far as newer vehicles, best recommendation I’ve seen are installing a static strip and when parked, ground the frame to a ground rod with your trusty jumper cables.

      • Coils. Inductance is the real problem. Most coils are hooked in some fashion to capacitors and that’s where the fun begins. Just coils attached to nothing will be just fine – but when the coils pick up the em pulse …. fried electrics. I figure the more complex the system connected to the coil, the more likely it’ll be fried*.

        I think I have the idea why earlier cars are fine – generators (DC) vs alternators (AC). Generators have very strong diodes that only have to fight back current from one direction and a they are built for constant high current. I think the way alternators handle rectifying (bridge?) makes it the more brittle setup. IIRC The car manufacturers moved most cars to alternators in late 50’s and 60’s.

        Adding any computer to the coil setup means the same current from the pulse now is shoved through the chips and semiconducting materials. Which often were built for 5 to 15v and only an amp or two. EMP (my SWAG) will push thousands of volts at 100s of amps through the poor widdle computas. (Could be underestimating by multiple factors but I can’t see any less than that.)

        * EMP proofing would take either really heavy shielding (sealed grounded metal boxes) or massive conductors to shunt the power off the coils before it hits the delicate eletrics/onics.

        I could be amillion miles off but, that’s my 200 cents (inflation you know). Then again, that and 5$ will get you a good coffee at a diner.

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