Preparedness Corner
February 2004
By Paul Vircsik

Hi Neighbors,

Would you rather have a convenient home or a safe home?  Such a quandary!  Could you not have both or is one the only way to be prepared for anything that comes your way?  I don’t have that answer but you do.  Just how far you wish to push the envelope in the way you live on our ranch is your business.  But I know my neighbors and I know that if I were to live too vicariously without regard to my own safety and the safety of others, they would suggest a better route.  And if you want to live in an unsafe manner and find yourself in a precarious position, your neighbors would become involved as you scream for help.  So, the way you live in our close knit society could really be viewed as everyone’s business and the people who suggest otherwise might not be seeing the forest for the trees.  I say close knit because living in a forest environment though your neighbors might never exchange a hello, they do watch what is going on around them for self preservation and their own property’s protection.  In a city, who cares, I’ll watch it on the evening news, but out here you do care, you have to.  If you disagree, then why are you reading this and how did you get to this web site?  So let me review some of the facts of disaster and how you can live in a more prepared state.

The number one location for a house fire is the kitchen.  The two top contenders for the cause is “food on the stove” and the toaster.  “Martha, did you turn off the burner?” It’s not funny but the site of the homeowner arriving back at their house with several pieces of fire apparatus parked in front and lots of men in yellow outfits running around is always the same.  (O.O) Leaving your home with the burners or oven left on is just plain stupid.  As far as appliances go, if it creates heat to operate, (toaster, curling iron, iron, etc.) unplug them when you are done using them.  The electricity is always going down the cord to the device stopped only by the internal switch.  Just how good do you think that switch is?  Are you ready to bet your home on it?  If you must leave all your appliances plugged in, have the plug operated on a wall switch and make sure the plug is GFIed (ground fault interrupter).

Having portable extinguishers around the house and garage is a smart thing.  Having an E.D.I.T.H.  plan (escape drills in the home - click here for a related article) and practicing it is smarter.  How many of you have one?  Raise your hands.  Better yet, email me if you do and if you practice.  Best, email me if you do, practice, and learn from my words.  Just a simple Hi, yes, yes, and whatever will do.  I’d like to get a count of who I help and who heeds these words written in a drunken stupor.  Just kidding.  The stupor not the words.

Fire: The rapid oxidation of a fuel with an oxidizing agent with the evolution of heat, light and toxic gases.  From rust being the slowest form of burning to an explosion which is the fastest, fire always needs four things to exist; fuel, heat, oxygen, and a chemical reaction.  Without the chemical reaction you have the old fire triangle that produces smoldering material.  To produce flame you need all four.  If you remove ANY of the other three and you CAN NOT have fire.  So it is easy to think of ways to extinguish fire and more important how to prevent fire.  Take away the fuel, cool it, or smother it.

In the forest and wildland the most common way to extinguish small fires is to remove the heat.  Water, evening temperatures, and snow all slow or stop fire.  Large fires which are over a few acres in bad conditions (hot dry windy days) are stopped by removing the fuel.  Cutting down trees, brush and raking the ground down to bare earth and waiting until the fire runs out of fuel helps to slow the fire so crews can get in there and mop up the small stuff with tools or water if it is available.

The number one reason fire gets inside a building and the cause for burning homes in any forest/wildland fire is embers getting into the attic.  Removal of fuel from around your home is still the best way to keep the fire outside.  Preventing the ability for fire to get in is a close second.  Screens over eave vents, moving combustible “stuff” (chairs, wood, toys, gas cans, etc) away from the buildings, removing vegetation that is to close to buildings, moving burnables away from the windows inside, etc.

Strong winds always accompany any good fire.  Embers will be blown all over the place and from great distances.  The main body of the fire could be miles from your home when the embers start falling and the air gets preheated from the wind moving the hot gases.  Parts of Dorothy’s house will start to burn the wicked witches hair long before the house falls on her.  This is why forest fires can grow so quickly and people die when they think they are safe miles from the fire.  Areas preheat and light off long before the body of the fire arrives creating even more danger for the down wind areas because so much is burning at the same time instead of a narrow fire front.  Why help the fire by leaving a pathway into your home or having trees and bushes close to your buildings.  Not preparing for a fire while living in our forest community is, you guessed it, just plain stupid.

In your home dry chemical extinguishers work well for ABC fires and water works well on type A fires.  The types of fire are:

  1. Common combustibles, wood, plastic, paper, etc.
  2. Liquid fuel, gasoline, oil, etc.
  3. Energized electrical, lamps, wires, appliances, etc.
  4. Flammable metals.

Remember that after using a dry chem.  Extinguisher, that the method used here is smothering and after the fire is out heat can still remain and fire can re-ignite when all four components re-unite.  So cooling should be used or moving the fuel to a safer place.  Living safer is the preferred method of prevention.  Overloaded electric cords and cords under material cause heat to build.  Add the other three and you get fire.  Dust in the heater gets heated to the point of ignition.  Not having smoke and CO detectors in every bedroom and in the kitchen while living where we do is again just plain stupid.  Really look around your home and try to picture what could go wrong.  Then make it safer.

Remove the fuel, cool the heat, smother the oxygen, and kill the fire.  Remove the ability for fire to exist by preparing for and living smart and you may never be visited by a big red truck.  Living safely protects you and your neighbors.

Since most disasters and emergencies occur without warning, next month I will discuss Response Ability or How To Prepare For The Arrival.  For the rest of the year I want to hear from you my neighbors on what you think is important or what you would like to see addressed.  Email me at


Meet the author: Read about Paul Vircsik's background