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Thinking Outside the Box During a Fire

Thinking Outside the Box During a Fire



We all know that heat, flame and smoke kill more people in fires than anything else.  The standard advice is to get low to the ground and crawl your way out of the structure as soon as possible.  It’s also wise to have a fire extinguisher handy as a way to beat back flames as you evacuate.  However, there are some other things that you may consider having on hand to increase your chances of survival if you can’t escape in a timely manner.  Let’s look at some basic guidelines for dealing with fires as well as how you can add an extra layer of protection as well.

Toxic Fumes

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A lot of people don’t realize that one of the biggest dangers during a fire is breathing in toxic fumes.  When homes, apartments or buildings go up in smoke, many items inside release poisonous gases as they burn.  The term “smoke inhalation” is almost misleading.  We get the impression that we breathe in smoke and ashes from burning material, and all we need is some fresh air to eliminate the problem.  The reality is that we are breathing in poisonous gases that can lead to permanent respiratory damage along with an increased risk of cancer and a range of other life-long health problems.

While it is important to stay as low to the ground during a fire as possible, and covering cracks around doors and vents will help to keep rooms free from smoke, it is also important to get to fresh air.  Consider purchasing a respirator or small oxygen canister to use during an emergency.  This will prevent you from inhaling fumes and exposing yourself to health risks.  You can put it on and start to evacuate while breathing fresh air, and this can make all of the difference in the world in terms of exposure to toxic gases.

Heat Protection

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It doesn’t take a lot to burn our skin or cause our clothing to spontaneously combust under the right conditions.  Fires can quickly raise temperatures to over a thousand degrees, and many victims succumb to extreme heat before they have a chance to escape.  Keep in mind that you may not become injured from direct contact with flame.  The ambient air can become hot enough to render you unconscious or literally cook the body without burning. 

One of the best things that anyone can do if they are not able to evacuate quickly is to cover themselves with a Mylar blanket.  Mylar blankets are used by those who fight forest and wildfires.  If they are faced with an imminent disaster, they will crouch down and bury themselves under the blanket as a last line of defense.  However, this is the last thing that most people think about having on hand in their homes, even though it could be a life saver.  Consider purchasing some Mylar blankets just in case.  They are not expensive, and their ability to insulate the body from extreme temperatures are well-worth the small investment.

Face Mask

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Finally, smoke from structure fires can be dark, thick with particles and extremely irritating to the eyes.  Many people end up feeling their way around their homes because they can’t open their eyes. It’s very easy to get disoriented and end up going the wrong way during an evacuation.  Purchasing a good mask or goggles that can be placed over the eyes can put you in an advantageous position.  Combining that with an oxygen supply can help to buy you precious time and give you more options as you try to escape.

While following traditionally-accepted guidelines with respect to evacuating during a fire is important, these additional items can be invaluable.  Consider obtaining them in order to give you a better chance of avoiding succumbing to heat or smoke, getting disoriented or wasting precious time during an escape.  Fires happen quickly, spread rapidly and force people to make split-second decisions that can mean the difference between life and death.  You need all of the help you can get during a fire, and these items can make all of the difference in the world in terms of getting out unscathed.



How to Use Chemicals to Start Fires

How to Use Chemicals to Start Fires



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One of the most effective, yet least discussed ways to start fires without a flame is by using chemistry.  Combining certain common chemicals together can create thermal reactions that start fires instantly.  Let’s take a look at a few examples that involve chemicals that are generally legal and relatively easy to obtain in most places.

Nail Polish Remover

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You can mix nail polish remover with sulfuric acid and potassium permagenate together and start an instant and hot chemical fire.  The trick is to incorporate the chemicals in the right order and use appropriate methods.  The first step is to douse a piece of tissue in the acetone, or the active ingredient in nail polish remover.   

Then, take your sulfuric acid, which you can get from a car battery or else in a bottle from a chemistry shop, and use a GLASS pipette or plastic spoon to obtain a few drops.  Never use a metal spoon when handling sulfuric acid.  Squeeze a few drops from the pipette onto the tissue.  If you use the spoon, drip a few drops of the acid onto the tissue and then sprinkle a few crystals of the potassium permagenate on top.  Following these steps will create a fire instantly.


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You will need some ammonium nitrate, some hydrochloric acid along with some zinc powder.  You can get the nitrate from fertilizer or a fertilizer supply store in small quantities if you’re lucky, and you can use some forms of pool acid as an alternative to straight hydrochloric acid.  Mix the ammonium nitrate with the zinc powder and add some drops of hydrochloric acid.  The acid will cause the exothermic reaction which will give you a nice starter fire.  Do this near or next to your kindling or tinder and you can get your main fire going in a matter of seconds.


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You can also start a thermal reaction that will produce a fire by using some glycerin along with potassium permagenate and water.  Place your tinder, wood shavings or other starter material atop some cardboard.  Carefully pour a small amount of the glycerin atop the material.  Sprinkle some of the potassium permagenate crystals atop the doused material.  Add a few drops of water when finished.  The water will cause the reaction to occur more quickly, and the tinder should ignite as the chemicals create a hot fire.  Quickly transport the tinder to your main fire and you’re good to go.

Sugar Fire

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You can start a fire with basic sugar crystals along with sodium chlorate and a little bit of sulfuric acid.  You can find sodium chlorate in certain types of water purification tablets, or you can get it in a powder from a supply store.  Grind the tablets into a powder and mix with the sugar.  Place next to your kindling or tinder and carefully add a few drops of the sulfuric acid.  The acid will start the reaction that will create the fire.

All of these examples are just general ideas that are based on commonly-known chemical reactions.  You should experiment with different amounts and proportions to create a fire that’s just right for your needs.  It’s also very important that you take precautions to protect your skin and eyes as well as your clothing from accidentally catching fire.  Never keep the bottles or supplies of chemicals near to where you are combining the ingredients, and always mix the chemicals outside in a safe area.

It is very easy and inexpensive to acquire and store these common chemicals, and they will most definitely start a fire when mixed properly.  While they may not seem all that practical during a survival situation, they may help you to get a fire going a lot faster than many other alternative methods out there.  Look further into these options and see if they are something that you should add to your survival bag of tricks.