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Old 07-08-2008, 06:47 PM
 
175 posts, read 926,423 times
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Hey Everybody-

I'll be moving to a rural part of California pretty soon, and am worried about the potential for wildfires. I was thinking I might try to build some sort of small, underground bunker, (or underground 'hole' of some sort) on my land, NOT for me to go into, but some place to put "important" stuff (photo albums, good furniture, etc) in case I would have to evacuate the house due to potential wildfire. Let's face it...I couldn't just shove a whole housefull of belongings into my car and go, but at least the important/sentimental stuff would be saved, and insurance would pay for the house and other stuff if it burnt down. Has anyone ever considered this? Would it work? Where would I find plans to build such a thing? Nothing too huge or elaborate, maybe just the size of a small bathroom or something.
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Old 07-08-2008, 06:54 PM
 
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Seems like a large septic tank would be a starting point since they are impervious.You would have to worry about mold.Without power how can this factor be covered,air,ventilation etc.
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Old 07-08-2008, 07:26 PM
 
1,712 posts, read 4,014,281 times
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How about a fireproof safe?
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Old 07-08-2008, 07:38 PM
 
Location: Rolando, San Diego CA 92115
7,173 posts, read 18,597,138 times
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thats what a fireproof safe is for.

There are 2 people in San Diego county who built concrete houses, one was still destroyed in the last fire when the windows blew out. Several others had onsite water tanks and hydrants, one still lost his house.

In a wildfire situation if you don't have enough time to get your important stuff in a car and leave, you're probably in deep trouble.
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Old 07-08-2008, 07:50 PM
 
47 posts, read 250,285 times
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get a large fireproof safe and keep it in the cellar
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Old 07-08-2008, 08:06 PM
 
Location: Las Flores, Orange County, CA
26,362 posts, read 55,988,069 times
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Safe deposit box is a good thing too. I keep all my computer files backed up on either DVD or removable/portable hard drives and keep annual backups in a SDB. The remainder of my personal belongings are worth about $75.
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Old 07-09-2008, 05:22 PM
 
175 posts, read 926,423 times
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Well, there are no cellars or basements in this part of California, and from what I've investigated, most 'fireproof' safes are only fireproof for a short amount of time, not for hours of an intense burn, besides, you can't put paintings, antiques, etc. into a small safe.
Good idea about safety deposit box, for papers and computer backup stuff. I guess I was hoping to find someone who had built some sort of small underground room, or knew where to look for plans. Thanks for all of the advice though!
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Old 07-09-2008, 08:57 PM
 
Location: Way on the outskirts of LA LA land.
3,043 posts, read 7,570,707 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitty3 View Post
Well, there are no cellars or basements in this part of California, and from what I've investigated, most 'fireproof' safes are only fireproof for a short amount of time, not for hours of an intense burn, besides, you can't put paintings, antiques, etc. into a small safe.
Good idea about safety deposit box, for papers and computer backup stuff. I guess I was hoping to find someone who had built some sort of small underground room, or knew where to look for plans. Thanks for all of the advice though!
There are some rather large fireproof safes available, some even with double doors that are about the size of a good sized closet. Most of these are sold as gun safes, but can be used for many purposes, if properly prepared. Something to keep in mind is if the safe endures a fire, allow plenty of time for the interior to cool before opening it, to prevent spontaneous combustion of the contents when the fresh oxygen enters the space. Most houses, when they burn, are fully engulfed in something like 22 minutes, and usually extinguished in less than an hour, so a long duration for a fire safe may not be as necessary as you think it is. It could be important in some situations, but not as much in others. I would suggest investigating this further.

There is a company called "Sportsman" that offers a 72"x 60"x28" safe that is fire rated for 100 minutes according to their website. I don't know what type of fire testing was done to achieve this rating, nor do I know if the test was one of the standardized tests that can be performed. The fireproofing method used can make a huge difference in the performance of the safe in the event of a fire. Just about every manufacturer claims to have the best fire protection in the industry, but they can't all be right, so you need to do some homework to find what will work best in your situation.

I think your best bet is to find a large fireproof safe that will meet your needs, then place your belongings inside protective covering to prevent them from water damage (don't use plastic since it has a low melting point), which, from what I have heard, is a possibility, even in a fireproof safe.
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Old 07-10-2008, 08:53 AM
 
Location: In an alternate universe according to some, AKA Aspergers
10,746 posts, read 11,933,030 times
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Actually they make a house coating foam now that lasts for a few days when applied that will stop the house from burning. They also make a delivery system that goes in the peak of the house or in the eves that when triggered coats the house. All that it needs is a couple of 55 gallon poly drums of the foam and a water supply.
We have this risk every year and have done a few things to reduce the odds of our house burning.
1. defensable space around the house.
2. Large sprinklers set around the house out about 50 feet to keep it wet.
3. Foam/Gel suppression system. This is what is used by many up here: http://www.firegel.com/index.aspx (broken link)
4. If a fire starts and you have ANY concern that it could come your way start preparing NOW, get your valuables in one place so you don't run around when and if the time comes.
We had one of our usuall huge fires here a couple of years ago and I'll never forget helping people we know try and evacuate their whole house in a moments notice. It was very hard and even though we had 10 people and a couple of trailers they still had to pick and choose in a few minutes what they wanted to lose or keep. Had they done this prep early on it would have made life a lot easier.
If they tell you to leave, LEAVE! Here you don't have to, they just have you fill out a next of kin notification form and sign a form stating you were told you could die and choose not to leave even though no fire resources will be sent to help you later.
They then red tag the front of your property on a pole to let authorities know there may be a body there after the fire blows through.

Last edited by jimj; 07-10-2008 at 09:37 AM..
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Old 07-10-2008, 12:15 PM
Status: "It's 5 o'clock somewhere." (set 28 days ago)
 
Location: Mountain Ranch, CA The heart of Calaveras County
6,186 posts, read 11,628,975 times
Reputation: 4950
JimJ is absolutely correct on his advice. I would offer you one more idea. The firegel product has been tested and appears to be effective. I also have a sprinkler system to protect my home and in the heat of the past couple of days, I run it at night to increase the fuel moisture as much as I can. My biggest concern about vegetation fires is my plastic skylights. As a former CDF firefighter, my plan is to stay put and defend my home if necessary, but I've already installed a lot of the infrastructure to help me do so. I can also "fire out" the vegetation between my home and my neighbors (they are also well defended) if it becomes absolutely necessary. Since my home isn't visible from the county road, I have a sign out front that says "Defensible Space : Fire Engine Turnaround : 3000 gallon tank. This way if I'm not around when it happens the engine company knows they have a good chance of saving my home without risking their necks.

Try a "dry" run to collect all the possessions you want to save and try to get them all in a safe place (your car will do for starters) within 30 minutes. In an evacuation situation you may not have even that much time to act. I don't think you need to underground anything, a simple metal shed on a concrete pad (with clearance) should provide ample protection for your things.

The intensity of a vegetation fire (depending on the fuels involved) starts out very high for the first few minutes in any particular location and then dissipates fairly quickly as the fuel is exhausted and the fire moves on. The heat left behind as the larger fuels burn is much less intense than a moving flame front and you can get quite close to the fire at that point without much more than a general discomfort from the heat. Flame heights are generally about 5 to 8 times the height of the fuel they are burning in which is why the defensible space requirement is in place.
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