How well will your contents survive a gun safe fire?

This is a discussion on How well will your contents survive a gun safe fire? within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Sadly, I have gained some experience with the aftermath of a gun safe that was in a fire, and according to the fireman a "hot ...

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Thread: How well will your contents survive a gun safe fire?

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    How well will your contents survive a gun safe fire?

    Sadly, I have gained some experience with the aftermath of a gun safe that was in a fire, and according to the fireman a "hot fire". I'm going to use this thread as a place to post some occasional photos, comments, and thoughts on how things could be improved to help the contents better survive a fire.

    The safe was a large major brand that was fire resistant for a certain period of time at a certain temperature. I don't remember what that was, but I'm sure the fire exceeded the safes specs. As you know "fire resistance" is typically done with the safe's interior layered with one thickness of drywall. After the fire, the nice shelves, nice cloth lining were in shambles and the drywall was essentially large jigsaw puzzle pieces stacked up at the bottom of the safe. It crumbled.

    No doubt the fire resistent safe was better than nothing. I know because there was a revolver inside a nylon bag that had been left lying on the exterior top of the safe and suffered the full effects of the fire. I'll call it my "control". The nylon bag was gone, the revolver was seriously cooked. The gunsmith declared it unuseable, so it now hangs on a wall. Nothing else to do with it.

    Expect the outside combination dial/lock to be gone, you'll have to open the safe with brute force.

    Inside the safe, there were various long guns and handguns all contained in different forms of bags/boxes/cases. First of all, it's my opinion that man made materials, like plastic or nylon are really bad if they are touching the gun and get hot. Those materials easily/quickly melt and put a residue on the guns that is VERY hard to remove. Strangely enough, and don't laugh, but a Nike shoe box was inside the safe and it did the best job of protecting it's contents, which happened to be unscorched paperwork.

    Those molded plastic cases with the foam inserts were terrible when exposed to heat. I'm attaching a photo of some of the plastic cases and the shoe box. Not every plastic case had a gun in it, and not every one was melted, but some of them in the background are so melted they really don't open and we had to cut a slit to remove the pistol. The guns would have done better in the shoebox, simply because paper doesn't melt or emit much harsh stuff when it gets hot. Granted it would eventually flash and burn. I'd rather have thick paper/cardboard around my guns, but more on that later.

    Check back on this thread from time to time and I'll update with more information and photos. Right now I've added two photos, one is a group of boxes, mostly the foam inserts/plastic combination, one is an aluminum case, I believe there is a cooked nylon zip bag in the background. In the foreground, on the right, is part of the shelving. The other picture is a closeup of the shoebox.
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    This is very interesting. I am so sorry that you now have first hand experience to share with us, but we can all try to learn from the event. Keep us posted.

    My thoughts go out to you and your family as you deal with this.

    I certainly hope you are all OK.

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    Just had a friend that went through this exact same thing. He lost 43 guns in all. Some were outside of his safe and ruined immediately, the ones in the safe all needed to be refinished. The safe did its job for a while, but nothing will do a perfect job.

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    I'm glad you brought this up as for various reasons I keep "stuff" in a fire resistant & water resistant safe.

    I actually don't especially care if a thief gets this "stuff" by carrying off the safe, but I'd hate to lose it in a fire-- both would be
    remote events but fire would I think be the more likely of the two, as my safe is particularly well concealed.

    The safe is rated for 1550 for 30 minutes. Browsing around the net it is easy to find commentary that most fires will burn rapidly past a spot so the 30 minute time is reasonable. I've got no clue about the adequacy of the 1550 degree rating.

    I've also found suggestions that heat resistance can be improved by getting some inexpensive fiberglass insulation and adding
    that as a second liner. There are fiberglass envelopes available through the net (Amazon) which should add substantially to
    the survival of "stuff." Their downside is people don't like to handle fiberglass.

    From what you wrote, and for my purposes, it seems like a Nike shoe box, perhaps with a fiberglass wrap (e.g., water heater insulation), or perhaps also with a fire-resistant spray paint coat, might do the job.

    It is quite unfortunate that asbestos, one of the most useful materials ever, has proven too dangerous and been banned.

    Looking forward to more from you on your experiences.
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    Waiting to see and hear more about something I hope to never experience.

    Thanks for sharing this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rock and Glock View Post
    This is very interesting. I am so sorry that you now have first hand experience to share with us, but we can all try to learn from the event. Keep us posted.

    My thoughts go out to you and your family as you deal with this.

    I certainly hope you are all OK.
    Thank you very much, the gun safe was a small component of the actual losses. The fire was in an environmentally happy storeroom that we think lightning hit a few years ago during a squall line of thunderstorms. We lost a lot of stored stuff. I survived emotionally by remembering the old saying, "don't cry over spilled milk" and that's what we had was spilled milk. I can't reverse the losses so I just dealt with it all head on.

    I'm glad it's over and thankful no one was hurt and we still had our house unscathed (separate properties). The listing and cateloguing, along with calculating amounts, prices, date purchesed, etc for the insurance claim was a monumental task.

    I've re-built and re-done and moving on with life, only with less stuff, but doing just fine.
    Turn the election's in 2014 to a "2A Revolution". It will serve as a 1994 refresher not to "infringe" on our Second Amendment. We know who they are now.........SEND 'EM HOME. Our success in this will be proportional to how hard we work to make it happen.

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    ppk,

    Sorry to hear of such a loss, but it is just 'stuff' (although I do understand the loss of stuff)...with all lives OK, one can restore most items lost.
    Glad all were safe.

    You got me to go searching for info on one of our Browing safes...1200'F for 60 minutes. I'm not really sure if that's good or bad. Any fire would ruin everything else. Insurance aside, it's hard to replace items with sentimental value.
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    Not all "fireproofing" is equal. There's something to be said for 1800F 1hr+ protection, independently tested. And, even then there aren't any guarantees.

    For vital paperwork, I generally also have a decent little fireproof box for the papers, inside the safe. Again, not a guarantee, but every little bit can help. Nicely for paperwork, though, scanning to PDF and having some copies around on "thumb" drives works wonders for peace of mind. Of course, that won't keep the guns and other such stuff from melting.
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    My friend, I am sorry you had to go through that. A fire is a horriible thing to happen to any home or auto.

    I have seen many safes that went through a fire. As you said, the safe offered more protection than nothing. Yet the fire ratings are made for paper items such as money, contracts, wills and other papers. Even gun safes are rated that way.

    By the time paper ignites inside a safe, the high temps have destroyed plastics and most woods. Insurance is your friend in case of a fire. Having a fire department close by and telling them where the safe is also helps the odds of getting out with little damage to guns.

    Only one of my safes are in a living area. The rest are in a room lined with flame proof wallboard. I have good intentions to put a metal door going into the room to cut the chance of burn down even more.

    You have done a great service to gun owners today in bringing this to the forefront. I am just very saddened that it happened to you.
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    Lightbulb

    It's not perfect, it's not foolproof, but as I posted in another thread, I added some to mine:
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    In the early 90s I had a house burn down. I had three safes in the garage. It was an extreamly hot fire, and the firemen said they would be surprised if any of my guns survived. The first safe was a stack on gun locker, nothing was salvageable. the second was a namebrand safe that was rated as fire retardant. the guns in it survived because it was positioned between a freezer and a referigerator. The guns inside all needed the rubber recoil pads replaced, the wood stripped and refinished and the metal had to be refinished. Not as much from the heat but something in the smoke discolored the blueing, and made them rust quickly. The last safe was a Browning with an 1800 deg 1 hour rating. My insurance co called browning and browning sent a locksmith out to open it. I was very surprised at what I saw inside. other than 2" of water in the bottom it looked just like when I had closed the door. The door gasket had swelled to seal the door, so no smoke damage and the heat did not penetrate the insulation. The insulation was a ceramic fiber [ looked like fiberglass ] under 1/2" sheetrock. Had I opened it sooner there would have been no damage at all, as it was some of my long guns still have a water mark on the butt ends to remind me that fire rating does mean something!

    PPK, there are still things to this day that I miss. All the things that really matter got out that day, the rest has been replaced or will be someday! Glad to hear none of your family were hurt. DR

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    Sorry about all the damage ppk, glad it wasn't actually your home.

    The other thread got me "derailed on the net" looking at different sites. There's a thread on thr where the owner of Dakota safes chimed in. He's seen a few fire involved safes and the gist of his experience is 1) < 1hr fire rating you may as well have none (I'm taking this as don't bother paying for it unless you're really gonna step up, 2) of the 4 1hr rated safes he saw, only 3 actually survived, 3) the top of the safe got hotter than the bottom, and 4) corners of rooms fared better.

    This has got me thinking (and I'm no contractor/builder) but what about getting a lower dollar safe, put it in an exterior corner (bolted down), and then pouring a 2" reinforced concrete wall around one side (or both) and top. It would be easier to move in initially, especially a modular; prevent tipping/stealing the whole safe; prevent gaining any leverage points for prying; and increase the fire resistance. Or would this not be cost effective?

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    Ceramic is the best insulating material you can probabably get in a gun safe, or any other safe today.

    You don't think they used ceramic tiles on the STS because everyone was in a pottery class at Rockwell International do ya?
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    Distinguished Member Array oldman45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nedrgr21 View Post
    Sorry about all the damage ppk, glad it wasn't actually your home.

    The other thread got me "derailed on the net" looking at different sites. There's a thread on thr where the owner of Dakota safes chimed in. He's seen a few fire involved safes and the gist of his experience is 1) < 1hr fire rating you may as well have none (I'm taking this as don't bother paying for it unless you're really gonna step up, 2) of the 4 1hr rated safes he saw, only 3 actually survived, 3) the top of the safe got hotter than the bottom, and 4) corners of rooms fared better.

    This has got me thinking (and I'm no contractor/builder) but what about getting a lower dollar safe, put it in an exterior corner (bolted down), and then pouring a 2" reinforced concrete wall around one side (or both) and top. It would be easier to move in initially, especially a modular; prevent tipping/stealing the whole safe; prevent gaining any leverage points for prying; and increase the fire resistance. Or would this not be cost effective?


    I am a firm believer in protection when it comes to my guns or antique convertible. Would it not be easier and cheaper to build a fireproof cabinet around your safe? Any safe will burn up in time during a fire. The idea of building a fireproof room or fireproof cabinet around the safe is only meant to delay heat getting to the safe. Delay long enough and the firedepartment will be putting the fire out. Fire department response time is critical in any fire. There are two rooms in this house that I am concerned about. The fire officials will be advised of the locations upon their arrival.

    Now that I think about it, doesn't some company make fire blankets that fire fighters wrap around them when to survive a woods fire? WOuld putting one of these around a safe when not in use be of any value?
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    Our local fire marshal recommended at least a 60 minute, with a 90 minute more in line with what he has seen in the years with the local department.
    Mine is rated at 90 minutes at over 1500 degrees.
    Granted, it has an electronic lock, but has a guarantee that if the safe can not be opened by their locksmith, a new safe will be delivered post haste. They will cut it open and replace no charge.
    I have no doubts that the lock would fry in minutes.
    The info from the fire department was that an outside wall has less temperature than an inside one. His info was that a frame one story house
    outside wall would not go beyond 1400 degrees.
    So, Fort Knox, rated at 90 minutes at over 1500 degrees is in my home.
    Guaranteed not to fail, I am not fully convinced. A better than good chance to have scorched corners on docs, maybe. Full loss, I don't think so.
    A good quality safe is another form of insurance, and I am not in the habit of buying cut rate insurance.
    1300 pounds empty with the aforementioned ratings give me as much peace of mind as I can reasonably get.
    I am sorry to hear about any loss, especially a member on this forum. Maybe our stories and posts might help with your choice in the future.
    Stand straight. Tomorrow is another day, and you need to face it in the right frame of mind. Things will get better. Peace from sunny Lebanon, Oregon

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