Block It

Preventing a Conflagration

Keeping the Flock Safe from Fire

Water sprinkler

Based on the Sheepdog Church Security Training Course

Arson Prevention and Fire Drills for Churches [1]

In the Bible

For lack of wood the fire goes out (Proverbs 26:20).

(They) quenched the power of fire (Hebrews 11:34).

Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? (Proverbs 6:27).


In the News

Magalia, California, November 9, 2018 - While most church buildings in and around Paradise, California, were destroyed in the massive 2018 Camp Fire, the Magalia Pines Baptist Church survived, sheltering 30 people from the raging firestorm. Sure, it was a miracle. Their evacuation route had been cut off and fire exploded around them, so they took refuge in the church, not knowing if it would hold out. [2]

Part of the miracle happened years before, when the congregation made construction choices. Without knowing it would protect the building from a wildfire, the church was built with a metal roof and non-combustible siding, all vents were screened, and the only trees on the property were deciduous and at a distance from the building. God apparently guided their choices, knowing that they would save lives someday.

Manhattan, New York City, New York, April 19, 2019 - Vigilance prevents arson. A man entered St. Patrick's Cathedral with gasoline, lighter fluid, and long-nosed fireplace lighters. He was stopped by the security staff, questioned, and arrested by police who had been called.[3]

Stop It Before It Starts

Fire protection begins with fire prevention. This also means putting up roadblocks for fires that do start. This is just as important in churches and other places of worship as it is in homes, businesses, schools, and public buildings. The whole package of fire prevention and fire blocking can be called "fireproofing." The best fire is the one that does not start. Second best is the one which does not spread.

Built-in Fireproofing

Fireproofing is easier when planning construction of the church building. Use non-combustible materials wherever and whenever practical and affordable. Magalia Pines Baptist Church probably chose the metal roof and non-combustible exterior wall covering because they cost less than more fashionable materials, such as cedar shakes, asphalt tile, and wood or vinyl siding. Keeping trees away from the building made it easier for attendees to park closer, as well as making it easier to keep the property clean. Fireproofing may or may not have been the deciding factor, but these measures helped the church to survive a firestorm years later.

Other fireproofing of a church building which can be intentionally built in are

Retro-Fitted Fireproofing

An existing church building can be fireproofed. However, depending on the way it is built, and the cost of retro-fitting, what you can do may be limited.

Fires in older-style church buildings are extremely difficult to fight, such as the Notre Dame fire in Paris and the fire in a Pittsburgh church on September 9. On the good side, as historic Roman Catholic cathedrals in the United States are being renovated, they are also being equipped to suppress fires in their most vulnerable area, the lofty roofs and ceilings.

The most obvious means of fireproofing an existing church building are (1) install a sprinkler system, (2) install a fire detection system with an automatic and manual (3) install or upgrade fire extinguishers, and (4) upgrade exit signs/lights and emergency lights. Other fireproofing measures could be (depending on the building):

Fireproofing Maintenance

Proper and timely maintenance is one of the keys to preventing fires in the church. Here are a few maintenance tasks to improve fire safety:

Fire Prevention Practices

There are ways we can do things around the church to prevent fires, to keep those that do start from spreading, and to facilitate evacuation and firefighting. This is not just for the Safety Team, but for everyone who participates in church programs, whether staff or volunteers. Some these are:

Fire Prevention Help

Besides the Sheepdog Church Security training course, there is additional advice on preventing church fires from Church Tax & Law [4] and insurance companies, such as Church Mutual [5], Brotherhood Mutual [6], and AIG [7].

Only You …

Remember the Smokey Bear posters that say, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires"? How about a Church Safety poster: "Only YOU can prevent church fires." You, individually, cannot do everything, but do what you can.

There Is More

Other articles in this series for Fire Safety Month are "Spark" (How Do Fires Start?), "Quench It" (Fire Suppression), and "Out from Danger" (Evacuations and Fire Drills).

References

  1. Kris Moloney, "Arson Prevention and Fire Drills for Churches," Sheepdog Church Security Training Courses, Training Materials (Classes) [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/arson-prevention-and-fire-drills-for-churches-training-bundle], Online Training (Individual) [https://sheepdog-church-security.thinkific.com/courses/arson-prevention-and-fire-drills-for-churches].
  2. Will Maule, "‘We Were Totally Unscathed': Pastor Recalls Miraculous Wildfire Survival Despite Church Group Being Surrounded By Raging Inferno," CBN, November 15, 2018 [https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2018/november/lsquo-we-were-totally-unscathed-rsquo-pastor-recalls-miraculous-wildfire-survival-despite-church-group-being-surrounded-by-raging-inferno].
  3. Beth Griffin, "U.S. cathedrals rely on state-of-art fire prevention, remain vigilant," Crux, April 21, 2019 [https://cruxnow.com/notre-dame-cathedral-fire/2019/04/21/u-s-cathedrals-rely-on-state-of-art-fire-prevention-remain-vigilant/].
  4. "Annual Fire Safety Checklist - Assessment: 10 ways to keep your church safe from fire," Church Law & Tax, n/d [https://www.churchlawandtax.com/web/2011/march/churchsafefire.html].
  5. Staff, "Fire Safety At Your Worship Center," Church Mutual Insurance Company, n/d [https://www.churchmutual.com/media/pdf/fire_safety.pdf].
  6. Staff, "Fire Safety and Prevention," Brotherhood Mutual, n/d [https://www.brotherhoodmutual.com/index.cfm/resources/safety-library/risk-management-articles/disasters-emergencies-and-health/fire-safety-and-prevention/].
  7. Staff, "Houses of Worship: Fire Prevention Checklist," AIG, n/d [https://www.aig.com/content/dam/aig/america-canada/us/documents/brochure/plcb-houses-ofworship-fire-prevention-checklist.pdf].