House fire questions

Jax_the_Gnome

Active Member
Aug 14, 2014
104
27
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Portland
Long time lurker. Purchased a few things from members, sold a few too over the years.

Catastrophe hit me in the last 10 days. We lost almost everything to fire and smoke damage.
So here is my question:
Anyone have luck recovering hardware from a fire?

Everyone is safe.
On a positive note my wifi and network stayed up during the fire until the cable modem melted.
If this isn't the right forum I apologize.
 

ljvb

Member
Nov 8, 2015
97
31
18
45
Glad you are all safe and sound.

You can try cleaning everything with isopropyl alcohol, assuming when you look inside the case and you don't find a molten mess of circuitry and components. Where they off when the fire dep (if they were needed) and the servers got wet. Drives may be toast, may not be. There is only one way to find out.. try. Best of luck to you.
 

T_Minus

Build. Break. Fix. Repeat
Feb 15, 2015
7,258
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113
CA
Yikes, glad you are all OK.

We need a little more info, why did the gear stop working due to a fire if it didn't burn entirely? Did some of the gear melt? Was it covered in water?
 

Jax_the_Gnome

Active Member
Aug 14, 2014
104
27
28
Portland
I realize that I am not giving tons of information, but I don't have much at the moment. I had to pull everything out of the house and have not had time to investigate
 

Stephan

Active Member
Apr 21, 2017
259
134
43
Germany
Let me take the opportunity to talk about my approach:

1) I installed smoke detectors in almost every room, especially where people sleep. Not in kitchen - too many false alarms - yes there are different/more expensive models capable of dealing with it - I am cheap. They last for 10 years on the Li-Ion-Battery in them, and compared to a coffin, very affordable /GermanSarcasm.

2) I run backups in 3-2-1 scheme. Three copies of data (live - other disks - LTO tape), on two separate media (disk and LTO tape), and one is offsite (LTO tapes). People on here know I love ZFS against bitrot through the years/decades, I'll spare you any details.

3) Electronic devices are somewhat resilient to heat and most/all plastics have fire retardants in them. So chances are devices will survive if the fire is not hot-burning-hell severe in such that the whole house is on fire and burning down 100%. German houses are built out of stone, Americans seem more wood lumber build-type oriented. Of course if the whole house is coming down due to the fire, all bets are off. But a normal PC case will have a metal enclosure and also metal casing of say an SSD. If only lightly toasted or smoked it should be no problem to recover the data.

4) Finally, I created a fire emergency plan. Yes, this is Sheldon Cooper territory. Step 1: I installed fire blankets on every floor for the smaller non-migrating fires. Everyone knows where they are. Fire? Pull on the straps and throw the blanked over the fire. Step 2. I got a "clean" CO2 fire extinguisher, for larger fires but not so large as to risk the big mess of the other type in... Step 3: There are biggish powder extinguishers on every floor. Good for even larger fires, but the small powder will creep into every crevice and corner you can't normally reach. You WILL have to renovate a room after using it. Step 4: Call the fire department if things escalate really fast. (obviously)

I told all of our immediate neighbors of the plan. Got alot of "little nutty 'eh" smiles. Maybe. Guess who will come running only in his underpants if necessary packed with two 20 kg cans when the neighbor's christmas decoration caught on fire.
 

T_Minus

Build. Break. Fix. Repeat
Feb 15, 2015
7,258
1,710
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CA
If things got covered in water I'd say its more 50\50 if not 70\30 leaning toward not working than working.
I personally would sit everything in the sun and let it air dry for days, and then do a heated blow dryer and then the rice bag trick to be sure things got dry.. like SSD, maybe even open them up and let them dry.


Let me take the opportunity to talk about my approach:

1) I installed smoke detectors in almost every room, especially where people sleep. Not in kitchen - too many false alarms - yes there are different/more expensive models capable of dealing with it - I am cheap. They last for 10 years on the Li-Ion-Battery in them, and compared to a coffin, very affordable /GermanSarcasm.

2) I run backups in 3-2-1 scheme. Three copies of data (live - other disks - LTO tape), on two separate media (disk and LTO tape), and one is offsite (LTO tapes). People on here know I love ZFS against bitrot through the years/decades, I'll spare you any details.

3) Electronic devices are somewhat resilient to heat and most/all plastics have fire retardants in them. So chances are devices will survive if the fire is not hot-burning-hell severe in such that the whole house is on fire and burning down 100%. German houses are built out of stone, Americans seem more wood lumber build-type oriented. Of course if the whole house is coming down due to the fire, all bets are off. But a normal PC case will have a metal enclosure and also metal casing of say an SSD. If only lightly toasted or smoked it should be no problem to recover the data.

4) Finally, I created a fire emergency plan. Yes, this is Sheldon Cooper territory. Step 1: I installed fire blankets on every floor for the smaller non-migrating fires. Everyone knows where they are. Fire? Pull on the straps and throw the blanked over the fire. Step 2. I got a "clean" CO2 fire extinguisher, for larger fires but not so large as to risk the big mess of the other type in... Step 3: There are biggish powder extinguishers on every floor. Good for even larger fires, but the small powder will creep into every crevice and corner you can't normally reach. You WILL have to renovate a room after using it. Step 4: Call the fire department if things escalate really fast. (obviously)

I told all of our immediate neighbors of the plan. Got alot of "little nutty 'eh" smiles. Maybe. Guess who will come running only in his underpants if necessary packed with two 20 kg cans when the neighbor's christmas decoration caught on fire.
You don't want to use a ABC Ext on your computer if you ever plan to use it again but if it's ABC or let fire keep going then use the ABC.
The co2 is the safer choice for electronics but if you have a small office or a large co2 ext or multiples keep in mind you're displacing oxygen.
I've had to use ABC and Halon Ext before due to fire on vehicle... we could get to the ABC quicker so it hit things first and then I finished up with the Halon. I then spent 2 days sanding, picking, etc, the engine and accessories to clean up what the ABC left. Luckily it was a small fire.


I think in datacenters they used to use Halon but since that's not human safe I'm sure they've now gone to something else as they did for vehicle systems, I haven't had the need to repurchase\upgrade my system so I'm unsure but I would go with the new tech fire ext that's safe for electronics and keep that near your PC \ Rack. Probably as much $$ or more than Halon but worth it to not have to 100% replace everything because you used the fire ext.
 

Stephan

Active Member
Apr 21, 2017
259
134
43
Germany
Normal water contains electrolytes and those will cause signal shorts in a device. If the device was still on when the water poured in, agreed, it will likely be dead. If it was off, then the PCB for the most part is coated, so no immediate corrosion or processing faults should happen. SATA/PCIe contacts are also gold-plated. My advice would be to dismantle the SSD you want to save, or take the m.2 and rinse it thoroughly in 99% isopropanol* to flush away any residue. Like take the PCB out and shake it around in isoprop. Let it dry for a few hours over a 40-50degC space heater or similar. No heat guns or hairdryers, isoprop is highly flammable. Don't wait 12 months to do it, a week later might be good. I think in this case you will be able to save the data.

As for CO2 extinguisher you are correct it will displace O2 and that one you need to stay concious, so always read the label, ventilate the area darn well during and after use, and if in doubt and to quote Paul Harrell, let a trained professional do it. Also don't empty the CO2 can on the fire like crazy, short thrusts only and then check if it was enough. Most fires will flame out easily.

* Isopropanol or 2-propanol is a fire and health hazard. Always store in a dark, cool place and in a metallic (non-breakable) container impermeable to light. In light it will form peroxides and those together with air's O2 form an explosive mixture.