Tundra Fire Extinguisher - Easy as 1, 2….
01/01/13 -06:21 Filed in: Gear | Fire Safety
This blog is about a very neat device I discovered while watching an episode of the Cooking Everything Outdoors podcast. It is the First Alert brand Tundra fire extinguishing spray. The show’s host, Gary House, was making a cedar planked pork loin roast and had both a spray water bottle & a small fire extinguisher that was the size of a large aerosol spray can. When you are cooking with wood planks, you are walking a fine line between a smoking plank & a fiery plank. I think just about anyone who has cooked on a cedar plank has also burned one up. I liked the small size of this unit because it seemed like you could easy bring it most anywhere, I had to email Gary House with a question about the recipe and I also asked about the fire extinguisher. In his reply he said it was the First Alert Tundra. I began to look into this unique fire extinguisher and the more I looked into it, the more things I found to like.
The first thing that attracted me when I saw the fire extinguisher was the small size. It measures 9 1/2” high x 2 1/2” in diameter (24 cm x 6 cm). This meant it was highly portable and you could have it nearby where ever you go. In the past when doing cedar plank cooks, I would move our “normal” sized 24” high x 6” diameter form the top of the basement stairs to just inside my Kitchen door. My grills are about 20’ away from the Kitchen door. In researching the Tundra, I learned that the average household fire doubles in size every 20 seconds. Not having the fire extinguisher close at hand meant precious seconds would be lost getting it.
The next item I discovered about the Tundra, which puts it in a class by itself, is the ease of use. Unlike a normal fire extinguisher which has pins you must remove, hoses you must position and levers you must squeeze-the Tundra works just like a spray can for deodorant or hair spray. My title for this blog was a reference to the original round of commercials for the Apple iMac. The commercial for the iMac had actor Jeff Goldblum describing the steps to get on the internet. He described the first two steps and then said “Step 3....There is no Step Three” and began laughing. Same here with the Tundra. There is a clear plastic cap that fits over the spray nozzle to prevent you from accidentally discharging the fire extinguisher. You remove the clear plastic cap, then you point the Tundra at the base of the fire while standing 3-4 feet away from the fire and spray. That is it, two simple steps to operate the extinguisher. While most adults haven’t discharged a fire extinguisher or even know how to do it, every adult probably knows how to spray an aerosol can. This is critical, because in an emergency you don’t have much time to react and fumbling around with a traditional fire extinguisher may prove too much for some people. Now in the truth in advertising department, there is a one-time Step 3. The clear plastic cap is covered with a clear plastic wrapper which must be removed before putting the device into service. This wrapper is so you can tell that the fire extinguisher hasn’t been used or tampered with.
Besides the ease of use/quick response time First Alert touts some other important features that set this unit apart from it’s competitors. I am not just reading ad copy here, I looked at some third party videos online where the Tundra was tested out and lives up to it’s claims. This fire extinguisher lasts 4X longer than it’s competitors and has a wider spray pattern. According to tests it lasted 32 seconds vs 8 seconds for the competition, so you have more opportunity to put out the fire. Let me also remind you that the ease of use probably means you are spraying it on the fire sooner, before it has had more time to grow. The second feature involves the internals of the extinguisher. The fire suppressant fluid that puts out the fire is isolated in a bag suspended in the middle of the can and the propellant surrounds this bag. When you discharge the extinguisher the propellent squeezes the bag to discharge the fire suppressant. You don’t get a large blast of white powder which is mostly the propellent, like you do with a traditional fire extinguisher. Instead you get a concentrated stream of the fire suppressant. The third item is ease of clean up. You don’t get a blast of white powdery propellant everywhere which is good because the cleanup can be a bear. The spray goes everywhere and it is corrosive and hard to clean up. The fluid in the Tundra gets sprayed into a concentrated area and is said to be bio-degradable. Cleanup can be done with water and a cloth. I’m not so sure I would want to use a grill grate after I sprayed it with a traditional fire extinguisher.
Are there any downsides to the Tundra? Not really, at least for indoor use. For indoor use there is only one potential item I could see being a problem. And it is only a problem if you didn’t look at the directions on the back panel. A normal fire extinguisher is meant to be sprayed from a distance of 6-8 feet (2 - 2.4 m) while the Tundra’s optimal distance is 3’ - 4’ (1-1.25 m). So you’ll need to spray from that 3’ - 4’ distance for the Tundra to be effective. It sounds like this will bring your body closer to the fire than with a traditional fire extinguisher, but not necessarily. You seem to instinctively hold the Tundra out at arms length in front of you, so your body is still about 6’ (2 m) away. The small size of the Tundra allows you to hold it out at arms length. A conventional fire extinguisher is a two-handed operation and you tend to hold it right in front of your body. Another reason for this is the greater weight of a traditional fire extinguisher. So when used from the proper 3’-4’ (1-1.25 m) distance, there are no downsides I can see. There are some limitations for outdoor use because the safe storage temperature range is 32-107 degrees (0-42C). For the few months of the year where the temps are below freezing, I would keep it just inside my Kitchen door or put it inside a cooler out by the grill.
A few other factoids about the Tundra: The Tundra is rated for grease, fabric/trash & electrical fires which are the typical household use cases. The Tundra is said to have a minimum 3 year shelf life and there is an expiration date stamped on the back of the can near the top. I bought my Tundra on 01/18/13 and the expiration date is 08/30/17. It probably makes sense to buy your Tundra in a store that has lots of turn over. Speaking of buying it, the Tundra is sold nationally through Sears, K-Mart & Home Depot. They are sold singly or in a two pack. The prices I saw were $13 - $16 for a single can and $26-$30 for the two pack. I bought mine at Home Depot and paid $12.97 apiece. I bought 3, one for the basement, one for the first floor and one for grilling.
So if you’re looking for an easy to use fire extinguisher for your home or out at the grill, check out the Tundra. The proof of concept for me was everyone who has seen it says: “Oh even I could use this, I should get some for my house?”
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