Safes are in danger from the high heat from fires

I'm in the market for a small fireproof safe for my home and recently learned that many of the smaller, cheaper ones are only fireproof for up to a half an hour at temperatures up to about 1,550 degrees.

There are ones that last up to two hours at even higher temperatures, but those cost $1,500 or more.

When firemen arrive at a home, do they make a point of recovering safes? Where is the safest place to keep my safe? Is a small, cheap safe even worth the investment?

— Tom K., Medford

Tom, even a small safe, is a safe safe.

"I'm no safe expert, but 1,500 degrees at ground level is very, very hot, and your average safe shouldn't see temperatures that high," said acting fire Chief Gordon Sletmoe of Medford Fire-Rescue.

In a catastrophic fire, there is no safe — pun intended — place to keep your safe, but lower is always better and cooler, Sletmoe said, adding that in his 21 years with Medford Fire-Rescue, he's never seen a safe destroyed.

At the owner's request, firemen often will retrieve small valuables or necessities (a purse, a coat, shoes, etc.), but "we don't crawl on our hands and knees under flames looking for safes," Sletmoe said.

Some people have been known to store valuables in the refrigerators, but Sletmoe advises against this.

"We've seen refrigerators get so warped or get bumped open. It's not an absolute ... and as soon as we kill the power, the refrigerator is off."

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering them all.

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