Negative Storage & Fire Protection

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Loose Gravel, Jul 7, 2004.

  1. Loose Gravel

    Loose Gravel Member

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    I'm wondering how others store their negatives I live in a fire-prone area of S. California. I know that it can be almost impossible to protect negatives in a wildfire. Now I store my negatives in a fire safe that is under the house in a concrete bunker that is half buried in the ground. I need to stack a bunch of water bottles on top for good luck. This is about as good as I can do, but I'm getting to have many negatives and am now thinking of enlarging my storage or only storing the 'keepers'. I know that in wildfires, if your place burns down, nobody is going to come along and cool the ashes with water and that firesafes, even those that are for media, will eventually cook their contents. For a while, when my work (day job) was in a very firesafe environment, I stored my negatives at work. This, however, is not very convenient. I'm thinking I will buy a large media safe and make the best of it.

    So, what are you doing? Recommendations?
     
  2. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    I'd finish burying that bunker, a foot or so of soil in pretty good at keeping heat away. The more of a thermal barrier you have the more likely it is heat won't make it through.
    Notice how fast vegetation grows back after a wildfire? Six inches down the roots are untouched and alive.
     
  3. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    I think Gary's is a good suggestion. Soil is a very effective insulator against fire, as is concrete. In particular, it's the air in the soil that helps. So an air pocket between the safe and a concrete or soil surround would help significantly.
     
  4. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    how would this work? (because I am also looking for a solution) - A shell built out of cinderblocks and a fireproof safe within this shell. Might be tricky making an entry point to the safe?
     
  5. John McCallum

    John McCallum Member

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    Yes - good point :smile: . well my Grandfather had a fireproof safe surrounded on 4 sides by the NZ equivalent of cinderblocks, on a concrete floor. (They were actually concrete blocks about 8x8x15" which have two big air pockets incorporated in the design). Used extensively in construction in New Zealand.
     
  6. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    If I were to build a new house I would have the safe built into the basement floor, have a waterproof type door. Heat rises, an insulated door would keep any other heat away from the negatives.

    On a side note, Ralph Gibson makes copy negatives of his work and stores the originals in a secure location away from his darkroom. He uses the copy negs for producing prints for publication. He uses the originals for sale prints.
     
  7. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    I had a friend whose law office burned several years ago. Now, this was a building fire, - the building was still partially standing, although too far gone to be rebuilt. Firefighters also quickly got the blaze under control, so we're talking about something different than a forest fire.

    But still, I was amazed at how well a common filing cabinet protected his files. These were the more expensive filing cabinets, the ones with multiple rollers on the drawers, not the $35 ones from Walmart, but they were still not the even more expensive fire proof filing cabinets. I think for most of us, who only have to fear a normal building fire, that a good filing cabinet, kept closed, may be sufficient protection.
    juan
     
  8. geraldatwork

    geraldatwork Member

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    Fire is something I am concerned about also. All of my negatives and prints are in one location, my house. The negatives (mostly 35mm) are in 3 ring binders with contact sheets (when I do them) in front of the negatives with the developing notes behind. I'm up to 6 2" binders which take up a lot of room. (I'm sure others have many more negatives) Do they make fire safes that large? Are they reasonably priced?
     
  9. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    I found you can get huge old firesafe's designed to store large computer media for cheap (atleast in New Zealand). Good thing is they are rated to protect backup tapes which are probably as fragile as film.
     
  10. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    One thing to remember when sealing the negs up is a big bag of silica gel to keep the air dry. No good trying to protect them from fire if you let them mildew.