614. A Fire on Shabbos

85:1 The rabbis of the Talmud were concerned that if a fire breaks out on Shabbos (G-d forbid), the owner of the house and the members of the household in their panic over saving their possessions may forget that it’s Shabbos and put the fire out impermissibly.  Therefore, the Sages prohibited saving even items that may be handled on Shabbos and carried to a permitted place. They only permitted taking out what one needs for the day. Here’s how: if a fire breaks out on Friday night before the meal, one saves enough food for three meals. This includes enough human food for the number of people and enough animal feed for the number of animals. If a fire starts Shabbos morning, one saves enough food for two meals. If a fire breaks out Shabbos afternoon, one saves enough food for one meal. One may take out a container that holds many food items, like a basket full of loaves of bread or a barrel full of more wine than one would need, because he can take it all out at once. Similarly, one may spread a sheet or something similar and collect in it all the foods items that he can take at one time. One may also take out whatever utensils he will need for Shabbos. (Nowadays, circumstances would permit us to save as much as possible, even muktzeh items that may not normally be handled on Shabbos – Mishnah Brurah 334:4. See further on in our chapter, 85:4, 85:8, et al.)

85:2 One may instruct others to save whatever they need (but he may not instruct them to save things for him – MB 334:20). Each person can take food for himself or one container, even if it holds a large amount. Whatever food one saves legally belongs to the one who saved it. This is because the homeowner gave up his rights and the other gains possession of the now-ownerless item. If the rescuer is a G-d-fearing individual who returns to the owner what he saved, he may accept a reward for saving it and this is not considered payment for a service performed on Shabbos because what he saved is legally his. In any event, a pious person should not accept payment for this because a pious person should give up even something that is technically his if it presents the appearance of impropriety.