Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Can This Be Prevented?

A few days ago, one of my WIN friend's rig burned up.

We were pretty far away from the fire station, but the fire truck eventually got here. I was kind of surprised that they had only water, and not foam. It took a long time to get the fire out. Another rig nearby was damaged by the heat, but thankfully no one was hurt, and no pets were lost.

This is all that was left of her little Class C. Amazingly, she managed to find her wallet in the debris.

This hit really close to home, since I had a rig burn in 1999. Afterwards, you go through a lot of "What if I had..." and "I should have." While nothing can really prevent fires, I thought I'd tell you what I've done to lessen the chance of that ever happening again.

First of all, I got a bigger, better fire extinguisher. This one is a 2-liter foam one that will put out wood fires. Can you believe that the small extinguishers that come with your rig are rated "BC" for grease and electrical, but not "A" for wood! What do they think RVs are made of?!?

Second, all the wires that connect to my battery are fused.

This gigantic 200-amp fuse is for the connection to my 1750-watt inverter.

I have 240-watts of solar power, going through a 30-amp fuse.

And another 30-amp fuse protecting the batteries from the DC load going through the distribution panel.

The fuses just slide into a holder - shown open here -

That you can buy for about $2.

Now, this third idea is purely my own crazy idea. After my fire, I kept thinking I could have put it out when it first started if I had had a bucket and a lot of water. So here's my bucket, in an outside storage compartment, but I need a quick source of water.

And here it is! The grey water will pour out quickly by pulling the handle on the left, and if needed, the black water handle is on the right. I'm not suggesting anyone risk their life, but when a fire is just starting, I think it would work.

P.S. After I did this post, Phil bought a new fire extinguisher. It's a Cold Fire - the same agent used in auto racing. It puts out fires 21 times faster than water! It's a little pricey, but worth it.

I've written more on fire prevention here.


  1. So sorry to hear about the lost of your friend's motorhome. It must have been devasting to them. I am happy that no one was hurt. A motorhome can be replace but people's lives can't.

    Thanks for the ideas on how to try and prevent accidents from happening.

    Kevin and Ruth

  2. so sorry to hear about your friend's motorhome!..pretty scary stuff...thanks for all the ideas on RV safety!..great job!

  3. I never thought about using the holding tanks for water. Clever idea!

  4. Diana:
    A fire in an RV is certainly one of
    my greatest fears. I normally carry
    two gallons of pure drinking water
    in container(s) so that is some
    peace of mind. I am very happy that your friend wasn't hurt.
    The idea of accessing the gray
    water tank is novel and welcome.

    About your 200 Amp fuse on your
    inverter, I recall reading that
    inverters are internally fused to
    shut down in the event of overload
    to prevent RV fires, but having said that, if Watts = Amps x Volts,
    and you want the extra safety of a
    separate fuse, shouldn't your fuse
    be a maximum of 150 (145.8) amps
    to achieve its goal? I don't know
    the answer, but you may wish to
    check it out? Thanks for a great
    blog & happy travels to you.
    Ingo, Smithers, B.C.

  5. So sorry to hear about your friend's rig; that there was no loss of life is something to be grateful for. Thanks for sharing the precautions that you have taken.

  6. Gee, this is tough to look at. So very sorry about your friends RV. Thank you so much for showing us what you have done. I think I will now re-look at our own situation.


  7. Thanks for sharing with us Diane. A fire is a disaster and I am happy your friend is OK!


  8. What a great idea about the grey water. Another safety tip which I think we all over look is noting how close are we parked to other rigs. Closeness is nice, but we need to think about what would happen if there was a fire or explosion next to us. Thanks for a great blog.

  9. I'm very sorry to hear about the fire.

    Fire is the thing that scares me the most being a full-timer. Traveling around with my Wife, our two dogs and two cats, it seems that a fire in our rig would make it impossible to save everybody (unless we could get it put out.)

    That is very good advice and I will start looking for a bigger, better extinguisher today.

    One of the best ways to prevent the fires is to understand how they start. I know it's really early, but, does anyone have any idea how your friends fire got started? I recall reading that your fire was undetermined.



  10. So sorry about your friend and her home that is so sad and I hope things go well for her in the future. And you are right it is a miracle she found her wallet that is great. I think your ideas are great ideas and I hope you never have to use your grey or black water, safe traveling to you :o)

  11. Thanks for the tips on being prepared for fire in an RV. The foam FE and the fuses are definitely a must have and also the use of a grey/black water. Am not an RVer yet but have learned some valuable information from you. Best wishes to your friend.

  12. The fire was indeed a tragedy but your blog may help someone else prevent a similar tragedy in the future. Great information and glad your friend is okay. Thanks for the post.

  13. Good post. I never thought about the grey water....

  14. More valuable lessons. I'm taking careful notes so I'll be safer when the time comes. Thank you.

  15. Claudia, I meant to mention not parking too close, but forgot. I saw some really scary parking situations in Quartzsite!

    The owner of the burned rig had just gotten propane that day and said the guy did not appear to know what he was doing, and had trouble with the connections. However, the firemen said it was electrical because of all the black smoke. No one really knows, but I think most RV fires are electrical. Mine was.

    To figure the size of the fuse needed, divide watts by volts, then go to the next highest size. If you don't go up a little, it would blow too easily. That big 200-amp fuse cost $100!

  16. Good post! Too bad about your friends MH, though.

    I like how you have all your systems fused, you've thought it out really well. And I liked your bucket idea.

    Don't laugh, but one time I was out fighting a fire on a large fishing boat. All our fire fighting pumps broke down or got clogged and we resorted to a bucket brigade and poured water on the flames for about 20 minutes until the fire pumps were restored to working. Saved the fishing boat but burned off my eyebrows!

  17. Thats awful!!SO glad no one or no pet was injured...BUT its still a tragedgy for the owner--
    Those are some wonderful tips you will save someones life by posting these ;o)

  18. Diane, thanks for the good suggestions about fire safety. I certainly second your recommendation of foam extinguishers; I have half a dozen scattered around my coach and my toad.

    Looking at the photos of your electrical system brings to mind a question. I once heard a story about a VW Beetle whose back seat caught fire. The cause: sagging seat springs contacted the
    car's battery, which was located under the seat. (My '73 Audi had the same battery arrangement.)

    From your photos, it appears you have some pretty hefty batteries with exposed terminals on top, and a seat cushion with metal springs on its underside. I don't know how much clearance you have between the underside of the seat and the top of the battery, but I'm wondering what would happen if a heavy person sat on that end of the seat, or an exuberant child bounced on it.

    Have you considered this possibility? A direct short across the battery terminals would probably weld itself instantly in place, and your 200A fuse wouldn't do you any good in that scenario. You could end up with a fire in the seat cushion (like that VW), an exploding battery spraying acid, or other unpleasant consequences. It's something to think about, anyway...

  19. Very good question, Andy - I was wondering if anyone would notice that. But yes, I have definitely thought of that. There is a cover that goes over the batteries. I also have raised the sofa a little so that there isn't any pressure on the cover. Good eyes, Andy!

  20. We keep FIVE fire extinguishers in our motorhome.

    In case you think that is overkill, consider where we place them:
    1. near the kitchen, of course.
    2. if you are trapped in the back of the rig and the fire is in the middle, how you gonna get out the door? So we keep another one in the bedroom.
    3. we keep one up front in the driving dash area, same reason, as our door is in the middle of the rig. So we could fight off a fire enough to jump out a window.
    4. if you bail out a window, chances are the door is locked so you can't get back in. So we keep a big extinquisher in a non-lockable outside compartment in the front. It's also handy if you are outside of the rig and helping in a roadside situation. Easy to access without having to go back in for a key.
    5. one more in a side compartment to be handy near a campfire or extra for two people to help fight a fire outside of the rig.

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  21. ...and check your gas lines with a certain regularity. Could another fire exhtinguisher be installed in that outside cupboard too. You might spot the fire first when you are not in the rig.

  22. Diana:
    Re: Your 200 Amp fuse - don't mean
    to belabour a point, and IMHO, because I suspect your inverter has
    an internal fuse, I believe the danger is very, very slight...
    But, if I replace a 15 Amp breaker
    (fuse) in my home panel with a 25
    Amp breaker ("so it won't blow so easily"),IMHO, IF that information becomes known or public AFTER my house burns down, I think I might kiss my insurance goodbye. I don't
    know this 100% but I would be very
    inclined to limit your fuse to 50
    Amps less than what it is now at.
    (1750 watts/12 Volts = 145.8 Amps)
    Andy Baird, of 'Travels with Andy' and moderator of 'Life with a Lazy Daze' is a very safety conscious and savy RV person and he might be prepared to give you well informed commentary. Just my .02 worth.
    Happy travels, Ingo in Smithers, BC

  23. Hi Ingo,
    I just looked up in the inverter manual, and they recommend a 250 amp fuse! So I feel pretty good with the 200.

  24. Hello Diana, I come from a Land Down Under and have been reading your blog for the last three years. Your post about the fire is probably a timely reminder that we should look at our safety every day. I thought I would share an interesting thought with you. I am a member of the biggest rv club in Australia, the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia ( of course they accept all types of rv as members). The club has two official rally's during the year and local chapters have a monthly camp out. It is club policy that a water bucket - filled with water - is in place beside the passenger side front wheel. Faster than looking for water when a fire occurs.
    Diana would you mind including a link to my blog site?
    It is called Frank & Donnis Travel Blog and usually first on any Google search. The web address is; http://frankeeg.word
    Thanks for your travels and comments and continue the good work.
    Frank Gilling, or otherwise frankeeg
    Cheers mate!

  25. In the pic of the other 30 amp fuse,I can see bare wires in the twist nut.Might want to tape the connector so the bare wire is covered.

  26. Hi Diana Have U taped the terminal Yet ! Have Phil do It. Great Job,That a girl keep up the great Blog. Fiddler Fred

  27. Four words

    Halon fire extinguisher with a head like the sprinklers in a commercial building. I just installed one in the back [outside] of my frig.

  28. Fire Fight Products LLC has relocated the factory to Orlando FL. We are up and running full speed ahead. Check out our Fire Suppression Systems for the RV, cars and boats at . If you have any questions feel free to contact me at 321-299-5707. Thanks for all your support. Jim Bounds


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