Truck Driver Jeff Lincoln took this photo of the RV that started the fire near Yosemite. He said it began in the rig. The 70-year-old driver escaped injury.
Used with permission of Jeff Lincoln
A WAKE-UP CALL, By Barry & Monique Zander:
"The ton of comments about fire extinguishers lit a fire under me. In my blog posted last Friday, http://blog.rv.net/2011/09/motorhome-fire-starts-5000-acre-burn/ I touched on the need to pay attention to fire extinguishers on board our rigs. I didn’t realize there was so much I didn’t know –AND SHOULD KNOW. After all, it’s our happy lives that we risk when we aren’t ready for an RV (or home) fire.
“Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape.” That’s a paragraph from the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), one of the websites I consulted for answers to your questions and thoughts about fire extinguishers. It continues, “Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.”
I remember checking into the Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta almost 30 years ago and taking the elevator up to the 46th Floor. As soon as the door opened, I saw a little tent card that said, “In case of fire…” That was the last thing wanted to think about 500 feet above Atlanta’s sweltering pavement.
What about our RV escape plan? It’s a five-word plan that states: “Get the heck out fast.” We have two exterior doors in our Bigfoot, so I imagine that Part 2 would be, “Exit nearest door.” If you don’t have two doors, you have an escape window in your rig, in all probability. Do you know how to open it? Have you practiced unlatching that window?
I’m making light of a serious subject to keep your interest, but you know that being prepared for an RV or home fire is not something to joke about. There is no emergency more obvious that you should and can prepare for than fire.
Time out! Here are a few comments attached to my most recent blog about an RV fire that ultimately set off a wildfire.
“Great point about the fire extinguisher. Carry one in your car, have one in your kitchen and garage and know how to use it. Also get them inspected once a year when you change detector batteries.” – Walt Moore
“Got a few ideas, based on my RV life…first, you should have two or three fire extinguishers in the motorhome, and one in the towed dinghy… same idea if your RV is a towable.
Next, whether you’re towing or self-propelled, pulling off the road in ANY kind of vehicle presents a hot exhaust or catalytic converter to dry grass and roadside debris.
Third, get yourself an escape plan and rehearse it twice a year at least…prepare to leave everything behind, and get out or away from the RV… remember that your propane is likely to blow if the rig is on fire….get away from the rig, and don’t let anyone else close to it except professional responders.” – A.W. Walker
“Still consider myself a newbie. Have to admit not sure how to use fire extinguisher or where to take it to have it inspected. Help!” – David
“I will again repeat David’s question. After you discharge your fire extinguisher or need it inspected, where do you take it? Also, if you spend $20-$30 for one, does it cost more to get it refilled than to replace it?” – Liz Bard
“…I take mine down to our local fire depot for annual check. No charge for check – part of benefits of a tax-paying citizen! One of the few perks we get!!” – Manual Enos
“When you use an extinguisher it needs to be serviced after you use it, even if you only spray a little out as the pressure will leak out by the time you would use the extinguisher again.” – Ray Hoffman
“In addition to some of the other good suggestions: If you ever have the opportunity to sit in on a session with “Mac the Fire Guy,” do it. No one will prepare you better for fire safety in your RV. He travels around the country making appearances at a rally or a Life on Wheels type conference. If you see him listed on the syllabus of classes, GO! You won’t regret it, and it may well save your life someday.” – Lee Ensminger
“… Behind the fridge and the engine compartment are two areas of concern that will cause one to lose an RV to fire. Neither area is visible, and neither can be easily accessed. The little ABC units are useless in both these locations.” — Jimmy Leggett
“Buy a cheap extinguisher and build a small fire, either in a campsite or somewhere were it would be no danger of starting something else on fire. Then put it out. Most people are not prepared for the whoosh of the powder coming out and don’t know where to spray (at the base of the fire). I once saw a class put on by the fire dept. at a local nursing home. The nurse pulled the trigger, wet her pants and dropped the extinguisher. Not much help there… Usually it’s cheaper to buy new than have a discharged one serviced. Unless it is a very large one.” – Tommy Becher
“We lost a motor home to a fire that started behind the fridge. Our first clue that we had a fire was when we saw flames shooting thru a hole in the roof. It was a defect in the fridge. A connection in the gas line failed, turning the gas into a blowtorch. There was a recall on the fridge, but we didn’t receive any notice even though we registered everything. Keep an eye on recalls, and I second the suggestion about always having critical work done by professionals.” – Lois Haupt
“Thanx, for a really IMPORTANT blog!!! Someone who had a tire fire on a fifth wheel said their little extinguisher that came with their trailer didn’t put out the fire, but a trucker with a larger one did!!! They suggested DO NOT DEPEND ON THE ONE THAT CAME AS STANDARD EQUIPMENT!!! Get a BIG one !!!! Mac McCoy (THE FIRE GUY) has a different type of extinguisher that PUTS OUT A FIRE QUICKER THAN THE SODA ONE!!! I’ve never seen a fire extinguished so fast!!! Mac knows fires! He’s also a very neat and funny guy and has a million stories…” – Butterbean Carpenter
"Back to my thoughts: I couldn’t include all the comments or all the text in each message, but I’m sure you found these interesting. I know I did!
I did my homework after reading these. I checked the websites of a few fire extinguisher manufacturers, finding the most helpful in the FAQ of the FirstAlert company. http://www.firstalert.com/faqs/fire-extinguisher
Here is a sample of the info I found:
If you use your non-rechargeable fire extinguisher even once, you must replace it. It will not be effective in fighting a fire. Never test a fire extinguisher by using it. Once used, it will gradually lose pressure and will not be fully charged for use in an emergency. If a fire extinguisher pressure gauge shows that the charge is in the red zone, a disposable fire extinguisher should be replaced."
Once used, the only place for a fire extinguisher is in the trash
"NOTE: Learning that you can’t use a non-rechargeable extinguisher a second time was a wake-up call for me.
I don’t know how many of us have rechargeable extinguishers. If you do, you can have it recharged by a professional, and a certified equipment dealer should check it once a year.
A fire extinguisher life expectancy depends on a number of factors. Remember, a fire extinguisher should be checked weekly according to the user’s manual. As long as the pointer is in the green area or the pin indicator pops back up when pushed, the extinguisher is properly pressurized and ready to use."
In the green and ready to save lives.
"Do not test a fire extinguisher by discharging it at all. The recommended way to test fire extinguishers with the pressure pin on top is to press in the pin. If it pops back up, your extinguisher is still pressurized. On models with a pressure gauge, if the needle is in the green, the unit is pressurized.
As for how to use the fire extinguisher, instructions are probably on the unit itself. I think Manual Enos’ comment above about going to the local fire station sounds like a good idea for more information, and, of course, attending a seminar would increase your readiness to respond in case of emergency.
A personal note — I once made a rope ladder for my granddaughter to escape from her second-story bedroom in case of emergency. Her mother and dad didn’t like the idea of putting a hook into the woodwork, but the ladder was still in her room last time I looked."
Here is another fire:
Mac The Fire Guy explains the different extinguishers:
34 Fire Facts That Can Save Your Life
Mac shows you how to put out a fire with a fire extinguisher.
Carbon Monoxide kills
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — "At least 12 children lost a parent when five adults died in a recreational vehicle at Clarksville Speedway as a result of what appears to be carbon monoxide poisoning."
Here's a video tip from Mark Polk about how to avoid being a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning in an RV.
RV generator exhaust solution in a box
"You're at an RV rally, a racing event, a rodeo or any other place where you're packed in like sardines. You want to turn on your generator but if you do, you're next door neighbor will want to strangle you because you'll be blowing exhaust into his front door.
RV generator exhaust chimneys work great but not everyone has one or needs one all the time, so what can you do as a temporary fix?
Instead of asphyxiating your neighbor, just find a sturdy box, put a heavy rock in it and use it to deflect the direction of your exhaust. Put it far enough away so it doesn't come inside your coach but close enough to effectively prevent the exhaust from disturbing your neighbor."
Assisting you with RV neighborhood diplomacy - Jim Twamley, Professor of RVing
CO Detector (Carbon Monoxide Detector's Going Off)
"My CO detector is going off. I have a bad smell in my R.V., like cat urine or BO. Can it be a gas leak or my batteries draining? Please help. I don't want to go back in there. Any info would be great.
Coleen, the RVing editor comments:
"You are right that you should not go back into your RV. Call someone who can do some testing and find out what is happening. In some parts of the country, people call emergency services or 911 for this sort of thing.
However, my suggestion would be to call the non-emergency number for your fire department or an RV technician. Though, who you call would depend on what time of the day, the weather conditions, and if you had another place to stay for a while.
Are you sure it is your carbon monoxide (CO) detector that is going off and not your propane detector? Not all propane smells the same, but it all smells bad.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas.
I've been told that bad batteries smell terrible. You mention your batteries draining. I wonder if the water has evaporated from your batteries and they are cooked with dry cells. Have you checked them lately to see that they have enough water in them?
I realize you needed an immediate answer and I was not able to give you that. However, I'm posting and replying to your letter in hopes that it will help other RVers who may find themselves in the same situation. It can be scary when a CO detector goes off." From: http://www.rv-life-and-travel.com/co-detector.html
Some new rubber-backed rugs will make a propane detector go off in a hot closed up space.
When checking your tire pressure, don't forget to check your spare tire.
Some RVers think it's okay to walk around a moving motorhome like they're back at home, or let their kids or pets do it.
If the RV stops fast, they get tossed like rag dolls. Somebody dies or spends the rest of their life in a wheelchair.
"Other RVers drive on outdated (learn more), worn or poorly inflated tires. A front one blows out as they're doing 60 and in that split second they don't know how to react. They never bothered to learn. So they hit the brakes. Wrong! That will likely send an RV out of control -- into a ditch or another lane, maybe flip it over. Watch this video to see what to do if you blow a tire on your RV or any other vehicle. This is important!"
An oversized doormat, the rubber backed commercial kind they use at the entrance of businesses, is great for RVers and campers. Placed outside your RV or camper door, it traps a lot of gravel, sand, mud, and debris that would otherwise get tracked inside. Because they are rubber, they are easy to clean by hosing them off with soap and water.
Be aware that an RV is buffeted by cross winds and air currents created by passing trucks. Slow down your driving speed when big trucks pass. Anticipate the wind effects and compensate for them.
Get rid of nasty odors
"To rid your RV of musty or bad smells after storage or after being closed up for a few weeks, place charcoal in disposable containers (charcoal is messy, and don't use the self-lighting kind that is impregnated with lighter fluid) throughout your rig.
Fabric softener sheets, like you use in a clothes dryer, placed in drawers and cabinets will also give off a fresh, clean smell.
If you know where the smell is coming from, use vinegar--which is safer than many commercial products--to neutralize the odor.
Vinegar is also effective on pet accidents on carpets.
Stir a teaspoon of white vinegar into a pint of water (more vinegar for tougher jobs) and apply with a spray bottle. Blot the cleaned area and allow to air dry. Vinegar is effective as a general cleaner also."
Tech Tips from Mark Polk
Don't ignore the back of your fridge
"The back (external) of your RV refrigerator should be inspected, and occasionally vacuumed out to rid the space of debris and webs. Often the metal parts, including the cooling unit and the burn chamber, will attract moisture, and therefore rust. Cooling unit failure is often the result of rust. Severe rust should be examined by a qualified technician. If, on a newer unit, you start to see rust forming, it might be worthwhile touching up the paint on the cooling unit, using a paint recommended by the refrigerator manufacturer. Considering how much an RV refrigerator costs, a little extra care for the one you have will pay off in the long run! "
Jim called to say that he wasn't going to pick up the cargo trailer to weld the bumper on until later in the week. So I didn't have to wait for him.
Both Ray and Jay were at their doctors, so I went north about 3 miles on Highway 75 to the RV store to get some parts for the cargo trailer. They have a nice RV park, and restaurant there, too. http://www.conveniencerv.com/ Pretty decent rates, I think, at 12.50 a day for FHU as their monthly rate. It is pretty close to I-45, so there might be truck noise, but they also have a two fishing ponds, and swimming pool.
The 7-pin plug on the trailer cord that plugs into the vehicle, is no good, and they had that. So we can get that done.
The poles that they had in stock for the dinette table weren't the right length, and I might have to cut the height down on the foam that I have, for even the tallest pole to work.
They did give me the phone numbers for two different ladies who do upholstering in their homes. Maybe I can get that done while the trailer is away.
The inside 12v. light, to replace the one that doesn't work, I was able to buy, but it doesn't match the ones that are in the trailer. But if the new owner has any sense they will convert to LED's anyway.
As I don't have the key for the cargo trailer's front door, I checked on a new lock at $40. Then the service man told me that if I took the lock off, it should have a sticker with the 1-800 number and the key's number, so I could order a key for $5.00. That's more like it.
There were other things that I needed, like AAA batteries, but there are no stores between that RV store and here, and I didn't go the extra 5 miles south into town. I was anxious to get home to take that lock off, and get a key ordered.
After finding the right Torx screwdriver bit, I took off the lock. But someone, or just old age, had removed the sticker. Back to square one. Buying a new dead bolt lock will probably be cheaper than having it rekeyed by a locksmith.
I called one of the upholstery ladies, and we should be able to start on that on Tuesday.