The hazard and possibility of fire exists in all areas of life, and the recreational life-style is no exception. Your motor home is a complex machine made up of many materials -some of them flammable. But like most hazards, the possibility of fire can be minimized, if not totally eliminated, by recognizing the danger and practicing common sense, safety and maintenance habits.
Safety starts with a clean windshield and clear dash. These two simple steps can help reduce the fatigue of driving.
- RVs burn fast! Five minutes after the fire has started and the motorhome is totally involved and beyond saving.
- The smoke is very toxic and makes it impossible to stay inside and fight the fire. Just breathing even a little of the smoke into the lungs may require hospitalization.
- A fire extinguisher cannot be too big.
Fire Safety Precautions
- Do not use cooking appliances for heating. Unlike homes, oxygen supply is limited due to the size of the RV. Cooking appliances need fresh air for safe operation, and the danger of asphyxiation is great -- greater when the appliance is used for a long time. Always cook with a range vent or nearby window open. Catalytic heaters should be vented, indeed, RVIA technicians are not allowed to install non-vented heaters.
- Explosive fuel clouds may be present at fuel filling stations.
- Instruct occupants on what to do in case of fire, and hold fire drills periodically. Teach your guests, especially young ones, who to open the door of your RV. Many models work differently. Also point out the escape windows.
- Find your escape windows. Unless they are the type which have a "string" around them, open them and practice getting out. This is much easier to do when you are not in a panic situation.
- Before operating your stove or oven, open a window and overhead venting on an exhaust fan. If you smell gas, extinguish all open flames (pilot lights, lamps, smoking materials, etc.), shut off the gas supply, open doors and leave the unit until the odor is gone. Have the system checked before you use it again.
- Make sure that any after market product you get for your RV has been approved by RVIA. Many items, such as under counter mounted toasters, etc. are fine for a house, but the RV is subjected to a great deal of shaking as it goes down the road. Home implements may not be able to stand up to this stress.
- When you stop at a rest stop along the highway, open the hood of your car or RV to let the engine cool.
- Maintain proper charge in the fire extinguisher.
If you experience a fire while traveling, MAINTAIN CONTROL OF THE VEHICLE UNTIL YOU CAN SAFELY STOP. EVACUATE THE VEHICLE AS QUICKLY AND SAFELY AS POSSIBLE.
If you experience a fire while camped, EVACUATE THE VEHICLE AS QUICKLY AND SAFELY AS POSSIBLE.
- Consider the cause and severity of the fire and risk involved before trying to put it out. If the fire is major or is fuel-fed, move away from the side of the LP gas tank, stand clear of the vehicle and wait for the fire department or other emergency assistance.
- If your motor home is damaged by fire, do not drive or live in it until you have had it thoroughly examined and repaired.
- Repair engine or transmission oil leaks as soon as possible, especially automatic transmission fluid. It will ignite easily and burn very quickly. It can also ignite when it comes in contact with the exhaust system. The exhaust system becomes hotter when traveling up hills.
- If you should have a fire while hooked up, be sure to unhook immediately to cut the current from the fire. If boon-docking, turn off the generator or inverter.
Four Classes of Fires
- A -- common combustible (wood, paper etc.) 46% of these fires are successfully put out.
- B -- flammable or combustible liquids (gas, transmission fluid, brake fluid, cooking grease, burning fiberglass. 45% of these are successfully put out.
- C -- electrical, 110, 120, or 240 volts. Only 8% of these are successfully put out.
- D -- exotic flammable metals. 1% success here.
The National Fire Protection Agency ("NFPA") mandates the rules for fire extinguishers and escape hatches for RVs. You should have a 5 pound ABC rated fire extinguisher near each exit. Know how to use it! A fire usually starts at the front of the RV and moves to the rear.
The fire extinguisher furnished with your motorhome is rated for Class B (gasoline, grease, flammable liquids) and Class C (electrical) fires since these are the most common types of fires in vehicles. Read the instructions on the fire extinguisher. Know where it is located and how and when to use it. It takes only 5 to 7 minutes for a 40-foot RV to burn to the rails.
Most RV fires are engine fires. In order to extinguish an engine fire, you will have to get to the top of the engine. If necessary, have something to punch holes in the hood (of a car or tow vehicle) or the chassis so that the extinguisher can get to the source of the blaze.
The Montreal Protocols outlawed halon extinguishers: they are hazardous to the ozone layer. They are also possibly carcinogenic. A CO2 extinguisher is hazardous, and of no use in the wind. It is also very heavy.
A smoke detector is the most important device you can have in your rig. Carbon Monoxide and LPG gas detectors are also essential. The carbon monoxide detector should be 4 feet above the floor, since this gas is lighter than oxygen and "floats". It should also be mounted in the bedroom, as carbon monoxide kills when people are asleep.
The LPG detector should be on the floor. Many people have noticed that the smoke detector goes off when the toaster is used. Idea: get a kitchen smoke detector and move the other one to the bedroom. Or -- put a shower cap or baggie over the detector when cooking. Just remember to remove it when the meal is finished!
A battery-powered smoke detector is mounted on the ceiling in the living/cooking area of your motorhome. Test the smoke detector after the motorhome has been in storage, before each trip, and at least once a week during use.
The smoke detector should never be disabled due to nuisance or false alarm from cooking smoke, a dusty furnace, etc. Ventilate your motorhome with fresh air and the alarm will shut off. DO NOT DISCONNECT THE BATTERY.
Replace the battery once a year or immediately when the low battery "beep" signal sounds. If the smoke detector fails to operate with new batteries, replace it with a new unit, available through an authorized Fleetwood Service Center.
Turn off your propane refrigerator when driving. It will stay cold for several hours. If you will be driving 6 - 8 hours in a day, turn the refrigerator up to its highest setting the night before you leave, and then turn it off.
If you smell ammonia in your refrigerator, replace the unit. It is cooled by ammonia and hydrogen. If something, a bird or insect nest, etc. is blocking the vent, and explosion can easily occur. Therefore, after your rig has been stored for a period of time.
Turn off the propane when you are having your tanks filled. Often the propane dealer will vent his hose under your RV before he starts the filling process. Should your refrigerator choose that particular moment to turn on, there could easily be a fire.