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How to Reduce the Risk of an RV Fire

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According to recently completed research by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), U.S. public fire departments responded to an estimated 266,500 highway-type vehicle fires during 2004. These fires claimed 520 lives, caused 1,300 injuries and nearly a billion dollars in property damage. Also, highway vehicle fires accounted for 17 percent of all reported fires and 13 percent of all civilian fire deaths. Highway vehicles include cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs and other vehicles commonly driven on roads or highways. Recreational vehicle fires are most often caused by mechanical or electrical failure.

Although drivers may believe fires occur mostly from collisions, this is not true. According to NFPA statistics, more than two-thirds of highway vehicle fires resulted from mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions. Collisions or rollovers caused only 3% of these fires. .For this reason recreational vehicle owners should have a comprehensive maintenance inspection of their motorhomes and travel trailers every 12 months.

Recreational vehicle owners and the technicians that inspect their RVs need to be especially alert to damaged wiring and loose electrical connections, worn or blistered fluid lines and leaking connections, severely worn brake components, and damaged heat shields; especially those protecting catalytic converters, exhaust manifolds and other high temperature heat sources.

To further reduce the risks associated with RV fires, RVers need to be knowledgeable about what to do - and not to do -- if their recreational vehicle catches fire.

NFPA recommend the following:

STOP - If possible, pull to the side of the road and turn off the ignition. Pulling to the side makes it possible for everyone to get out of the vehicle safely. Turn off the ignition to shut off the electric current and stop the flow of gasoline. Put the vehicle in park or set the emergency brake; you don't want the vehicle to move after your leave it. Do not open the hood because more oxygen can make the fire larger and exposes you to a sudden flare up.

GET OUT - Make sure everyone gets out of the vehicle, but do not waste time and increase risk by removing personal belongings. Then move at least 100 feet away. Keep traffic in mind and keep everyone together. There is not only danger from the fire, but also from other vehicles moving in the area.

CALL FOR HELP - Call 911 or the emergency number for your local fire department. Firefighters are specially trained to combat vehicle fires. Never return to the vehicle to attempt to fight the fire yourself. Vehicle fires can be tricky, even for firefighters. Pressurized components can burst or explode, spilling or spraying highly flammable liquids, or eject projectiles than can cause serious injuries.

Tips to Reduce the Risk of a Recreational Vehicle Fire

-- Have your vehicles inspected at least annually by a trained, professional technician.

-- Watch for fluid leaks under vehicles, cracked or blistered hoses, or wiring that is loose, has exposed metal or has cracked insulation. Have any of these conditions inspected and repaired as soon as possible.

-- Be alert to changes in the way your vehicle sounds when running, and to a visible plume of exhaust coming from the tailpipe. A louder than usual exhaust tone, smoke coming from the tailpipe or a backfiring exhaust could mean problems or damage to the high-temperature exhaust and emission control system on the vehicle. Have your RV safety inspected and repaired as soon as possible if exhaust or emission control problems are suspected.

You may also want to read: RV Fire! We should all be aware of the possibility.

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