RV Fire! Be Aware of the Possibility
by Fran Crawford and Steven Fletcher
Over the years we have traveled we have been witness to too many RV fires. While staying in the Tyson Wash LTVA at Quartzsite, AZ, we saw, off in the distance, the black smoke of an RV burning up. It was our first awareness of such tragedy by fire to fellow RVers. Since then we have seen the aftermath of several other RV fires, but the time we stood beside a couple watching their motor home burn to the chassis in a matter of minutes was a most sobering and emotional experience.
As we began the climb up Chiriaco Pass headed toward Quartzsite, Fran and I spotted a black plume of smoke ahead. As we got closer we saw flames and billowing, black smoke coming from a motorhome on the roadside. We pulled over to see if we could help. We instinctively grabbed our two small fire extinguishers but it was evident they would be no match for the out-of-control fire which already totally involved the recreational vehicle.
The motorhome's owner told us the engine started to act up as they made the climb and it had backfired a few times. They decided to pull over and see if they could figure out what was wrong. When the engine cover was lifted black acrid smoke and flame instantly filled their RV. All they could do was get out as fast as possible.
They lost everything in the motorhome including their little dog which was lying on the dashboard.
As I said it was a sobering and emotional experience that got me thinking about fires in recreational vehicles, so I made some observations.
1) RVs burn fast! What we saw was a motorhome fire but any travel trailer or fifth wheel will burn just as quickly. We arrived less than five minutes after the fire started and already the motor home was beyond saving.
2) The smoke from a burning RV is very toxic and you should not even try to stay inside and fight the fire. Just a few lung-fulls of the acrid smoke may require hospitalization.
3) You cannot have too big a fire extinguisher. The folks, above, had one twice as big as the ones we were carrying but it just wasn't large enough.
The motorhome was so far away from any town there was no way the firefighters could get there in time to save it. I can't help thinking perhaps if he hadn't lifted the engine cover letting the smoke and fire into the cabin he might have had a little more time ...time to grab the little dog and his wife's purse at the least.
Maybe with the fire contained within the engine housing he could have fought it from outside with better results. It's just speculation of course. I am not questioning his judgment here. He had no reason to suspect his RV was on fire. But, then again, perhaps that's the lesson to be learned from this. Maybe we should all be more aware of the possibility and prepare for action to take.
No one starts an RV trip expecting their motorhome, fifth wheel or travel trailer to burn to the frame but it does happen. It could happen to you. Do you have a fire extinguisher? Is it the correct type and size? Do you know how to use it? Is it kept handy?
Do you have a plan of escape?
Don't have answers to these questions? Call your local fire department. Most have fire safety classes which include teaching the proper selection and use of extinguishers. Any firefighter will be happy to answer your questions.