Fire Safety for RV Travelers 507

The last thing anyone wants to think about when planning their next RV vacation is the possibility of fire. However, a little planning and prevention can go a long way towards ensuring you have a safe and trouble-free holiday. It’s worth it, so take the time to ensure you’re protected.

There are several different causes of fire. I’ll cover the most common and provide a few tips for prevention.

On the Road

Motorhome on the Desert Road Somewhere in the Southern California Mojave Desert. Class A Gasoline Engine Motorcoach. United States of America. American RVing. (Motorhome on the Desert Road Somewhere in the Southern California Mojave Desert. Class A Ga

According to FEMA, Approximately one in eight fires responded to by fire departments across the nation is a highway vehicle fire. This figure includes recreational vehicles. After accidents, mechanical failure in one of the following areas contributed to most of these fires: engine, running gear, or wheel area of the vehicle.

 

The most important prevention for mechanical fire is to maintain your RV or tow vehicle’s electrical and mechanical systems. Here are a few critical things you should check before each trip to reduce your chances of a fire while traveling:

  • Ensure all hoses are tight and there are no cracks to avoid flammable liquids igniting in the engine area.
  • Keep the engine compartment clean of excess grease and dirt that increases the chances of fire under the hood.
  • Ensure there is adequate insulation around electrical wiring
  • Overheated tires and brakes can also cause fires.
  • Check for proper inflation of all tires, and even better use a Tire Pressure Monitoring System.
  • Refer to your vehicle’s service logs to verify you’re up to date on all service items including brake inspections and axle maintenance.
  • Do not drive with the propane on. It can increase the danger if an accident or other mechanical fire occurs.

It is equally important to know what to do in case a fire occurs while you’re driving to your destination.

  • First, get yourself and all passengers a safe distance away from the vehicle and traffic on the roadway.
  • Don’t attempt to get back into the RV or tow vehicle to retrieve personal property.
  • Report the fire using 911 or other emergency telephone number.
  • If you have a fire extinguisher approved for Class B and Class C fires handy, only use it at a safe distance from the vehicle. Do not open the hood to access a fire under it, as air could cause the fire to enlarge.

In the Kitchen

Checking on Camper RV Propane Stove. Cooking While Travel Theme
Image by Welcomia (Getty)

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the most common area for RV fires to start is the kitchen. Most cooking fires start with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.

 

When cooking in a small space like an RV, it is especially important to remain vigilant anytime you are cooking. Here are a few tips to reduce the risk of a kitchen fire in the RV:

  • Remain in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, boiling, or broiling food.
  • When cooking with oil, be especially vigilant. Heat the oil slowly and add food gently so the oil does not splatter.
  • Always keep a lid handy to place over the pan in case of fire.
  • If you are baking or roasting food in the oven, use a timer and stay close by to check it regularly.
  • Make sure there to keep anything flammable (towels, oven mitts, food packaging, wooden utensils, etc.) away from your stovetop.

If you have a cooking fire:

  • Never use water on a grease fire.
  • If oil ignites in a pan, smother the fire with the lid. Leave the lid on until it has completely cooled.
  • Turn off the heat source immediately.
  • If the fire cannot be immediately extinguished, just get out! Your life is more important than your belongings. Be sure to close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
  • Turn off the propane to your RV.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number from a safe distance outside the RV.

At The Campground

Selective focus, toasting a marshmallow over an open flame at Christmas market winter wonderland in London
Image by Victor Huang (Getty)

One of the things we love best about camping is roasting marshmallows and sharing stories around the campfire. Unfortunately, campfires can be dangerous if not managed properly. You need to ensure that everyone stays safe around open flames. Here are some tips:

 

  • Make sure open fires are allowed and be aware of the local fire danger level.
  • Build campfires in designated fire rings. If allowed to build your own fire pit, dig a depression in the center of a cleared area and place a ring of rocks around it.
  • Don’t build a fire too large and always check for overhanging limbs.
  • Never use an accelerant such as gasoline or lighter fluid to start a campfire.
  • Always keep a hose, a bucket of water, or dirt and shovel nearby to extinguish the fire.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended and always supervise children closely.
  • To extinguish a campfire, pour a bucket of water over it while completely stirring and wetting all the ashes.  Turn wood over and wet all sides.

One of the great thing about RV vacations is enjoying the great outdoors. Some of the best camping meals are made over the grill.

 

Consider the following if you choose to cook outdoors on your RV vacation:

  • Place the grill a safe distance from the RV awning and away from overhanging branches.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid to coals or kindling that has already been ignited.
  • Make sure there to keep anything flammable (towels, oven mitts, food packaging, wooden utensils, etc.) away from the grill.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Thoroughly extinguish the fire and make sure the area is cool to the touch before leaving.

Be Prepared

New red fire extinguisher tank on orange wall
Image by Phanuwat Nandoe (Getty)

The most important thing you can do to protect you and your family in the event of a fire is to be prepared in advance. Before you leave on your next camping trip, make sure to:

  • Regularly check your smoke, propane, and carbon monoxide detectors switching out the batteries every six months.
  • Develop and practice a plan that includes at least two escape routes from the RV.
  • Be sure everyone knows how to open hatches and emergency exits.
  • Keep multiple fire extinguishers in your RV and tow vehicle (if applicable) in case you encounter any small fires that you can put out quickly.
  • Remind everyone that their lives are more important than your belongings. Evacuating to a safe place should always be the first priority.

Although we hope it never happens, we should always be prepared for the worst. By being diligent, properly maintaining our RVs, and practicing cooking safety we can reduce the risk. Since we can’t completely eliminate it, planning ahead and practicing evacuation can ensure the whole family stays safe.


Do you have any questions or concerns? Leave a comment below!

Fire Safety for RV Travelers

Julie Chickery AuthorContributor
Julie and her husband Sean started traveling in their RV full-time 4 years ago after they each served 20 years in the US Air Force. Having lived in more than 10 states and 4 countries, the Chickerys decided it was time to enjoy the rest of the United States. They manage Chickery’s Travels, an educational and inspirational blog and YouTube channel aimed at helping people realize their full-time travel dreams.

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