Fire Safety for RV Travelers


Julie Chickery

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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.

The last thing anyone wants to consider when planning an RV vacation is the possibility of fire. However, a little prevention goes a long way to make for a safe and trouble-free holiday. It’s worth it, so take the time to ensure you’re protected.

The video above covers the essential safety equipment for all RVs. Below, we’ll discuss the causes of RV fires and provide a few safety tips for fire prevention.

RV Fire Safety On the Road

Truck camper aerial view with couple around campfire
A truck camper is an agile RV for boondocking in remote locations.

According to FEMA, approximately one in eight fires responded to by fire departments in the United States is a highway vehicle fire, which includes recreational vehicles. After accidents, mechanical failure in one of the following areas contributed to most of these fires: the 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 system and mechanical components. Here are a few critical things every RV owner should check before each trip to reduce the chances of a fire while traveling.

RV & Tow Vehicle Checklist for Fire Prevention

  • 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. Practice smart driving techniques to avoid overheated components.
  • Check for proper inflation of all tires and utilize a tire pressure monitoring system.
TireMinder TM-77 Tire Pressure Monitoring System with 6 Transmitters
TireMinder TM-77 Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • Refer to your vehicle’s service logs to verify you’re current on all service items, including brake inspections and axle maintenance.
  • Do not drive with the propane on. It can increase the fire if an accident or other mechanical flame occurs.
  • Ensure your fire extinguisher is securely mounted within 24 inches of your main entry/exit and is not expired. RV fire extinguishers must be replaced every 12 years.

What To Do if You Experience a Fire on the Road

First, get yourself and all passengers a safe distance from the vehicle and traffic on the roadway. Do not attempt to return to the RV or tow vehicle to retrieve personal property. Report the fire using 911 or emergency telephone numbers. 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.

RV Fire Safety In the Kitchen

Photo by Camping World

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the most common area that RV fires occur 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. It might be especially helpful to keep these tips handy if doing any major cooking in your RV, such as during Thanksgiving. 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. Consider an air fryer instead of cooking with large amounts of hot oil.
  • Turn on the range fan and open a roof vent to maintain proper ventilation.
  • 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.
  • Ensure anything flammable (towels, oven mitts, food packaging, etc.) is away from your stovetop.

What To Do 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.

RV Fire Safety At The Campground

at-the-campground-fire-safety-for-rv-travelers-03-2023 Photo by Camping World
Chase & Lindsay with the Mr. Bar-B-Q Portabel Outdoor Firepit. Photo by Camping World

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:

  • Ensure open fires are allowed at the campground and be aware of the local fire danger level.
  • Consider alternatives to an open flame if fires aren’t permitted.
  • Only build campfires in designated fire rings. If allowed to build your own firepit, dig a depression in the center of a cleared area and place a ring of rocks around it. Remove debris from the area.
  • 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 a 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 the wood over and wet all sides.

Fire Safety for Cooking Outdoors

Photo by Camping World

One of the great things about RV vacations is enjoying the great outdoors. Some of the best camping meals are made over the grill. Here are some fire safety tips for cooking outdoors:

  • Place the grill safely away from your RV awning and overhanging branches.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid to coals or kindling that has already been ignited.
  • Ensure you 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.

RV Fire Safety Alarms and Preparation Tips

Photo by Camping World

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself 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:

  • Ensure you have a working smoke alarm, propane leak, and carbon monoxide detector. Switch out the batteries every six months and test that audible alarms are working to ensure the batteries are good.
  • Develop and practice an escape plan that includes at least two routes out of 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) if you encounter any small fires that you can put out quickly.
  • Remind everyone that their lives are more important than their 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

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