Page 14 - Travelore Issue 43 Fall 2018
P. 14

Page 14 - DRVC Travelore
Fire Safety—It’s Your Responsibility
by Mac McCoy
At best, a fire in your coach can delay or ruin a camping trip. At worst it can mean injury, financial loss, and even death. Unfortunately, RV fires are one of the largest causes of RV loss in America today. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments, RV repair shops and insurance carriers estimate there are approximately 6,300 RV fires annually. RV Alliance America statistics show half of most fires erupt while the RV is parked.
While the causes of RV fires vary widely, there are identifi- able trends. Engine and electrical fires are consistently the greatest cause of loss. Engine compartments, including electrical, flammable-combustible gases and liquids, are the cause of origin roughly 70% of the time.
To be safe, plan a monthly fire safety inspection for your RV. Be sure to check the engine compartment and inspect all radiator and coolant hoses for firmness, clamp tight- ness, swelling and signs of leaking. Replace hoses on a periodic basis or as needed. A pinhole leak in a radiator
or heater hose can spray antifreeze on hot engine parts. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol concentrate and water. When the water boils off the remaining ethylene glycol can self-ignite at 782 degrees.
A hard-working engine manifold can get to over 900 degrees. The heavy insulation in the compartment reflects the heat toward the top of the engine, and a fire can easily break out. With the design of most coaches, getting to
the top of the engine is all but impossible. Remember
if you cannot get to the top of the engine, you will have great difficulty in putting out the fire. If you find any signs of radiator problems, have them repaired by a qualified person.
After a long haul involving a steep grade, don’t come to
a stop and turn your engine off without allowing your vehicle time to cool down. Your transmission fuel tem- perature could be around 350 degrees, and your brakes will definitely be too hot to allow a quick stop. Turning your engine off too suddenly causes the temperature in your transmission to continue to rise. With your engine off, your coolant is no longer bleeding the heat from your engine. Instead, allow for a five-minute cool-down period. A hot exhaust pipe from your engine or generator can also run hot enough to start a fire if you drive or park in high, dry weeds.
Photo from Oregon State Police
Tires and brakes are the culprits in almost 20% of fires. A dragging brake can create enough friction to ignite a tire or brake fluid. Some of the worst fires are those caused when one tire of a dual or tandem pair goes flat and then scuffs and ignites, long before the driver feels any change in handling. At each stop, give your tires at least an eyeball check. Tap duals with a club and listen for a difference in sound; you can often tell if one is going soft.
Fire extinguishers can be valuable when a fire occurs, but you should be aware there are limitations when using them. It is important you attempt to extinguish the fire only within your reasonable means and don’t cause greater tragedy by playing hero. When fighting the fire is no longer safe, evacuate cautiously and immediately. Avoid unnecessary delay.
Don’t wait until you have a fire to develop a fire plan our purchase fire preventive products. It is too late after it happens. Take action now.
Mac McCoy has been a firefighter for more than three decades and, most recently, the Fire Service Training Coordinator for the State of Oregon. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Fire Science and holds a master’s degree in Fire Administration. Since March of 1999, he has traveled full-time in his RV con- ducting Fire & Life Safety Seminars at many state, regional, and national RV rallies around the USA.

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