Owning an RV gives us the freedoms to hit the open road, explore destinations most only dream of, and spend time building long-lasting memories with the ones we love. However, there are many dangers that RV owners tend to forget about. RV fires are one great example of this.
Picture this: you’re on the open road, exploring the great outdoors, and loving the freedoms that RV living has to offer. You’re living the dream and loving life. But as the old saying goes, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.”
Part of that responsibility is keeping you, your family, and your rig safe. One of the less discussed threats to RV campers is the risk of fire. It’s a sobering reality that, if unprepared, a fire in your RV can quicky turn your dreams into a nightmare.
In this article we are going to dig deep into the subject of RV fire safety. A reality where being prepared can be the difference between a peaceful and relaxing trip and a life-changing catastrophe.
We’ll discuss common fire hazards, preventative measures you can take, essential RV fire safety equipment, and even talk about creating and practicing an escape plan should the unthinkable happen.
Let’s jump in…
This article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we may earn a commission on qualifying sales at no extra cost to you.
- The Importance Of RV Fire Safety
- Common RV Fire Hazards
- RV Fire Safety Equipment
- Creating An RV Fire Escape Plan
- Maintenance And Inspections
- What To Do In Case Of A Fire
- Final Thoughts
The Importance Of RV Fire Safety
While the RV lifestyle is something that many Americans dream of, the fact remains that there are certain underlying dangers that are often overlooked.
Sure, the allure of the open road and the freedom to travel is what appeals to the masses, however, these pleasures come with great responsibilities, which includes keeping your family safe.
These responsibilities cannot be overstated, because the consequences of neglecting RV fire safety can be life changing.
Every year, many RV owners find this out first-hand. In fact, according to the U.S. fire Administration, an estimated 4,200 RV fires are reported every year in the United States, which result in an estimated average of 15 deaths, 125 injuries, and $60,300,000 in total loses. Of course, these numbers are only estimates based on “reported” RV fires.
RV fire safety is more than protecting your investment; it’s about safeguarding the lives of your loved ones and yourself.
These fires spread rapidly, leaving little time for escape. Not only do RV fires consume your camper, but also your dreams of adventure.
Common RV Fire Hazards
As we learn the importance of RV fire safety, it’s crucial to recognize the threats that can turn your journey into a disaster. By understanding the common RV fire hazards, you arm yourself with the knowledge to take proactive steps to preventing them.
One of the most common causes of RV fires is electrical issues. The combination of complicated electrical systems in a confined space can lead to short circuits, faulty wiring, and overheating. Over time, wear and tear can take their toll, increasing the risk of sparks and electrical fires.
Fire Prevention Tip:
Regularly inspect your RV’s electrical system. Look for frayed wires, loose connections, and signs of overheating. Make sure you invest in a quality surge protector to safeguard against power fluctuations at the campgrounds.
Propane is the lifeblood of most RV appliances. It is used for powering stoves, heaters, and most RV refrigerators. While it is extremely essential for RVing, it is also a highly flammable gas. Leaks, damaged propane lines, or improperly sealed connections can lead to propane buildup and, ultimately, a catastrophic fire.
Fire Prevention Tip:
Schedule a professional propane system inspection and test your propane gas detectors and carbon monoxide detectors regularly before every trip. You can also install a Gas Stop shut-off valve on your propane tanks that will immediately shut off the propane in the event of a leak.
There is nothing better than a meal cooked at the campground. However, grease fires and accidental spills are common occurrences. These small flare-ups can quickly escalate, especially if cooking is left unattended.
Fire Prevention Tip:
Always stay in the kitchen while cooking. Keep a fully charged fire extinguisher that is rated for grease fires nearby. If your RV has an outdoor kitchen, consider keeping a fire extinguisher nearby in an unlocked basement storage compartment.
Cold, frigid nights in your RV often leave you looking for alternate heating solutions. However, improper use of heaters can lead to disaster. Space heaters, in particular, should be kept away from any combustible materials.
Fire Prevention Tip:
Be sure there is plenty of ventilation when using space heaters and be sure there is nothing flammable nearby like curtains, bed sheets, etc.
Smoking And Candles
For those who smoke or enjoy the aroma of a campfire scented candle, these seemingly innocent habits can pose a fire hazard in your RV. Discarded cigarette butts or unattended candles can easily start a fire in the confines of your RV.
Fire Prevention Tip:
Smoke outside of the RV and make sure your butt is completely out when finished. For the candle lovers, never leave your candle burning unattended and make sure to blow out the flame before going to bed.
RV Fire Safety Equipment
When it comes to RV fire safety, knowledge and prevention are key. But, having the right equipment on board can mean the difference between containing a small fire or facing a blazing inferno.
It is extremely important to the safety of you, your family, and your RV to make sure you have the essential RV fire safety equipment, and that it is proper working order.
Fire extinguishers are your first line of defense against RV fires. Most RVs will have at least one fire extinguisher mounted in the rig, typically by the entrance door. In fact, according to the NFPA, every RV is required to have at least one fire extinguisher mounted near the entrance to the camper.
However, it’s always good idea to have multiple extinguishers placed strategically inside and outside of your rig. An unlocked basement storage area close to your outdoor kitchen is an ideal place to mount one.
Types: Type ABC fire extinguishers are effective on many types of fires including paper and wood, grease fires, and electrical fires.
Mounting: Many fire extinguishers for RV and home use will come with secure mounting brackets so you can mount them where you need them. In addition, the brackets are designed to keep the fire extinguisher in place, especially on travel days.
Training: Be sure everyone in your camping crew knows how to use the fire extinguisher. Remember the PASS acronym:
- Pull the pin
- Aim at the base of the fire
- Squeeze the handle
- Sweep from side to side
Smoke detectors are your early warning system in the event of an RV fire. Make sure you have them installed in key areas throughout your rig, like the kitchen, sleeping areas, and living areas.
Also be sure to test your smoke detectors on a regular basis and replace the batteries twice a year. The best way to remember this is to replace your smoke detector batteries when you set the clocks for daylight savings time.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the silent killer. It is a deadly gas that is produced by appliances like heaters and stoves. Since CO is heavier than air, mount your CO detectors at a lower level and opt for a detector that has a battery back-up to ensure you have monitoring in the event of a power outage.
Emergency Escape Ladders
In the event an RV fire is blocking access to the exit door, a fire escape ladder can be a lifesaver, especially for those who own fifth wheel RVs. In a fifth wheel, the bedroom is typically located in the nose cone of the rig. And in turn, it is a much farther drop to the ground than a smaller camper.
A fire blanket, like this one from Amazon, can be used to smother smaller fires before they get out of hand. In addition, they can be used to wrap around yourself for protection when evacuating.
Keep a fire blanket in a known and easily accessible spot, like the kitchen and sleeping areas.
Know How To Use Your Emergency Exit Windows
Every RV has at least one emergency exit window. Learn how to use them and be sure everyone in your camping crew knows how to open them as well.
In addition, it’s a good idea to practice locating them and opening them in the dark. In case of an RV fire, you may not be able to see through the smoke, making it much more difficult to find the emergency exit.
First Aid Kit
While a well-equipped first-aid kit isn’t an RV fire safety tool exactly, it is essential for treating any minor injuries that may occur during a fire or evacuation.
Creating An RV Fire Escape Plan
When it comes to RV fire safety, having an escape plan in place is as crucial as having the right safety equipment. If a fire breaks out, chaos and panic can hinder your decision-making abilities. Below are some useful tips for creating your escape plan.
Map Out Escape Routes
Begin by mapping out various exit points in your RV. Consider the layout and size of your rig; some larger RVs will have multiple exits, like front and rear doors, multiple emergency exit windows, and even roof hatches. Be sure to identify all possible ways to get out of the RV.
Practice Your RV Fire Escape Plan
As the old adage goes, “Practice Makes Perfect”. Practice your RV fire escape plan regularly with everyone in your family. Practice your drills during the day and especially at night. As I mentioned above, when your rig is full of smoke, things will be different.
Be sure your family has the confidence they need to escape in the unfortunate event of an RV fire.
Choose A Meeting Point
At the beginning of every camping trip, designate a safe meeting point that is a safe distance away from the RV. Choose places like a nearby tree or picnic table. Emphasize the point that everyone is to meet in the same area.
Once at the meeting point, be sure everyone, including pets are accounted for.
Communication Is Key
Talk with your family about the potential of an RV fire. Be sure to cover your emergency exit plans and meeting points. Be open and honest in your communication with the family and encourage any input about the plan and any changes that might need to be made based on your location.
Maintenance And Inspections
Maintenance is a large part of RV ownership and is an important part of RV fire safety. Neglecting certain systems can put you, your family, and your RV at risk.
Electrical System Inspection
The electrical system in any motorhome or camper is a major potential fire hazard. However, by performing routine maintenance and inspections, you can catch many of these hazards before they lead to disaster.
Check the wiring for any fraying or damage. Pay special attention to where wires pass through openings, as these are common trouble spots. When your RV is moving, it’s also vibrating and shaking as you travel down the road. These vibrations, over time, can cause the insulation on electrical wires to rub causing bare spots in the wires. If you notice any signs of damage, get it repaired immediately.
Inspect all switches and outlets throughout the rig for signs of overheating or arcing. Loose connections pose a serious fire risk. This includes the breakers and fuses. Make sure they are in proper working order and replace any blown fuses immediately.
Propane System Inspection
When inspecting your RV’s propane system, pay attention to any lines that may be damaged. Make sure your propane tank valves and regulators are working properly and all connections are secure. If you’re unsure, hire a professional RV inspector to take a look.
Make sure your propane appliances are in proper working order as well. Turn on the stove, the heater, and the water heater to make sure there are no leaks or other damage.
Fire Extinguisher Maintenance
I can’t stress enough how important fire extinguishers are when it comes to RV fire safety. By inspecting them on a regular basis, you can rest assures they will work when you need them. Be sure the extinguisher is fully charged and replace them it they’re not.
Emergency Exit Window Inspection
Not only is it extremely important to know where your emergency exit windows are, it is equally important to know they work. Most RVers never open their emergency exit windows which will cause the rubber seal to stick over time. Make it a habit to check the latches and operation of these windows so you know they will open when you need them to.
What To Do In Case Of A Fire
The ultimate goal is to prevent an RV fire from happening. But the sad reality is, they happen. An RV fire can be a chaotic and scary experience, and knowing what to do in case there is a fire in your RV can make all the difference.
- Stay Calm: If you ever find yourself dealing with an RV fire, it is important to stay calm. Panic can lead to poor decision-making and hinder your ability to react effectively.
- Alert Everyone: Make sure everyone in your family is awake and aware that there is a fire in the RV.
- Get Out Fast: Get out of the RV as quickly as possible. If smoke is present in the camper, stay low to the ground until the air is clear. Remember your evacuation plan and meeting point.
- Leave Everything Behind: Personal belongings can be replaced. Leave everything behind including any sentimental items you may have on-board. Make sure your family and pets are with you. At the end of the day, everything else is simply “stuff”. It’s materialistic and can be replaced.
- Call For Help: Once you are a safe distance from your rig, call 911 to have emergency services respond. Give them the address of your location. If you’re not sure what the physical address is, give them the name of the campground, resort, or RV park you are in.
- Don’t Re-Enter The RV: Under no circumstances should you ever re-enter your RV once you’re out. RV fires spread rapidly and what might look manageable from the outside can become life-threatening on the inside.
- Notify The Campground: If you’re in a campground or near other RVers, make sure you notify everyone nearby. They made need to take precautions or may be able to provide assistance.
- Wait For Emergency Services: When the first responders arrive, follow their instructions and provide them with any additional information they may need, such as the locations of any propane tanks located in the basement storage areas.
RVing is a great way to spend time with your loved ones and enjoy the freedoms of the open road. But there are always unforeseen hazards that can arise at any moment, turning those precious memories into a catastrophic nightmare.
But, beyond these RV fire prevention tips and advice, the core message is clear: your RV is more than just a vehicle; it’s your home away from home, your sanctuary on the road, and a vessel where cherished memories are waiting to be made. Protecting it and the people within it is a responsibility that should never be underestimated.
David is a U.S. Air Force veteran who currently lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with his wonderful wife of 26 years and their two furry companions, Gus and LuLu.
As an outdoor and RV enthusiast, David loves to spend his free time taking road trips and spending as much time as possible at the campground with the family in their 2018 Dutchmen Kodiak 201QB travel trailer