How to Prevent an RV Fire
Every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 1,920 RV fires occur nationwide. Among these, the most common culprit is kitchen, engine, or wheel fire. While this data can be very concerning, if an RV owner takes the necessary precautions, the vast majority of RV fires can be prevented.
With simple tasks such as regular RV maintenance and being mindful of hazards, you can help keep you and your family safe the next time you go on an RV adventure.
By following these RV fire-prevention tips and tricks, you’ll be safe on the road!
RV Fire-prevention Tips Before You Drive
Install Smoke Alarms. For RVs less than 21 feet long, one smoke alarm is sufficient. Any longer than that, you’ll need 2-3 in order to give you full protection. For example, if your bedroom is situated away from the living area, you need a smoke alarm in both. Be sure one of them is located in the kitchen.
Have Three Fire Extinguishers. Store one in the bedroom, kitchen, and one somewhere else convenient in an unlocked compartment. Make sure everyone knows where all extinguishers are and how to use them.
Regularly Check Your Detectors. This is true for not only fire extinguishers, but for carbon monoxide detectors (of which you should have at least one). Check to make sure they’re working before any camping trip, and at least once a month when you’re not using the RV.
Regular RV Maintenance. One big reason for RV fires is an electrical or mechanical failure on the highway. Getting a regular checkup of your RV (as per your manufacturer’s recommendations) will by and large prevent any nasty mishaps.
Check Your Tires. This is an important one. Look for any patterns of wear and small cracks in the sidewalls of the tires. Do NOT drive on a tire in these conditions until you get it inspected by a professional. Also, check the tire pressure before each and every trip, and adjust accordingly. Always eyeball your tires at each rest stop for signs of deflating. Feel the hub of each one to check for signs of overheating. This would indicate a brake or wheel bearing issue. A good tire pressure monitoring system inside the RV works wonders.
Have an Escape Plan. It can be tough for people to exit the RV in case of an emergency, so it’s important to have a viable escape plan that includes not only the doors, but the windows. And that you discuss that escape plan with everyone in your party. Make sure everyone knows how to properly operate both windows and doors (even the kids) so that everyone can make it out safely. Have at least 2 good escape routes.
While On the Road
Switch off the gas. Turn off the propane tank and turn off all propane-powered appliances. Also, monitor all gauges inside and outside the RV. If a gauge registers out of normal range, stop and get it checked out!
Park in a Safe Spot. It is obvious, but bears repeating: RVs are big vehicles, so be aware of where you decide to park. A hot exhaust pipe or catalytic converter can ignite pretty easily when next to dry grass. Try to always park on concrete or on solid dirt.
While Camping in Your RV
Immediately Clean Up Spills and Leaks. Gas and propane leaks are more common than you think and pose an immediate danger. For gas-powered devices such as grills and lanterns, be sure to handle those fuels in well-ventilated areas.
Say NO to power strips and Extension Cords. We know it’s tempting with all of the devices we own, but try to avoid using power strips in your RV. Most models, especially older ones, are not equipped to handle the extra voltage. If you MUST use one, make sure it’s made for RVs and is heavy-duty, and the load you put on it is well within its capacity.
Be Aware of Gas Leaks. At some point in the lifespan of your RV, gas leaks may well happen. A leak in the propane system that powers your fridge, furnace, oven, or stovetop, can happen at any point and an alarm should sound when this happens. If it does, exit the RV and turn off the main gas valve, leaving the door open. Don’t return until the odor clears. Then have the system checked immediately by a professional.
Cook Carefully. Never leave your RV stovetop or oven unattended, and any campfire you have near your RV. Also, do not keep anything flammable in the vicinity of the RV kitchen’s burners. Campfires should be at least 20 feet away from anything that can burn, including your RV. Same with Tiki torches!
A Word About Heaters. Use only portable electric heaters during the cooler months, and get a model that comes equipped with safety features like auto shutoff or in the event it’s tipped over. NEVER use a fuel-burning heater in your RV, because it’s not vented to the outside. People in the RV will be exposed to toxic carbon monoxide gas. And NEVER keep portable heaters on while sleeping.