Fire

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FIRE!...

by:   Bob (Ram) Muessig

     Now, THATíS a word we sure donít want to hear when weíre traveling! Of course, fire can be a serious problem whether youíre traveling or not, but it can be extremely so in an RV. What weíre going to do is take a closer look at how fire could get started, why it happens, and how best to prevent it from happening in the first place.

     How on earth could a fire get started in an RV? Well, letís find out. Youíre traveling through the Colorado Rockies, enjoying the view, and taking your time going down that long grade. Your brakes seem to be a bit mushy, so you apply a little more pressure on that pedal. When that doesnít help, you "pump" or fan the brakes, hoping that mushy feeling will disappear. It doesnít. In fact, it becomes even worse. Youíre trying to get stopped when someone passes you, yelling "FIRE!". Youíre already nervous about that long grade, so this makes for a real confidence builder. You then take a look in the rear-view mirror and see clouds of smoke billowing out from under your trailer! Oh my gosh, the brakes are on fire! When you finally get stopped, bail out of the truck, and run back to the trailer, there are flames licking at the wood underflooring and at the wood framing of your rig. Well, you might as well get ready to call your insurance agent and file a claim because, I can tell you right now, that little 2 pound plastic extinguisher you have inside the door of your RV isn't going to do you much good. Fifteen minutes later, your $50,000 RV is a total loss. Not a pleasant thought, and one heck of a way to end a vacation.

     How could this terrible fire have been stopped? Better yet, how could it have been prevented in the first place? First things first. Stop the fire? Hardly. This sort of thing has happened to truckers on the Grapevine in California several times. Iíve seen trucks going down the hill and their brakes were glowing red. Fire is the next stage. Iíve been up and down that hill many times and have never warmed up those brakes. Tell you how in a minute. Letís get that fire stopped. Throw away that little 2 pound extinguisher and get one or two of the larger metal ones, eight pounds or bigger. If you have one in your tow vehicle, as well as one in the trailer, youíll have a much better chance of putting out the fire before it has an opportunity to do real damage. That 2 pound job is OK next to the stove, but not for something like this. I said youíll have a better chance at putting out the fire. I didnít say that you would put it out. Better to know how to prevent it.

     When you see those signs that say "Downgrade ahead - 6% - 10 miles", slow down and get into a low gear, preferably one lower than the gear that got you up on the other side. Then start down the grade. Maintain just enough brake pressure to keep your speed constant. and donít pump the brakes. Thatís the best way in the world to make sure that they will fail. If you have an exhaust brake, USE it! If you donít have one, maybe you better get one. They can help your engine hold your rig back. Thatís why many truckers use them. Thatís also how Iíve never even warmed my brakes up on the big rigs. Drop into a low gear and let the exhaust brake do most of the work for you. With todayís RVs getting bigger and heavier, an exhaust brake makes even more sense.

     Other causes of fire? A propane leak, or a pilot light that wasnít turned off before traveling. Take your RV to a responsible RV service company and have them test your propane system for leaks. Make sure they test the bottles and certify them, too. Then, before you travel, be certain that all the pilots are OFF. Use a checklist so that you donít miss some little thing during your final walk-around inspections.

     How about an electrical problem? Sure, they can cause fires in an RV and you never know when something like that will happen. Have your electrical systems inspected for loose connections, damaged insulation, faulty switches, etc. Check the continuity of the wiring to make sure nothing is grounded or shorted that isnít supposed to be.

     Smokers, be sure your smoke is OUT! ALL the way out. Itís easy to leave a smoke in an ashtray and forget about it. And above all, NEVER smoke in bed. Also, NEVER smoke near the propane tanks. Propane and oxygen can make a really BIG BANG! And that will definitely end your trip.

     With these safety tips in mind, I hope that you will have a wonderful vacation, free from disasters such as the above. If you use a little "horse sense", youíll be able to prevent fires from happening, therefore, no worries. And thatís what this RV life is all about, isnít it, having fun without worries?

As always, drive safely, and Iíll see yaí down the road.


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