Jack Lively got a Valentine’s Day surprise he’d just as soon have missed. He was watching TV inside his 2006 Holiday Rambler Navigator when his wife, Jackie, called out. She had noticed a flame — a reflection of it, actually — on the bedroom slide on the RV’s driver’s side.
Damaged sustained to The Lively's RV during a fire at Lazydays Campground
The Huntington, W.Va., couple were staying at the Lazydays RV Campground in Tampa and were about to leave for breakfast when the fire broke out. At that hour, “She’s normally asleep and I’m out walking,” Jack says. If they had followed their usual routine that morning, Jackie may never have noticed the fire before it was too late.
The Livelys quickly exited their RV and called the fire department. Fortunately, there were no injuries to the human occupants — but the Navigator was a total loss.
Jack and Jackie still don’t know the source of the fire, and are waiting on an insurance company report. But RV fires can come from any number of sources. Here are some tips to help avoid fires, and what to do in case one does break out:
Luckily, no one was injured during this RV fire.
- Stay with your stove: Cooking fires are among the most common in RVs, and often occur when someone begins preparing food on the stovetop and then walks away. “Stay in the kitchen if you’re cooking on the stove,” warns Vicky Yeakley, public education coordinator with Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue.
Fires inside the oven are less common and also more easily contained. “Keep the door closed and it will burn itself out,” Vicky advises. “Opening the door exposes the fire to air and will cause it to spread.”
- Don’t crowd space heaters: Full-timers and winter vacationers should exercise caution when using space heaters. “Space heaters need at least three feet of clearance around them in any direction,” Vicky notes. “That’s not always easy in an RV.”
- Take care when smoking indoors: Unattended cigarettes can blaze quick and deadly in an RV. “Fires often are caused by smokers who are drowsy or drinking or on medication. They fall asleep with a cigarette lit,” Vicky says. “If you smoke in your RV, make sure you are awake and alert, sitting up and not drinking. Better yet, go outside.”
- Stash matches and lighters: Many fires are caused when curious children find matches or lighters, including the barbecue lighters RVers use to fire up grills. “Keep them on your person — not in a purse — or locked up,” recommends Vicky.
- Beware of electrical dangers: With more and more electronic devices making the trip, RVers are often tempted to maximize limited outlets. It’s a bad idea, though. “It’s best not to run more than two items from a two-plug outlet,” Vicky says. “Any more and you’re taking a risk.”
Eric Sponauer of Lazydays cautions that unauthorized or amateur wiring should be avoided: “If you have work done, make sure the technicians know what they’re doing.” He also recommends regular battery maintenance, following up on recall notices — particularly for refrigerators — and obeying product safety warnings. “They’re there for a reason,” he adds.
Maintain Smoke Alarms
Planning ahead is imperative in case a fire does break out. Vicky suggests the following precautions:
- Maintain smoke alarms: “You need a smoke alarm near your sleeping area,” says Vicky. “Don’t assume the smell of smoke will wake you up. Poisonous gases in the smoke will actually cause you to sleep deeper.”
Smoke alarms should be tested monthly, and the batteries changed annually. Be sure you know the life of your alarm — most are 10 years, although some are five — and replace it when when the time has expired.
- Know your location: The Fire Department can find Lazydays with ease, but RVers who travel to more remote campgrounds should be able to provide directions to emergency responders. “Know how much cell phone coverage you have,” Vicky recommends. “If coverage is unreliable or unavailable at your campsite, you should know how to get to an area where you have coverage in case of an emergency.”
- Have a plan: Determine two escape routes from your RV and check them regularly to make sure they remain accessible. If you’re traveling with others, choose a place to meet in case of an emergency. Most importantly, talk about it with everyone who’s traveling.
Familiarize yourself with your fire extinguisher
- Familiarize yourself with the fire extinguisher: A fire extinguisher can be effective on small, contained fires, but it’s important to learn to use it before a fire breaks out. “The directions are on the side,” Vicky explains. “But it can be hard to understand directions when you’re under duress. During an emergency is not the time to learn how to operate it.”
- Be a good neighbor: “Report a fire as soon as you see it,” says Vicky. “Even if the fire doesn’t spread, the heat can cause melting damage to nearby vehicles.”
Following these simple steps will help keep you and your loved ones safe, while ensuring your RV is around for many adventures to come.
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