What to Know: RV Fire Safety

What to Know: RV Fire Safety

One of the biggest fears many RVers have is fire and for good reason — each year, RV fires cause deaths, injuries and millions of dollars in damages to RVs. Just as fires happen in our homes and businesses.

Overall, the numbers of RV fires reported each year are around 1,000.

Point is: it happens and you need to take steps to make sure you aren't among those stats I just cited.

That's why we talked with our friend Mark Polk of RVEduction101.com.

Mark Polk, RVEducation101.com

Mark is a true expert on all aspects of RVs and RV safety and has critical and very practical advice about keeping our RVs safe from fire.

Among his top tips, make sure your fire safety devices are as ready to travel as you are.

“A really good habit to get into is, prior to every trip you take in your RV, you test the device,” Polk said, referring to devices like smoke and propane leak detectors.

Also on the topic of fire safety devices, Polk said to use devices that are made for use in RVs, and, where applicable, make sure devices aren't expired.

“It's typically five years from the date it was manufactured,” Polk said. “Nobody really talks about that.”

Of course, fire extinguishers are important to RV fire safety, though Polk cautions that they have limited use and shouldn't be considered the only line of defense against fire.

“You want to look at the site gauge and make sure that it's fully charged, and if it's not, you'll want to replace it,” Polk said.

Being prepared to handle a fire is good advice.

The biggest question we had for Polk, however, was what can RVers do to avoid causing fires altogether?

In short, he said, problems are caused by various incidents, like poorly maintained propane systems.

Other fires are caused by electrical shorts, such as when electric heaters are being used to supplement furnace systems. “Heaters can have a really high wattage,” Polk said. “So you leave it on for a really long time, like when you're sleeping and it's creating a lot of heat in the electrical circuit to the point where the insulation might start to melt and two wires make contact and that ignites the fire.”

Though Polk offered us plenty of fire safety tips, he said people shouldn't be afraid of RVing.

“I don't want to make people paranoid, it's just being aware of these things,” Polk said.

You can hear my entire interview with Mark on Episode 126 of the RV Podcast. For your convenience, we put Mark's top recommendation into a short list for future reference:

  • Be aware of fire safety devices in your RV
  • Know how to use those devices
  • Make sure those devices are maintained
  • If your fire extinguisher has a powder-based firefighting chemical, turn it upside down and give it a couple of solid taps before leaving so the powder doesn't get caked and jam.
  • Make sure anything that can burn doesn't accidentally fall into an area where heating elements or open flame may be present.
  • Have your RV's LP system inspected by a professional annually.
  • Use electric heaters in the 750-1,000-watt range to avoid pushing the upper limit of an RV's electrical circuit
  • Use electric heaters that shut off automatically when knocked over
  • Always keep an operating carbon monoxide detector in your RV