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Old 07-31-2020, 07:33 AM   #1
JRTJH
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Fire Safety

In another thread, we were recently discussing emergency exits in RV's and how to have a plan, practice that plan, make sure everyone knows that plan and to inspect and assure exits are operational and functional.

What didn't come up in that discussion is detection equipment. Many threads on this forum have discussed the LPG detector and a number of members have expressed little knowledge of WHEN or HOW it works, and even if it is turned on or off when the "battery cutoff switch" is in the ON or the OFF position....

The local news just posted a report of a camper explosion in a local campground. The writer commented that the camper was destroyed and two people are in a local hospital, in critical condition. The explosion occurred about 6AM this morning. Speculation is that there was a propane leak, the husband got up to start breakfast and the explosion occurred when he attempted to light the stove.... https://upnorthlive.com/news/local/c...letter+July+31

The article doesn't state whether the "stove he attempted to light" was inside the RV, outside the RV and attached with a flexible hose (valve on/off) or if it was a "free standing LPG stove with a 1 pound bottle"...

I can see where any of those three could cause the explosion, I've seen a number of people leave their grill or Blackstone griddle connected to the trailer propane supply and leave that valve turned on. Any defect or leak in the actual grill, both ends of the flex hose or the valve in the connector could easily be leaking, maybe all night, collecting propane that isn't going to be detected "by the inside LPG detector which may/may not even be turned on"...

Whether we ever know "the way it happened or not", it's an opportunity for all of us to remember to check the LPG system in our RV, remember to turn off the "accessory valve" and disconnect the flex hose from outside appliances when not in use as well as a reminder to check the plan and the exit windows...
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Old 07-31-2020, 07:49 AM   #2
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I suppose that’s possible but odd. Med patan is detectable at 0.5ppm. Far below the LEL of propane.
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Old 07-31-2020, 07:54 AM   #3
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I suppose thatís possible but odd. Med patan is detectable at 0.5ppm. Far below the LEL of propane.

Med patan??
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:45 AM   #4
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Fire is one emergency, storms are another. These pictures were from a bad storm than ripped thru a campground in PA a few years ago. Trees hit a fifth wheel and a Class A. Luckily, no one was hurt. The couple in the Class A were in the living room. The tree came down and crushed the bed.
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:53 AM   #5
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Forgot to add the Class A's bedroom slide out.
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:59 AM   #6
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I suppose thatís possible but odd. Med patan is detectable at 0.5ppm. Far below the LEL of propane.
Not sure what "Med patan" is??
Ethyl Mercapton is used in propane for the odorant & yes it's a VERY recognizable odor.
Therefore doesn't state what the cause, could be that stored gasoline in a storage compartment for portable generators. It's anybody's guess as to why, but the message is the same, BE AWARE & check equipment regularly.
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Old 07-31-2020, 10:39 AM   #7
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Just to piggyback on the importance of knowing what's what with your fire plan, just yesterday I found I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was.

Got my extinguishers etc. and figured the fire exit windows would be no brainers; well, they are and they aren't. On walk thru we had just did a cursory quick look at them and I didn't think more about it until yesterday so began to see how they really work......

First off were the 3 in the living area. 2 have sliding windows and thought you unlatched the safety pull, slid it open and bailed. Well, you unlatch it, slide the window and then the screen is across the opening. It appears it snaps into place from the inside but wasn't actually expecting that. Did not attempt to pull the screens because we leave tomorrow and didn't want to open a can of worms before departure. I'll rip it out if required.

The back window has very easily operated latches and we saw those when we walked through and he just pointed out the safety exit. Upon further inspection yesterday it appears the latches literally hold the window into the frame. Once released there are no hinges, latches or other mechanism on the window...it just sits in the frame so looks like you disconnect the latches and push the window out or try to maneuver it in some way to save it from falling. If the rv is on fire doubt I'll be worrying about that window. The bedroom is pretty straightforward; pull the latches, raise the window, pull the red safety handles up and push the entire screen/window frame assembly out.

Sorry for the long post but so many folks are getting new trailers that thought it might be beneficial to point out that just because you pull/pull/turn that red handle doesn't mean you have any idea of what is required once you do. In the panic of a fire that could have terrible consequences. Give them a look see and feel comfortable with the exit process before it is needed.
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Old 07-31-2020, 11:17 AM   #8
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Med patan??
Obviously a case of autocorrect.

ďPropane is a colorless and odorless gas, therefore an odorant, currently ethyl mercaptan, is added to allow for its detection. This smell resembles that of rotten eggs.Ē

Too many threads go south before they get to the point of this forum, which is informing and helping fellow campers.

The smell can also resemble almonds. Whichever it is it is obvious there is something that is not the way it is supposed to be.

What blows my mind is there is no question of what a LEL is. I can talk about flammable range and LEL and UEL and specific gravity and the fact that propane will sink and natural gas will rise and get into the science of haz-mat but there is no need for 90% of this forum.

Yes, I have been on the other side of the fire talk. Being the one to extinguish and realize what fire can do to our campers. Been in both $300k class a fire and $1000 tag along fire and the result was the same. One in a volunteer setting where response times were extended and one in a career setting where we were on scene in minutes.

I think the conversation should steer towards pre-planning an incident. Though I pray for everyone this never happens to anyone, inevitably it will. We have a plan at home and have been through it but have not in our fifth wheel. We will take time to make a plan that we will hopefully never have to use.
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Old 07-31-2020, 02:22 PM   #9
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I worry more about the propane reefer then a stove propane leak/fire. Both major RV fridge brands, Norcold and Dometic, have cost reduced their product so much that the coolant tubing is suspect and has failed on many RVs. ARP sells their $150 shut down device but that is only a band aid for the crappy materials used and really wont stop a fire in the event of a tube failure while driving down the highway since all it really is is a shut down device on overheat, not tube failuer and leaks.

I'm currently researching fire extinguishers to add to the back of our fridge. So far, I've only found 3 that may work:
- Proteng - which I'm not enthused with. It is a poly tube with a HALON type material (CAG)
- SS-30 Halon Extinguisher
- Fireboy System which is a marine system but is similar to the SS-30
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Old 07-31-2020, 04:21 PM   #10
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...I'm currently researching fire extinguishers to add to the back of our fridge. So far, I've only found 3 that may work:
- Proteng - which I'm not enthused with. It is a poly tube with a HALON type material (CAG)
- SS-30 Halon Extinguisher
- Fireboy System which is a marine system but is similar to the SS-30
Refrigerators catch fire when they overheat and rupture the tubes. The ARP Fridge Defend prevents it from overheating. That is the route I chose to go with.
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Old 07-31-2020, 04:59 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Dave W View Post
I worry more about the propane reefer then a stove propane leak/fire. Both major RV fridge brands, Norcold and Dometic, have cost reduced their product so much that the coolant tubing is suspect and has failed on many RVs. ARP sells their $150 shut down device but that is only a band aid for the crappy materials used and really wont stop a fire in the event of a tube failure while driving down the highway since all it really is is a shut down device on overheat, not tube failuer and leaks.

I'm currently researching fire extinguishers to add to the back of our fridge. So far, I've only found 3 that may work:
- Proteng - which I'm not enthused with. It is a poly tube with a HALON type material (CAG)
- SS-30 Halon Extinguisher
- Fireboy System which is a marine system but is similar to the SS-30
Can you provide a link to some data showing all these failures?
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Old 07-31-2020, 06:06 PM   #12
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At any given time, there are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of RV refrigerators in operation. I've only heard of a couple of "failures that resulted in a fire"... It's not a common occurrence and I'd suspect you're more likely to fall out of your RV and break a hip than to have it burn down from a "refrigerator fire"...

The reason there are Halon fire extinguishing systems on boats is because you can't "open a door and run"... In an RV, if it catches fire, you get out, stand there and watch your trailer... In a boat, you won't have that luxury....

I'd look more at "heat prevention" than at "fire prevention" with an RV refrigerator... ARP makes the Fridge Defend, but Norcold retrofitted most of their refrigerators to include a thermal overheat device which will disable the refrigerator in the event of a "chimney stack overheat condition"... I believe Dometic has followed that same path....
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Old 07-31-2020, 06:14 PM   #13
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Dometic does have a thermo sensor on the stack, and if you follow the path of the 12V supply, it goes through it before it even gets to the control board. On some models there is even a thermal fuse in line before the stack.

Iím with John.
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Old 07-31-2020, 06:35 PM   #14
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I suppose thatís possible but odd. Med patan is detectable at 0.5ppm. Far below the LEL of propane.
Supposed to be mercaptan. That was the use to put odor in the gas.
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Old 07-31-2020, 08:29 PM   #15
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At any given time, there are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of RV refrigerators in operation. I've only heard of a couple of "failures that resulted in a fire"... It's not a common occurrence and I'd suspect you're more likely to fall out of your RV and break a hip than to have it burn down from a "refrigerator fire"...

The reason there are Halon fire extinguishing systems on boats is because you can't "open a door and run"... In an RV, if it catches fire, you get out, stand there and watch your trailer... In a boat, you won't have that luxury....

I'd look more at "heat prevention" than at "fire prevention" with an RV refrigerator... ARP makes the Fridge Defend, but Norcold retrofitted most of their refrigerators to include a thermal overheat device which will disable the refrigerator in the event of a "chimney stack overheat condition"... I believe Dometic has followed that same path....
The Norcold and the Dometic devices are also referred to as recall devices, even though they are installed on all new fridges. The problem with them is when they do operate, the temperature has already reached a critical level and the fridge is no longer functional, and even if a magnet is used to reset the device, the refrigerant is not as effective as new because crystals form and can plug things up. The ARP device operates at a much lower temperature, way before any damage has been done, and after a cool down period will automatically turn the fridge back on again. We have had an ARP device since 2015 and the fridge has work great ever since, and this is after having the cookout g unit replaced twice, once due to crystal formation, and the second time due to a leak.
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Old 08-01-2020, 03:33 AM   #16
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Can you provide a link to some data showing all these failures?
Use your fingers and Google. It's really a simple PC 101 search,
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Old 08-01-2020, 08:22 AM   #17
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The Norcold and the Dometic devices are also referred to as recall devices, even though they are installed on all new fridges. The problem with them is when they do operate, the temperature has already reached a critical level and the fridge is no longer functional, and even if a magnet is used to reset the device, the refrigerant is not as effective as new because crystals form and can plug things up. The ARP device operates at a much lower temperature, way before any damage has been done, and after a cool down period will automatically turn the fridge back on again. We have had an ARP device since 2015 and the fridge has work great ever since, and this is after having the cookout g unit replaced twice, once due to crystal formation, and the second time due to a leak.
You may have "missed the entire points of my post"... My points :

1. Refrigerator fires are extremely rare. You're very unlikely to ever experience a refrigerator fire. There are systems (both ARP devices and manufacturer devices) that address the overheating issue....

2. The objective should be: Prevent the overheat condition before a fire starts, not rely on a "automatic fire suppression system" like Halon (no longer available for private use) as an example, to put out the fire.

3. A "high maintenance, high cost"fire automatic suppression system is "significant overkill" for a $30K RV and would likely cost as much as the RV itself.

4. It's better to "prevent a fire" than to "put out a fire"....
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Old 08-01-2020, 08:46 AM   #18
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Been rving for 40+ years with however many RVs & ran everyone of them on gas while traveling with never an issue. Have also ran the furnace on gas while traveling in cold weather, no issues.
As mentioned there's tens of thousands of RVs on the highway traveling with the fridge running on gas. We've traveled coast to coast border to border with ours running & never have I seen a RV burnt up or on fire along side the road.
On most towable RVs the fridge is over the axles/tires which in my opinion are more subject to tires than the fridge & they are a bit difficult to travel without if it's the same safety concern as the fridge.
I've only seen pictures of burnt RVs with the cause blamed on the fridge on the internet, the odds of seeing one on fire along the highway, by any cause, is about as rare as seeing a purple unicorn along the highway.
If you're afraid to travel with the fridge running on gas as it was designed, then DON'T!
For those new to rving, RV fridges are designed to operate on gas while traveling & are safe to do so, if you chose.
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Old 08-01-2020, 09:59 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by chuckster57 View Post
Can you provide a link to some data showing all these failures?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave W View Post
Use your fingers and Google. It's really a simple PC 101 search,
Quote:
Originally Posted by JRTJH View Post
At any given time, there are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of RV refrigerators in operation. I've only heard of a couple of "failures that resulted in a fire"... It's not a common occurrence and I'd suspect you're more likely to fall out of your RV and break a hip than to have it burn down from a "refrigerator fire"...
(partial quote)...
I don't know much factual data on this subject, I tried using my fingers and Google as suggested...I found lots of scary pictures, but I couldn't find much in the way of FACTS. NFPA wan't much help...the easily available data was dated 2004 and 2008...pretty old.

I did find a current National Park Service site entitled "Fire Prevention 52: RV Fire Safety 101" at https://www.nps.gov/articles/p52-rv-fire-safety-101.htm. It starts off with "20,000 RV fires annually" but does not list the number of fires by cause. It is not until 1/2 way down the article that RV refrigerators are addressed; they give the standard recommendation to travel with the propane off just in case you have an accident or a tire blowout. They do state it should be off when fueling. At the very end of the article, they say there are 8 million US households with RV's, but these are old (2006?) numbers.

So 20,000 divided by 8,000,000 means I have a 1/4 of 1% chance of an RV fire with only an unspecified smaller possibility of that being an RV refrigerator fire...not enough FACTS there to cause any change in my behavior (I typically leave in on during travel). I'm always open to consideration of more facts. JMHO
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Old 08-01-2020, 10:15 AM   #20
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I don't know much factual data on this subject, I tried using my fingers and Google as suggested...I found lots of scary pictures, but I couldn't find much in the way of FACTS. NFPA wan't much help...the easily available data was dated 2004 and 2008...pretty old.

I did find a current National Park Service site entitled "Fire Prevention 52: RV Fire Safety 101" at https://www.nps.gov/articles/p52-rv-fire-safety-101.htm. It starts off with "20,000 RV fires annually" but does not list the number of fires by cause. It is not until 1/2 way down the article that RV refrigerators are addressed; they give the standard recommendation to travel with the propane off just in case you have an accident or a tire blowout. They do state it should be off when fueling. At the very end of the article, they say there are 8 million US households with RV's, but these are old (2006?) numbers.

So 20,000 divided by 8,000,000 means I have a 1/4 of 1% chance of an RV fire with only an unspecified smaller possibility of that being an RV refrigerator fire...not enough FACTS there to cause any change in my behavior (I typically leave in on during travel). I'm always open to consideration of more facts. JMHO
As I said earlier, the risk of your refrigerator causing an RV fire is significantly less than the risk of falling out of your RV and breaking your hip. These things are safer than even walking across the street in the crosswalk with the walk light in your favor.....

As for Halon systems, at one Air Force base I was on, "they" (HQ USAF) installed automatic Halon systems in all the aircraft hangars. Within 6 months, two of them had dispensed Halon when "detecting something". In one of those incidents, we nearly lost 6 airmen when the Halon displaced all the oxygen in the hangar. In the other incident (again, inadvertent activation of the Halon system) we almost lost 2 airmen. That's 8 "near deaths" from a system that was installed to "save lives and equipment"... IMHO, the cure was worse than the problem, since we had never had a "fire related death" at that installation since 1942, when the base was established.

Some things just don't "deserve the worry" we put into them.....
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