My Burro is Gone, my Roo is damaged, guess I'm in a tent. - Page 3 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-30-2010, 05:45 PM   #29
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Sorry for your loss, glad no one was hurt.

I was almost ridiculed for not wanting a toilet or stove etc. I am still not keen on propane. I don't mind carrying the Coleman stove, but don't want to have anything that can blow up!

No reason to stop camping, the tent always rules!
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Old 04-30-2010, 07:01 PM   #30
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It is not conclusive that it was the fridge or propane that started the fire. Everything is under that counter,110 electrical, 12 volt electrical, propane, charger. TV was in the upper cabinet and was on. Both the 12 volt and 110 lights we on. So who knows what caused the first spark.

I guessed propane only because it was where the fire was visible through the vents, and the fridge was running on propane. But I only had one connection directly from the tank hose to the fridge and had triple tested for leaks. I had just tested it again before lighting the fridge with soapy water and no bubbles. It had also been running on and off for the last few days.

Mike
Mike:

I'm sorry for your loss and glad that no one was injured in the accident.

[b]Are you planning, or is it possible, to do more investigation of the cause of the fire and how it might have been prevented? There are a lot trailers and recreational vehicles using propane, and it is possible that we might learn something that could help us all. Does anyone know if there are experts around who might be able to perform this investigation? As several people have said, a fire like this could result in loss of life, so it is quite serious. Was a propane detector in use? Would a propane detector have been effective in preventing such an accident? (In our trailer, while we have a propane detector, [b]the propane connections to the fridge are facing the outside of the trailer and vented to the outside. [b]This would prevent propane from leaking into the trailer where the detector is located, so that it could not have prevented such an accident.) Our fridge runs on 120 volts AC, 12 volts DC, propane. Is there any possibility of a spark from the electrical components igniting any possible leak in the propane components? Scary stuff! If a propane fridge malfunctions, would it be possible for flames to start such a fire, even if all propane connections are tight? How would it be possible to check that a fridge is working properly so that no such hazard exists?

Brian
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Old 04-30-2010, 08:45 PM   #31
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I don't want to sound like a propane defender, but it is possible that the fire was simply electrical in nature. In fact, it seems that it might have been more likely, since Mike had just re-done the propane lines, but the electrical was "old."

I just hate to see propane "ganged up on" when -- although it certainly deserves the utmost respect -- it is not (yet) known that it was the problem. And plenty of fires *are* electrical in nature.

Raya
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Old 04-30-2010, 09:04 PM   #32
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I don't want to sound like a propane defender, but it is possible that the fire was simply electrical in nature. In fact, it seems that it might have been more likely, since Mike had just re-done the propane lines, but the electrical was "old."

I just hate to see propane "ganged up on" when -- although it certainly deserves the utmost respect -- it is not (yet) known that it was the problem. And plenty of fires *are* electrical in nature.

Raya
I'm with you Raya, the cause of this unfortunate fire is unknown, and with what little remains Mike may never know. Like all tragedies, it brings up for most folks a feeling of vulnerability, and a desire to find cause to prevent it from happening to them. There are precautions and maintenance needed with both electrical and propane and accidents can happen with either. I think a good rule of thumb is the more complex your trailer is, with propane hook-ups, electrical lines, additional appliances, added to how much you use it, thus causing wear and tear, the more you need to do regular safety checks.

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Old 04-30-2010, 10:54 PM   #33
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So sorry for your loss !!! Glad nobody was physically hurt.

Steph
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Old 05-01-2010, 12:01 AM   #34
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Yikes! that is scary indeed. That's something that i hadn't even considered could happen. I feel 'safe' in my Boler. Say, this may sound naive, but what exactly should one do if something like that happened on the road? If it was parked i would most likely just run and cower , I'd be too scared to disconnect the propane. But, this reminds me of the 2 RV/trailer burnt carcasses i saw on the road last summer. One was just the trailer, the other was the vehicle as well. What do you do? I would want to unhitch it asap, but worry that it would roll into traffic like a rolling fireball. SO SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS. But- thanks for starting the topic. Ive had the trailer for a few years and this is the first Ive ever thought of having an emerge plan. Odd, seeing as i have a home and work fire plan. glad you're all OK.
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Old 05-01-2010, 12:53 AM   #35
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I don't want to sound like a propane defender, but it is possible that the fire was simply electrical in nature. In fact, it seems that it might have been more likely, since Mike had just re-done the propane lines, but the electrical was "old."

I just hate to see propane "ganged up on" when -- although it certainly deserves the utmost respect -- it is not (yet) known that it was the problem. And plenty of fires *are* electrical in nature.

Raya
Raya:

The point I was trying to make is that you can only prevent something if you understand what caused it. I don't think it is good enough to say that it was just an accident and hope that it doesn't happen again, or to suppose that it was not a propane accident and was an electrical accident without further investigation. Isn't it important to know as much as we can about what caused the fire, and to learn what might be done to prevent something like this in the future?

Brian
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Old 05-01-2010, 12:54 AM   #36
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So here I am laying on the ground on a new camping pad, in a new sleeping bag in a tent. No where near as nice as the burro, not even close.

Yes I had a propane detector, a carbon monoxide detector, and a smoke detector. Not sure I heard any beeping during the fire, but I am sure one or all must have gone off during the fire I was not in the camper when the fire started. There were no alarms when I was in it before the fire.

There is virtually nothing left to investigate, the insurance company doesn't even need to see it, the cleanup crew has been hired to come and dispose of the camper and cleanup the site.

As far as bouncing loosening the connections, My trailer had not moved, this weekend would have been the first trip this year. I also only had the one connection. I removed the furnace, and did not hook up the stove. So the hose from the tank went direct to the fridge. I had check for leaks with soapy water the day of the fire, all in getting ready for the first trip this season.

Had I been in the camper I think there was plenty of time to get out. There were minutes from the first flames to an out of control fire. We managed to move the car, truck, shut off the propane and remove the tank, and use up both fire extinquishers before it came through anywhere else. The fire was first visible out the fridge vents, but clearly looking in the remaining shell the interconnect double hull contained some of the fire in the compartments. In the center of the camper where you would stand there is far less burn, some of the laminate flooring is still there, and the sub floor was virtually undamaged. Inside the compartments is just gone. Anthing that was in there is also gone, nothing left behind.

That said I think the fire spread quickly through the compartments, and if I were doing it over, might consider some kind of fire blocking, to slow or contain to one compartment.

The compartments were full as I was packing, sleeping bags, clothes, sleeping pads, foam cushions, and curtains all played a part in the heat. So who knows, an answer will not be coming out of what is left of the burro.
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Old 05-01-2010, 02:18 AM   #37
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Raya:

The point I was trying to make is that you can only prevent something if you understand what caused it. I don't think it is good enough to say that it was just an accident and hope that it doesn't happen again, or to suppose that it was not a propane accident and was an electrical accident without further investigation. Isn't it important to know as much as we can about what caused the fire, and to learn what might be done to prevent something like this in the future?

Brian
Brian,

If my posts made it sound like I am not interested in what actually happened, that I don't think it's important to understand systems and how they should be installed, or that I think we should just "hope it doesn't happen again," then I had better brush up on my writing skills!

I heard a number of people assuming that the the fire was caused by propane, and I was trying to express that we don't know what caused it, and thus should not be so quick to condemn propane as the culprit.

I felt that *if* one were to make any assumptions (and personally, I don't think one should), that the problem was probably more likely electrical in nature, given that Mike had upgraded and carefully tested the propane, and that his propane system was relatively simple. In contrast, he had quite a bit of wiring and associated devices, and that was not new nor as thoroughly tested.

Again, I was not assuming, nor was I wanting to ignore. I would love to know more. But, as Mike said, we probably aren't going to be able to find out much more in this case. So we don't know what caused it. I am going to take it as a good reminder to keep things tidy and well-maintained, and to make sure my installations are properly done.

Raya
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Old 05-01-2010, 09:32 AM   #38
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Brian,

If my posts made it sound like I am not interested in what actually happened, that I don't think it's important to understand systems and how they should be installed, or that I think we should just "hope it doesn't happen again," then I had better brush up on my writing skills!

I heard a number of people assuming that the the fire was caused by propane, and I was trying to express that we don't know what caused it, and thus should not be so quick to condemn propane as the culprit.

I felt that *if* one were to make any assumptions (and personally, I don't think one should), that the problem was probably more likely electrical in nature, given that Mike had upgraded and carefully tested the propane, and that his propane system was relatively simple. In contrast, he had quite a bit of wiring and associated devices, and that was not new nor as thoroughly tested.

Again, I was not assuming, nor was I wanting to ignore. I would love to know more. But, as Mike said, we probably aren't going to be able to find out much more in this case. So we don't know what caused it. I am going to take it as a good reminder to keep things tidy and well-maintained, and to make sure my installations are properly done.

Raya
Raya:

I personally led an investigation of a fatal accident in which a properly trained worker using properly maintained equipment which met existing safety standards died mysteriously. My investigation showed that the equipment was inadequate to the task, and different equipment was needed. The solution was to replace the equipment and ensure that it was used and maintained. I would guess that the safety systems we now have in trailers (detectors, breakaway switches etc) all came about because there were accidents and that investigation indicated they were needed. How certain are we that we have systems adequate to prevent such accidents in the future? Do we have the equivalent of wiring standards and electrical inspection for trailers to ensure that electrical systems will not be the cause of a fire? Will interior propane detectors pick up leaks in fridge compartments which are vented to the outside?

An accident such as Mike's gives an opportunity to understand better and possibly prevent a similar accident in the future. Perhaps it is too late this time, if the evidence has been destroyed.

We are familiar with careful investigations of automobile and aviation accidents aimed at understanding and prevention. Do we have an equivalent for our beloved trailers?

Brian
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Old 05-01-2010, 11:01 AM   #39
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Sorry to hear of your fire.

Here's a theory of what could have happened based on my experience with propane refrigerators in general:

Debris can collect in the area above the refrigerator burner (spider webs which collect floating combustible debris, rodent nests, etc.). If not cleared they can fuel a fire started by the burner. It just takes one piece of grass to fall just right after lighting the flame.

Conclusion: Part of propane refrigerator maintenance is clearing debris from the space near the flame.

For this reason, I've always made my top refrigerator vents easily removable for inspecting and cleaning, especially after an experience one day (in a Skamper [stick] trailer I had in the 80s): I couldn't get the fridge to light. When I opened the vents, there were so many spider webs and their tiny collected debris that I had to pull the fridge out to clean up. There was web in the burner tube as well.

I hope you find a new egg soon.

Bobby

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Old 05-01-2010, 01:30 PM   #40
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Do we have the equivalent of wiring standards and electrical inspection for trailers to ensure that electrical systems will not be the cause of a fire?
Good question, Brian. I don't work in the trailer industry, so I can't speak to that directly. In the boating industry we have ABYC Standards (American Boat and Yacht Council), which are very detailed and fairly exhaustive (it's usually used on CD now, but the last standards book was many inches thick of dense material). There is also CFR (Code of Federal Regulations), NFPA (NEC) (National Electrical Code) and other standards.

Propane standards are especially strict on boats, because since propane is heavier than air it sinks. In a car or trailer, that generally means that it just flows out the vents or bottom; in a boat that means it sinks into the bilge and is trapped there, which can be very dangerous. Therefore all propane installations have to be in special air-tight lockers that vent overboard, solenoids are required, special marine stoves have shut-offs for the propane if a burner goes out, and on and on.

I feel like I have seen placards on my egg(s) that speak to something like a mobile home or RV council or standards, but I don't know much about it. And of course this probably only pertains to initial build and/or professional rebuild. Many owners work on their eggs and systems. Probably electrical systems get "tinkered with" way more than propane ones do. I mean, think of all the electrical systems and gadgets people routinely add; whereas how many people change the basic propane layout.

Maybe Robert Johans can speak further to this since he is re-building eggs and their systems professionally.

Raya
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Old 05-01-2010, 08:33 PM   #41
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Maybe Robert Johans can speak further to this since he is re-building eggs and their systems professionally.
Raya
Since my name was mentioned, I guess I'll jump in...

I cannot hazard an opinion as to the cause of this fire. Going back through the thread, Mike doesn't actually say whether his reefer was even "on." So, assuming no one dropped a match or cigarette butt, some on-board fuel source was lit up by some on-board ignition source. Was it the propane burning, or other flammable material lit up by some errant spark?

I'm no engineer, but the basic 12V and propane systems in our campers are very straight-forward and uncomplicated. Nevertheless, loose wires can make a spark. An overloaded circuit can burn up a weak wire. A propane gas leak can find its way to an open flame...

I can tell you that when I do a resto on an old camper I get rid of all existing electrical wires and start fresh. I play it safe, using heavier than necessary gauge wire, appropriately placed inline fuses, and marine-grade "heat shrink" shielded connectors. Whenever possible and appropriate, I bundle my wires and run them through wire shrouds—even stiff tubing if I know an area could become vulnerable to wear due to vibration. Everything gets anchored down tight, in one way or another. In other words, I like to keep things tight and tidy.

Likewise with the propane lines. All new piping, fittings and teflon tape. I do my own bending and flaring so I can be certain of the condition of the pipe and joints. Of course, all joints are tested. I don't let anything flop around, so, as I do with the electrical, everything gets anchored in some way to minimize the effects of vibration.

Another advantage of starting everything from scratch, I get to see the condition of the old stuff and check for weak areas, their probable causes, and then determine a fix. And I get to clean any and all debris out of areas that could lead to trouble. (Heck, I clean everything anyway...)

Unfortunately, we'll never know the origin of Mike's fire. But the lesson is clear: even when careful like Mike, s**t happens. I haven't found any high degree of craftsmanship or quality in any of the older eggs I've worked on. They are, in a word, unsophisticated. Nevertheless, these simple, yet critical systems still need to be tested and double checked periodically (and by that I mean frequently). Problem areas need to be found and corrected. And as our campers get older, new problems are sure to crop up. Plan on it.

But you already know that...
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Old 05-01-2010, 09:51 PM   #42
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Hi Robert,

Just to clarify, I wasn't meaning that you could speak to the cause of Mike's fire. But the previous poster had asked if there were specific standards professionals use when they are putting the systems in the trailers - that's what I was referring to (I know what is used on boats, but am not familiar with campers).

Personally, I agree with your approach.

Raya
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