Scamp owners seriously injured in fire caused by gas leak - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-05-2018, 11:05 AM   #1
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Scamp owners seriously injured in fire caused by gas leak

I hesitate to post this because I do not want to make any assumptions, but the fact is that we have two fellow Scamp owners in the hospital today and it might well have been preventable. In no way am I passing judgment or making assumptions about the victim or circumstances of their accident because there is much that is not known or confirmed. With that said, I am going to make this post because in many discussions, both online and in person, I have found that all too many people do not do a few simple things that can help to prevent accidents and injuries with R/V propane systems. This is important information for everyone regardless of the particulars of this case in West Wichita.

You can read a few of the news articles here:

2 hurt in west Wichita camping trailer fire - KSNW

KAKE.com | Wichita, Kansas News, Weather, Sports - Firefighters investigating trailer explosion in West Wichita

The latest statement is, "Right now, the investigation is continuing, but firefighters believe a flash fire occurred due to a leak in a propane tank."

To those reports I will add that the police department dispatcher said that the male victim called and said they had a gas leak in the kitchen of his camper that started a fire, that they had the fire out and now he was having medical issues. The news reports that neighbors head a boom and suspected a propane tank “explosion.” There is also a report that his wife (the second victim) went to assist him in extinguishing the fire.

Again, I have no idea if the victims have taken the following precautions or not, or if this accident even could have been prevented at all. They are members of a Facebook Scamp group so hopefully they will make a full recovery and be willing to discuss the experience. But I want to again suggest in the strongest possible way that everyone with a camper that uses propane:

1. Install a propane / gas detector alarm. That is even more important for those of us who are getting older and losing the sense of smell that could detect the Methyl Mercaptan that is added to the otherwise odorless propane to help detect a leak.

2. Have a full inspection of the propane system by a qualified expert at least annually. He or she will use specialized equipment including a manometer. A good overview of the tests that should be done annually is here.

3. If you do have a leak or a fire, get out and call 911. Do not fight the fire. Only if it is safe to do so, disconnect shore power from a distance and shut off the propane tank. In most cases do not use the battery disconnect switch or any other switch since they can cause a spark that might ignite the gas.

If I have forgotten anything, let us know.

Be safe.
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Old 06-05-2018, 11:30 AM   #2
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I doubt very much that there was a "propane tank explosion". I can believe a "propane" explosion.
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Old 06-05-2018, 11:38 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Baglo View Post
I doubt very much that there was a "propane tank explosion". I can believe a "propane" explosion.
You have to understand that was the quote from the reporter, not the fire dept. Reporters rarely use the proper terminology. It seems very likely there was a flash fire caused by the ignition of an accumulation of gas due to a leak.
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Old 06-05-2018, 02:02 PM   #4
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Notice the mostly intact camper in the second article where there is a fire crew on the scene? Pretty sure 20# propane tank explodes the garage door and trailer would have looked like they were.... well blown up.


Quote:
According to the Firefighters, something in the trailer badly burned two people.

One neighbor told KAKE news that when she came outside, she saw smoke pouring from the camper and believes it was a propane tank explosion.
Scamp propane tank isn't inside, the smoke would not be pouring from the camper if the tank exploded or caught fire. The front would have been blown up or engulfed in flames. No evidence for that in the pictures. This was speculation by not even fire dept. personal but a neighbor.

I also noticed a lot of the fire damaged stuff piled up was inside stuff. Cushions, trash can, etc.

I would say a propane leak is very possible, a tank explosion not really supported by what is seen so far.

A lot of chemicals we use for cleaning, lubrication and so forth are very flammable. Not to mention the assorted camping fuel containers from Coleman naphtha to butane and propane bottles.

In the first article he called fire department but indicated fire was out which makes me think fire caused damage or leaking of something flammable that flashed off when ignited by embers of original fire. Might have been propane or a spray can of WD40 under the sink. Investigation and owner may answer that question.

Yes check your propane systems! Annually. But also be aware that if your claw hammer bounces against your butane lantern canister and breaks the seal your camper is now a Bic lighter with the fridge pilot light lit inside of it.
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Old 06-05-2018, 03:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerDat View Post
..

I would say a propane leak is very possible, a tank explosion not really supported by what is seen so far.
..
Indeed, there is really no chance that the tongue mounted propane tank exploded. The neighbor's comment to that effect can be attributed to a flash fire.. that same "OMMPH" you sometimes get when lighting a gas grill and a taking a little too long with the igniter while the gas is running, only more so.

Also the comment by the reporter:
Right now, the investigation is continuing, but firefighters believe a flash fire occurred due to a leak in a propane tank.

can be attributed to bad reporting. The leak was unlikely IN the tank but maybe FROM the tank if there was one inside the camper (which could have been a disposable type).

I listened to the audio of the dispatcher who said she was on the phone with the male victim. According to her, the victim said it was a gas leak in the kitchen (of his camper) that started a fire which he put out. So a portable grill / tank is possible but much less likely than a leak in the existing gas plumbing. Official word needs to come from the fire investigator that responded.

But in any case, its pretty safe to assume no tank explosion despite the neighbor's comments and bad reporting.
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Old 06-05-2018, 04:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gordon2 View Post
Indeed, there is really no chance that the tongue mounted propane tank exploded. The neighbor's comment to that effect can be attributed to a flash fire.. that same "OMMPH" you sometimes get when lighting a gas grill and a taking a little too long with the igniter while the gas is running, only more so.

Also the comment by the reporter:
Right now, the investigation is continuing, but firefighters believe a flash fire occurred due to a leak in a propane tank.

can be attributed to bad reporting. The leak was unlikely IN the tank but maybe FROM the tank if there was one inside the camper (which could have been a disposable type).

I listened to the audio of the dispatcher who said she was on the phone with the male victim. According to her, the victim said it was a gas leak in the kitchen (of his camper) that started a fire which he put out. So a portable grill / tank is possible but much less likely than a leak in the existing gas plumbing. Official word needs to come from the fire investigator that responded.

But in any case, its pretty safe to assume no tank explosion despite the neighbor's comments and bad reporting.

I'm glad you brought up the disposable cylinders. Many years, some where around the 4 or 5th backpacking trip my wife I went on we were camped at this small lake with maybe two place you could camp on the lake, one where the trail came in an another about 1/3 the way around. Next morning as we were cooking breakfast there was a bit of commotion at the other campsite. I could hear swish, swish like something spinning and a lot of yelling. When we left we went by the now empty camp to find a disposable propane cylinder scorched ground in a large circle.



Fast forward to another car camping trip using disposable cylinders, I removed the cylinder from the stove preparing to put it away. The valve that's suppose to close on the cylinder at that time did NOT close. I screwed it back on. I often think about what would have happened if there' would have been an open flame close.


It will be interesting and possibly informative when the fire dept publishes a full report.
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Old 06-05-2018, 04:16 PM   #7
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I would be interested to know if this was a newer Scamp, or one that had been "refurbished". I know my new (2018) Casita has the copper propane lines running along the walls within the cabinets near the floor. I carry things in those cabinets and wonder if all the bouncing the trailer takes couldn't break one of those lines? Outside, below the floor and behind the curbside tire the propane lines are visible. I also have concern if a stone, or piece of road debris could get kicked into it and break the line? I always travel with the propane turned off. But, turn it on for hot water and heat when I park.
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Old 06-05-2018, 04:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wallo View Post
I would be interested to know if this was a newer Scamp, or one that had been "refurbished". I know my new (2018) Casita has the copper propane lines running along the walls within the cabinets near the floor. I carry things in those cabinets and wonder if all the bouncing the trailer takes couldn't break one of those lines? Outside, below the floor and behind the curbside tire the propane lines are visible. I also have concern if a stone, or piece of road debris could get kicked into it and break the line? I always travel with the propane turned off. But, turn it on for hot water and heat when I park.

I put a propane detector in. So far it hasn't been needed or hasn't gone into an alarm mode.
But the piece of mind is worth the cost ans effort to put it in.
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Old 06-05-2018, 04:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wallo View Post
I would be interested to know if this was a newer Scamp, or one that had been "refurbished". I know my new (2018) Casita has the copper propane lines running along the walls within the cabinets near the floor. I carry things in those cabinets and wonder if all the bouncing the trailer takes couldn't break one of those lines? Outside, below the floor and behind the curbside tire the propane lines are visible. I also have concern if a stone, or piece of road debris could get kicked into it and break the line? I always travel with the propane turned off. But, turn it on for hot water and heat when I park.
All I know about the Scamp is what you can see in the news photos and videos.
Damage to the lines from stuff bouncing around seems unlikely to me, but still possible. I do in fact take some precautions to limit that from happening, also to protect the water lines which run next to the propane line. It seems like a reasonable precaution even if the risk is low.

As for a leak outside, well I hate to have to admit how long it took me to figure out I had a leak when my regulator failed. I did smell something outside. it was faint and for a time I thought it was something like trash in the area of my campsite Then it hit me, that smells a little like leaking propane. So I sniffed around the front of the trailer and found there was a slight leak from the vent on the regulator. In addition to regular pressure drop tests with a manometer, the only suggestion I have for leaks on the outside is to make sure everyone knows what leaking propane smells like and be alert for it.
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Old 06-05-2018, 05:54 PM   #10
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Well... the latest version of the news reports say that the couple was testing their propane furnace when the accident happened. The scary thing is that in early 2017 there was a Facebook post from someone who I am almost 100% certain is the same man, asking for advice to get his furnace working. However, it does appear that the 2017 post was about a Scamp 13 and yesterday's fire was in a Scamp 16 - I assume they upgraded. None of the replies suggested getting a professional propane system check.

What I find so unsettling is that it really looks like the injury for one or both might have been the result of fighting the fire. It pains me to think that if that is the case then just maybe this accident did not have to result in injury. But I will not assume, but instead pray that they recover.

By the way, about that fire extinguisher that Scamp puts in the camper... Mine was in the middle of the camper, right across the aisle from the stove and furnace. I moved it to near the door because in case of fire, I did not want to have to go anywhere near the place the fire was likely to be. And I keep a better extinguisher in the tow vehicle. But in case of fire, if I use either will be a judgement call based on risk and the threat to people. Sometimes its best to just get out of harms way. Again, I am not implying anything about this case, only providing a caution.
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Old 06-05-2018, 06:09 PM   #11
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Yes. Escape placed the fire extinguisher at the door of my 17B, easily reached from outside the trailer. I noted that one owner moved theirs to the wall behind the stove top. A most unwise mod.
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Old 06-05-2018, 06:44 PM   #12
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Small fire extinguishers tend to give a false sense of security, to anyone that has not trained the best thing to do is walk away stay safe.


We that are trained responders have developed a mindset to deal with dangerous situations the average person does not have. You may get lucky and deal with it or it could go completely the other way. No trailer is worth your life.
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Old 06-06-2018, 06:17 AM   #13
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In any case, Scampers were hurt and taken to the hospital. Hope they heal quickly without long lasting injuries.


bill & laura
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Old 06-06-2018, 08:41 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron Kinnaman View Post
I put a propane detector in. So far it hasn't been needed or hasn't gone into an alarm mode.
But the piece of mind is worth the cost ans effort to put it in.
We have one that we haven't installed yet, because the directions say to place it six FEET from the propane sources....In a 16 foot Scamp, no matter where we place it, it will be close to either the stove or the furnace. Any thoughts? This situation is making me feel like it needs to be done before the next camping trip.

My thoughts go out to the two individuals who were hurt. I don't know what we would have done in that situation. It's scary and sad that it happened.
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