By Steve BarnesA quarter-mile from our site on BLM land 25 miles from Yuma, AZ, a 38-foot fifth-wheel erupted in fire. It took 18 minutes for the first of two fire trucks to arrive from Yuma Proving Grounds, United States Army, and 19 minutes for an ambulance to come from Winterhaven. A couple of sheriff’s cars also attended.
It only took 20 minutes from the start of the fire for the trailer to burn to the ground. It is all fiberglass, plastic and imitation (plastic composites) wood.
Everybody was safe, but it was a nasty site as propane, gasoline and aerosol cans exploded. When I arrived at the scene by bicycle, an undisclosed number of firearms were still exploding. How do firefighters protect themselves from shells exploding? Good question!
In both fires, the owners lost everything. Many here are full-timers or 5-month Snowbirds. They might have lost wallets, money, family photographs, credit cards, passports, underwear, coats, car keys, pets, and maybe even their tow vehicle if it was parked nearby. Think of what it would have been like for them that first night in a hotel after they had lost everything. Do you have a grab bag of essentials in the event of a disaster?
Have you checked to see if your fire escape windows will open? When my fifth-wheel was new, I checked the fire escape. It would not open. By the time I had removed enough insulation and retrofitted it 2 1/2 hours had passed … yet in a fire, you have less than two minutes to escape.
Did you know that a full-timer needs a full-timer insurance policy? Your recreational use policy will likely not cover you.
The lessons here are:
1. Make an escape plan with your partner.
2. Keep phone and car keys in the same place every night.
3. Keep a grab bag containing essentials and duplicates of some of the items listed in #4 below.
4. Hide in your car:
• insurance invoice
• passports or copy
• prescription drugs or list thereof
• duplicate or “other” financial institution credit card
• $100 cash or more
• inventory of RV contents including photos of open drawers and
• identification and contact info for family members
5. Most importantly, check with your partner that your fire escapes work and you know how to use them.