The Business of Work Camping – We had a total-loss fire!

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By Sam Suva
Some years ago we were living in a trailer and experienced a total-loss fire. This is a terrifying, overwhelming event that changed our lives. Here’s what happened, what I should have done, what we do now and what we will never do again.

What happened?
We came home in the evening and my wife went to the owners’ house to visit. I walked into our kitchen, grabbed a pan and turned to the propane gas stove. From the igniter, I saw a line of fire in slow motion move from the stove top, to the counter, to the floor. Suddenly the kitchen flashed fire! I was in shock!


I ran to the bedroom and grabbed a thick blanket to try and put out the flames. It worked for a moment (or so I thought), but then the fire started to burn the edges of the blanket. I ran out of the trailer and down to the owners’ house for a fire extinguisher. I ran back to the trailer and even went inside a few feet, but in those few moments more than half of the trailer was ablaze!

Adrenaline pumping, all I could do was sit and watch the fire consume the trailer. Our two vehicles were mere feet away from the fire, which was licking the tops of the trees some 30 feet or more in the air!

Looking back, I am so glad no one was hurt. The fire department agreed that it started at the stove. Gas had accumulated on the floor and I was fortunate not to have been blown out of the trailer or killed.

What I should have done
Way before that, I needed to have been better prepared. I didn’t have a way to put out the fire, I didn’t have any of my important papers protected nor did I even grab the keys for the vehicles. I had no plan in the event of an emergency.

What we have, and do, now
• (At least) two fire extinguishers, one at each end of the RV.

• A smoke detector, right in the kitchen area. Sure it’s a pain and it’s annoying at times, but it is peace of mind.

• A working, functioning LP detector! This is an absolute must-have. Look at it often and always react quickly if it is sounding off, even for no apparent reason!

• Keys next to the door. We mounted key hooks right next to the entry door and we keep the spares by the bed. If we need to leave by the emergency window or entry door, we have our keys with us.

• Plan to evacuate and meet up. We have a designated spot, a tree next to our campsite, then on to friends in the park a stone’s throw from the campsite. Read here how to make a home fire escape plan, from National Fire Protection Association.

What I will never do again
• We still have propane – we really can’t get away from it in an RV. Some of the newer RV models are all-electric, but I have had electrical fires in an RV too, so fire seems to be inevitable.
• I will never run back into a burning structure again – that was so very dangerous.
• We did not have a working LP detector. That would have made all the difference, so I will never be without one.

See you (safely) down the road,

Sam

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or contact me at samsuvarv(at)gmail.com .

Sam Suva and his wife are work campers. They began work camping more than 10 years ago and have spent a lot of time working as they traveled. In this new weekly feature, they will share their experiences with you, with an emphasis on how to incorporate work camping into a full time RV lifestyle.

Read more articles about Work Camping.

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Johnnie L.

OMG Sam! I am going out TONIGHT to buy an LP detector. I am so sorry for your loss.

Mike Sherman

Great advice Sam. You were indeed fortunate to have survived.

LindaH

Luckily, with 20+ years of RVing, we’ve never experienced a fire. However, we have heeded the warnings of others that have. Keys are hung by the door, two extinguishers inside, one in basement, and one in truck. Personal information not so much but most everything is scanned and stored electronically so can be recreated.

tom,

I use 3M command hooks holding key sets on our entrance door into the cabin portion of the RV. Easy to install and no damage when removed.

Bill T.

Thanks for the info Sam. As part of my spring prep and periodically throughout the season I give my 3 fire extinguishers, (two in and one out), a shake to loosen the fire retardant.

Jeff

You would be surprised at the Number of RVers who DON’T Think about any form of SAFETY. Just hook up and go or turn the motor on and drive!