By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander, the Never-Bored RVers
The ton of comments about fire extinguishers lit a fire under me. In my blog posted last Friday, I touched on the need to pay attention to fire extinguishers on board our rigs. I didn’t realize there was so much I didn’t know –AND SHOULD KNOW. After all, it’s our happy lives that we risk when we aren’t ready for an RV (or home) fire.
“Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape.” That’s a paragraph from the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), one of the websites I consulted for answers to your questions and thoughts about fire extinguishers. It continues, “Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.”
I remember checking into the Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta almost 30 years ago and taking the elevator up to the 46th Floor. As soon as the door opened, I saw a little tent card that said, “In case of fire…” That was the last thing wanted to think about 500 feet above Atlanta’s sweltering pavement.
What about our RV escape plan? It’s a five-word plan that states: “Get the heck out fast.” We have two exterior doors in our Bigfoot, so I imagine that Part 2 would be, “Exit nearest door.” If you don’t have two doors, you have an escape window in your rig, in all probability. Do you know how to open it? Have you practiced unlatching that window?
I’m making light of a serious subject to keep your interest, but you know that being prepared for an RV or home fire is not something to joke about. There is no emergency more obvious that you should and can prepare for than fire.
Time out! Here are a few comments attached to my most recent blog about an RV fire that ultimately set off a wildfire.
“Great point about the fire extinguisher. Carry one in your car, have one in your kitchen and garage and know how to use it. Also get them inspected once a year when you change detector batteries.” – Walt Moore
“Got a few ideas, based on my RV life…first, you should have two or three fire extinguishers in the motorhome, and one in the towed dinghy… same idea if your RV is a towable. Next, whether you’re towing or self-propelled, pulling off the road in ANY kind of vehicle presents a hot exhaust or catalytic converter to dry grass and roadside debris. Third, get yourself an escape plan and rehearse it twice a year at least…prepare to leave everything behind, and get out or away from the RV… remember that your propane is likely to blow if the rig is on fire….get away from the rig, and don’t let anyone else close to it except professional responders.” – A.W. Walker
“Still consider myself a newbie. Have to admit not sure how to use fire extinguisher or where to take it to have it inspected. Help!” – David
“I will again repeat David’s question. After you discharge your fire extinguisher or need it inspected, where do you take it? Also, if you spend $20-$30 for one, does it cost more to get it refilled than to replace it?” – Liz Bard
“…I take mine down to our local fire depot for annual check. No charge for check – part of benefits of a tax-paying citizen! One of the few perks we get!!” – Manual Enos
“When you use an extinguisher it needs to be serviced after you use it, even if you only spray a little out as the pressure will leak out by the time you would use the extinguisher again.” – Ray Hoffman
“In addition to some of the other good suggestions: If you ever have the opportunity to sit in on a session with “Mac the Fire Guy,” do it. No one will prepare you better for fire safety in your RV. He travels around the country making appearances at a rally or a Life on Wheels type conference. If you see him listed on the syllabus of classes, GO! You won’t regret it, and it may well save your life someday.” – Lee Ensminger
“… Behind the fridge and the engine compartment are two areas of concern that will cause one to lose an RV to fire. Neither area is visible, and neither can be easily accessed. The little ABC units are useless in both these locations.” — Jimmy Leggett
“Buy a cheap extinguisher and build a small fire, either in a campsite or somewhere were it would be no danger of starting something else on fire. Then put it out. Most people are not prepared for the whoosh of the powder coming out and don’t know where to spray (at the base of the fire). I once saw a class put on by the fire dept. at a local nursing home. The nurse pulled the trigger, wet her pants and dropped the extinguisher. Not much help there… Usually it’s cheaper to buy new than have a discharged one serviced. Unless it is a very large one.” – Tommy Becher
“We lost a motor home to a fire that started behind the fridge. Our first clue that we had a fire was when we saw flames shooting thru a hole in the roof. It was a defect in the fridge. A connection in the gas line failed, turning the gas into a blowtorch. There was a recall on the fridge, but we didn’t receive any notice even though we registered everything. Keep an eye on recalls, and I second the suggestion about always having critical work done by professionals.” – Lois Haupt
“Thanx, for a really IMPORTANT blog!!! Someone who had a tire fire on a fifth wheel said their little extinguisher that came with their trailer didn’t put out the fire, but a trucker with a larger one did!!! They suggested DO NOT DEPEND ON THE ONE THAT CAME AS STANDARD EQUIPMENT!!! Get a BIG one !!!! Mac McCoy (THE FIRE GUY) has a different type of extinguisher that PUTS OUT A FIRE QUICKER THAN THE SODA ONE!!! I’ve never seen a fire extinguished so fast!!! Mac knows fires! He’s also a very neat and funny guy and has a million stories…” – Butterbean Carpenter
Back to my thoughts: I couldn’t include all the comments or all the text in each message, but I’m sure you found these interesting. I know I did!
I did my homework after reading these. I checked the websites of a few fire extinguisher manufacturers, finding the most helpful in the FAQ of the FirstAlert company. http://www.firstalert.com/faqs/fire-extinguisher
Here is a sample of the info I found:
If you use your non-rechargeable fire extinguisher even once, you must replace it. It will not be effective in fighting a fire. Never test a fire extinguisher by using it. Once used, it will gradually lose pressure
and will not be fully charged for use in an emergency. If a fire extinguisher pressure gauge shows that the charge is in the red zone, a disposable fire extinguisher should be replaced.
NOTE: Learning that you can’t use a non-rechargeable extinguisher a second time was a wake-up call for me.
I don’t know how many of us have rechargeable extinguishers. If you do, you can have it recharged by a professional, and a certified equipment dealer should check it once a year.
A fire extinguisher life expectancy depends on a number of factors. Remember, a fire extinguisher should be checked weekly according to the user’s manual. As long as the pointer is in the green area or the pin indicator pops back up when pushed, the extinguisher is properly pressurized and ready to use.
Do not test a fire extinguisher by discharging it at all. The recommended way to test fire extinguishers with the pressure pin on top is to press in the pin. If it pops back up, your extinguisher is still pressurized. On models with a pressure gauge, if the needle is in the green, the unit is pressurized.
As for how to use the fire extinguisher, instructions are probably on the unit itself. I think Manual Enos’ comment above about going to the local fire station sounds like a good idea for more information, and, of course, attending a seminar would increase your readiness to respond in case of emergency.
A personal note — I once made a rope ladder for my granddaughter to escape from her second-story bedroom in case of emergency. Her mother and dad didn’t like the idea of putting a hook into the woodwork, but the ladder was still in her room last time I looked.
Thanks for all the notes. It’s good to know you’re paying attention when the subject gets serious.
From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.
© All photos by Barry Zander except as noted. All rights reserved