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Old 07-02-2015, 10:52 PM   #1
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Motorhome fires and suppression

I have heard of two Airstream motorhomes burning in the last couple of months. This is a really awful thing to have happen, and it makes me realize that I have taken it for granted that these things we love so much are safe. While camping in my 300 last year, I was smelling gas, so I opened up the generator (newer Onan Marquis Gold) and found the fuel filter was leaking gas- not a good place for a gas leak!
I started looking into fire extinguishers and suppression systems. They are not cheap, but when I think of how much I spend on things like a floor or stereo, perhaps I have my priorities confused.
From what I have read, the AFFF or halon replacement systems are the best, the halon product starves a fire of oxygen, but it san start again if you are not there to disconnect electrical or remove fuel sources. The AFFF foam covers everything with a residue and will have a harder time reigniting again. One company listed below make a nice looking system that is triggered by heat, and can be installed in the back of a refrigerator compartment, in a dash, or larger systems for generators or motor compartments.
It would be nice to have two onboard AFFF handled units, one automatic in the back of the fridge, one larger double unit in the pusher doghouse, one in the generator compartment, and one in the front dashboard ares...major $.

I wish I had some statistics on where fires typically start in motorhomes. I know there are millions of propane refrigerators in RV 's out there, and diesel motors are quite safe. Bad electrical wiring scares me more than anything!

Anyone have thoughts or experience to share?

Fire Fight Supplemental Halon Fire Suppression Systems
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Old 07-02-2015, 11:18 PM   #2
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These are likely burning because they are old.

Wire insulation and hoses fail, and more and more hands have worked on these and routed a hose or wire improperly.

Motor homes are hard to work on and hard to inspect,,,, but a good inspection and the addition of big circuit breakers is a plus.
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Old 07-03-2015, 06:08 AM   #3
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This is certainly a subject I am interested in. One of my first thoughts when sitting in a classic motorhome (a 28ft) for the first time was all the areas that may catch fire (engine, fridge, water heater, furnace) were between me (sitting in the drivers seat) and the door. Our 20ft is not so bad (door next to the cab), but there is only one thing worse than the MH catching fire and that is catching fire and not being able to get out.
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Old 07-03-2015, 08:44 AM   #4
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Preventing fires might be cheaper that installing expensive systems to treat the symptom.

A good quality job of replacing the fuel lines and other components like filter seals would go a long way toward preventing the most common fires. I had an 83 ford that should have turned into an inferno. I smelled gas, pulled off the road, and opened the hood. The engine compartment was drenched with gas. The diaphragm in the fuel pump ruptured and shot gas straight up out if the vent holes. I've seem accelerator pump diaphragms fail and dump gas on top of the manifold. These are things you would miss on a visual inspection.
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Old 07-03-2015, 11:49 AM   #5
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Google RV fridge fires if you really want to have your eyes opened. They happen far more frequently than they should on gas/absorption refrigerators like Dometic and especially Norcold.


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Old 07-03-2015, 12:26 PM   #6
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I can't speak to causes of RV fires, but as a retired marine surveyor for an insurance company, I can say that over half of pleasure boat fires are electrical in origin. I wouldn't be surprised if the same holds true for RVs.
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Old 07-03-2015, 01:30 PM   #7
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Agree with electrical being a major cause, at least you could live to tell about it, gas and gasoline would be fast and catastropic.
Two electrical problems, only one with a flame, electrical connections have to be made right. Loose 12v can arc but if you are lucky the melting connector fuse stops it. 120v ac breaker may not stop as fast, yes, household twist lock connectors can cause a flame before blowing fuse. Working fire extinguisher can save the day.
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Old 07-03-2015, 10:47 PM   #8
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I ordered two 2.5lb "clean Agent" Haltron fire extinguishers on eBay yesterday. Sounded like a good place to start.
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Old 09-04-2015, 12:34 PM   #9
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If you do a web search for RV salvage sales, the result will yield many hulks for sale. About half are fire damage.
Sadly, FMCA recently lost a couple who gave fire safety lectures. Their MC had RF tire burn. This blocked the door exit. Article said unable to exit by emergency window. I don't know any details.
Very sad
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Old 09-04-2015, 12:42 PM   #10
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I think trailers are safer. Not sleeping over 100 gallons fuel like in a Class A.

My Class B Coach House has 6 big doors.
Multiple doors make me confident that we can escape a fire. However, we often sleep over 35 gallons of NAUL.

So, there's still a lot of risk in the RV hobby.
Everything we do is a fire risk.

NAUL - No Alcohol Unleaded gasoline
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Old 09-04-2015, 12:52 PM   #11
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Saw on the news (CBS I think) that there has been a marked increase in engine compartment fires due to the ethanol in gas eating up the rubber gas lines and dumping fuel on a hot engine.
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Old 09-04-2015, 01:23 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 6PackCharlie View Post
Saw on the news (CBS I think) that there has been a marked increase in engine compartment fires due to the ethanol in gas eating up the rubber gas lines and dumping fuel on a hot engine.
I think you'll find that this applies mostly to older motorhomes whose engines predate the introduction of ethanol-laden gasoline and whose fuel hoses were manufactured to SAE 30R7 standards. These hoses are entirely suitable for low-pressure fuel and oil use, but not suitable for high-pressure fuel injection or for ethanol. Newer engines use fuel lines that meet more stringent SAE 30R9 standards and have a much lower permeability.

Adding to the problem is that rubber fuel lines degrade over time and need to be replaced every ten or twelve years anyway because the heat of the engine compartment causes the fuel lines to crack as the volatile compounds in the rubber are cooked out. That has very little to do with the use of ethanol gasoline, but a lot to do with older low-mileage engines such as those found in motorhomes.

If you have an RV manufactured before about 2003 that has a gasoline engine and still has the original rubber fuel lines, give serious consideration to replacing them to prevent this problem from occurring. And look for the SAE 30R9 label.
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Old 09-04-2015, 11:26 PM   #13
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I checked my Onan Marquis Gold generator because I was smelling gas on a camping trip. The metal pressed fuel filter was,leaking gas onto the hot running motor...nice! Apparently I am not the only person this has happened to.
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Old 09-05-2015, 05:15 AM   #14
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I believe Halotron is the replacement for Halon....


One 2.5 in the Trailer and a 10lb & 2.5 dry chemical in the TV.

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Old 09-05-2015, 06:08 AM   #15
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One more reason for a fire suppression system...need I say more.Click image for larger version

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Old 09-05-2015, 11:24 AM   #16
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Really great work Bob. Did you do all the piping yourself? I like your setup because I could have one larger tank and heads for the motor bay and generator.
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Old 09-06-2015, 07:44 AM   #17
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Yes, that is the longest part of the job, running the lines. Bend, install,remove,bend again,install again,adjust etc.etc.etc. when that is finished then the lines have to be pressurized with air to check for leaks. if there are no leaks then you can charge the system with the AFFF. Hopefully mine will never be used but if it is I know that the worst thing I will be facing is a tow back to my shop. The thought of an engine fire really bothers me because of the location of the engine and the door to exit. As you know time is of the essence under those circumstances and you must be able to take care of yourself in that situation.
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Old 09-06-2015, 10:29 AM   #18
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Don't forget that your gas-absorption RV fridge also has a high potential as a source of fire!
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Old 09-09-2015, 08:30 AM   #19
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Fire Protection System

I've been reading the same about MH's going up in flames. Amerex Corporation has a Small Vehicle Fire Suppression System (SMVS)which have been installed on Para Transit Vehicles, Shuttle Vans, Vending Delivery Vans and many other makes.

Features: Manual Fire Suppression Release on Display Face, 1 Hr Battery backup using standard 9v battery, audible trouble and fire alarm, vibration resistant detection design, two heat detectors and two nozzles, rapid response heat detection, Uses Existing Amerex Linear Actuator, 10VDC to 30VDC operating voltage, Internal Relay for engine shutdown, low power consumption 60ma,13.2 pds of ABC dry chemcial powder The system cost appx. $1750 to $2000.

To answer your next question - No, I'm not a salesman. Found it on line and even better I discovered their headquarters is only about 10 miles from my home. I've driven by this place for many many years and never questioned what Amerex Corp made. I met with the Alan Fulton, Project Manager of the system, saw video's and was impressed.

Amerex Corporation, 7595 Gadsden Hwy, Trussville Alabama 35173 (205) 655-3271 or http//www.amerex-fire.com
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Old 09-11-2015, 07:21 AM   #20
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Just food for thought, years ago I had a big truck catch fire because of a shorted battery cable, I exhausted a 2 pound dry chemical extinguisher, two 5 pounds, and half a ten pound extinguisher getting the fire under control.

I guess what I am saying is make sure you use as big a supply as practically possible. Fire is a worthy opponent that isn't always easily thwarted.
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