A fire in a caravan or motorhome - a trauma for life

Even though the headline may seem to be taken straight from the gossip press, today we will focus on the pressing (literally) problem of fire protection. Caravanning fans skilled in searching for vehicles on foreign auction portals have certainly come across a large number of vehicles destroyed by various elements - from crushed by trees, through flooded, to ... completely or partially burned.

The topic of fires and their prevention is often underestimated. The analysis of bitter cases shows that there can be many causes. There is not much we can do in the event that our beloved vehicle and its belongings suffer from a fire on board the car standing next to it, or the wall of our motorhome is damaged by a fireplace or grill carelessly left by a neighbor. However, we can carefully exclude many factors that may be the source of the disaster and prepare ourselves for possible intervention if there is a need to carry out a rescue and firefighting operation on board.

12V is a "safe" current - true or false?

In common perception, DC sources are often underestimated. After all, the current from the battery is not "safe". To supply high-power loads with a voltage of 12V, powerful currents (amperage) are required. Certainly, many of you, dear readers, have wondered why the cross-sections of the wires in the 12V installation in caravans and motorhomes are so large, and the security measures reach several dozen amps. They must efficiently conduct powerful currents, while minimizing the risk of overheating and "burning" of wires and cable connectors. Therefore, under no circumstances should you independently make any modifications in terms of installation, additions and assembly of accessories, even though these activities may seem trivial. The selection of cables and protections, as well as the assembly of the devices and emergency systems (disconnectors, contactors) is a task for an experienced specialist. There is no room for savings and home-grown experiments.

Also, when buying the devices, pay attention to the tightness class of the accessories and equipment - the source of fire can even be the LED lighting of the awning led outside, which does not ensure tightness and may lead to a short circuit. The same applies to cheap, Far Eastern solar regulators and converters, which can be unreliable and can contribute to fires.

Alternating current - things to keep in mind

The external 230V power supply supplied to the motorhome / caravan is extremely practical for stationary stays, as we can power the refrigerator, multimedia, often a water heater or air conditioning. However, there are some basic rules that must be absolutely followed:

  • Always verify the value of the box (source) protection to adjust the power of the receivers activated at the same time - this way you will reduce the risk of tripping the overcurrent protection and avoid overheating of the power cord. Example: on many campsites, it will not be a good idea to run a toaster, stationary air conditioning and a kettle / coffee machine at the same time.
  • If you use an extension cord on a reel (especially if it is not equipped with thermal protection), unwind the entire cord from the reel - with a few receivers of more power, not unfolding it is a guarantee of overheating and melting / fire.
  • Regularly check the condition of the battery (potential swelling or mechanical damage, tightening of the clamps) and verify the correct operation of the charger.

Bitter case analysis and conclusions

I am reluctant to come back to the story that I would like to share with you in this article. When I myself (yes - the author of this material) bought a caravan from the first owner in the Netherlands - well-kept, well-equipped, with a lot of electronics supporting and improving the comfort of use - in my life I would not have thought that something could go wrong. Two years after the purchase, the trailer connected to an AC power source at the campsite caught fire. The firefighting operation, in which I unfortunately did not participate, was primarily aimed at neutralizing the source of the fire and preventing it from spreading to neighboring plots.

When I arrived, I was especially glad that none of my family members and neighbors suffered, and that the action took place without any damage to the property of third parties. An analysis aimed at determining the cause of the fire led to the conclusion that the fault was caused by an incorrectly installed battery charger. During the repair of the trailer in a professional company ( CAMPERNIKI from Silesia), the experts noticed a few shortcomings in the art of assembly and "recreated" the entire installation point by point, taking into account a number of additional safeguards. As I mentioned, the caravan was packed with additional equipment (under-bench air conditioning, mover, voltage converter, Auto Level by Enduro), and all elements were concentrated under one of the benches, there was a lot to play.

As the trailer did not have AC insurance, I had to cover the cost of over PLN 30,000 for labor and parts from my own pocket. I do not wish such experience to anyone and sincerely advise you to learn from other people's mistakes, saving yourself from such a trauma. Reconstruction of a motorhome or caravan in the manufacturer's technology requires professional knowledge, access to original spare parts (in my case, apart from all upholstery and mattresses, these were plates, mounting elements and fittings, lamps, strips and covers, and lots of expensive electronics). The above is also intended to draw the attention of honorable readers to the fact that such situations can happen to literally anyone. Until the fire, I, too, at the back of my head, downplayed the dangers, and subconsciously pushed all reports of similar cases out of my consciousness.

Conclusions

Okay, but what conclusions did I draw from this event in retrospect? For me, despite the mental discomfort associated with the whole situation, the most important thing in returning to normalcy was to prepare for the future and work out patterns of action just in case. The basic elements that probably do not need anyone to pay attention to are sensors / alarms - gas and smoke / carbon monoxide. They will allow us to wake up immediately after detection and take effective action.

It is worth having at least two fire extinguishers on board the motorhome / caravan, of which at least one should be foam (I have two). The foam extinguisher allows you to extinguish a fire in the kitchen (when the source is e.g. fat), moreover, it is not irritating and does not cause such huge losses in property as the powder one. More than half of the repair value after the fire described above in my trailer was caused by "booze" and the effect of extinguishing powder. 6 (SIX) powder extinguishers were put into operation in the building, which is less than 7 meters long, which basically devastated the interior, all upholstery, foam, curtains, carpeting and furniture. The use of a more precise fire extinguisher and non-toxic foam would minimize losses while maintaining internal visibility during the action and possibly nip the fire in the bud. All extinguishing agents should be readily available - in my case, one fire extinguisher hangs right above the entrance to the kitchen, the second one is at hand next to the bed in the bedroom, the third one goes with us in a locker next to the gas cylinder.

Fire blanket - if you discover a fire source, use a blanket to nip it in the bud. The above measures are inexpensive, and certainly not compared to the value of the property that we will protect thanks to them.

Have you had any experiences with fire or fire hazards during your expeditions? We would love to hear your reports, opinions and tips on the proper preparation of the equipment.

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