Recreational Vehicle Fires
The Public Perspective
Regardless of the cause of the fire, every firefighter and officer should remember that the public is watching. Several
You Tube videos could provoke mixed
opinions on how long it took to apply
water to the fire and the tactics used.
The public expects our firefighters
to be well-trained and ready for action,
so we need to have a game plan. Don’t
wait to get dressed on scene; there is
no question that a hoseline must go in
Yes, things are going bad. The scene
is chaotic with loud noises and a huge
amount of smoke and flames. But, things
can’t go well until you get some water on
the fire and take away the heat from that
LPG tank. Always remember the basics
about car fires and working on the highway. Block the lanes you need to operate
in, and always stage uphill and upwind of
At an RV Park
Consider fighting a fire in a RV park
where the motor homes or trailers are
hooked up to external connections for
power, sewer, and water service. In this
case, you can kill the power for an entire
bank of campsites or for a single one
(photos 8-9). Remember, it might be easier and safer to kill the electricity from the
feeder panel instead of putting your crew
at risk with the individual panel next to
the RV. Most of the time, the connections
for the utilities, the LPG tanks, and the
sewer are on the driver’s side of the RV,
so most parks set up their connections
for the campsite to accommodate this
Water supply can be an issue in RV
parks because of their location. Most RV
parks are in rural areas or at least are
set up to simulate a rural environment.
In the park my department protects, we
must obtain our water using tanks or
through water shuttles or by drafting.
The two fire hydrants in the park are
distant from the RV campsites.
Campsites and parking areas for
trailers and RVs present exposure issues
for firefighters. Most times, they will
conserve space and locate the vehicles
as close together as possible for special
events such as NASCAR races. When
this occurs, tactics need to change.
Remember that, most likely, the involved
unit is a total loss and you must focus
your attention on exposures.
Controlling the Fuel
Controlling the fuel is the fundamental
tactic firefighters use in flammable gas
fires. With an LPG tank, tank cooling
should be the first priority to prevent a
boiling-liquid, expanding-vapor explosion
(BLEVE). Most tanks are in compartments, and it will be difficult to get your
fire stream directly on them. Knowing the
location of the LPG tank for the type of
RV will make this process a little easier.
For most Class A RVs, the tank is on the
driver’s side with the other utilities. After
stretching the protection line for the tank,
pull additional lines for the exposures and
then for the involved unit. Remember, it is
damage control at this point.
I hope to raise awareness and stimu-
late conversation in the firehouse about
RVs and the dangers they present to
firefighters. Through awareness and
training on special hazards like these
vehicles, we can hopefully proceed more
cautiously and safely with our tactics on
Mac the Fire Guy Web site, http://macthefireguy.com.
The basic refrigerator cooling system, https://youtu.be/
An RV fire involving refrigeration system, https://www.
Fire after overhaul, https://www.youtube.com/
MARK WATTERS is a 32-year veteran of
Sunrise (FL) Fire Rescue and a captain
in operations. He is the training captain/
coordinator for the Plantation (FL) Volunteer
Fire Department Training Division. Watters
served 16 years as the standards coordinator
for the Broward (FL) Fire Academy. He
has a bachelor’s degree in organizational
leadership from St. Thomas University and an
associate degree in fire science.
( 8) The electric panel for all of the campsites. ( 9) An individual hookup at a campsite.
( 10) This is a fifth wheel trailer that had a
fire involving the kitchen area, most likely the
refrigerator. (Photos 10-11 courtesy of Mac the
Fire Guy.) ( 11) A well-involved Class A puller
type (motor in front) RV. Note the exposures.