Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fire Safety

Motor Coach Fire Safety
Butch Jones

I would like to thank all of the Dogwood members that attended our presentation at the Rockahock Rally. I hope that we didn’t scare anyone so badly that they are tempted to leave motor homing. Fire awareness and preparedness can be scary stuff. However, it does not need to be petrifying.

As a result of the presentation several members came up with some excellent suggestions.  As an addendum to the presentation I have included these suggestions.

Mann Duff suggested that we might want to keep the Emergency Bag in the towed so it will be outside and ready when needed. If you do that make sure that you leave the hammer inside to assist in breaking out a window or skylight and you have the towed keys if you keep it locked.

Pat Allen observed that if you or your spouse has the need for glasses, contacts or a hearing aid make sure that those are kept with you along with your keys, cell phone, wallet and purse. Even if you wear reading glasses you should keep them handy.

Wilt Greenwood has come across a small extinguisher with a sprinkler head that can be placed in the outside refrigerator compartment to help extinguish a fire before it spreads to the interior.

Installing a suppression system in the engine compartment is a great way to limit engine bay fire damage.

I have thought about the fact that I am not getting any younger. Using the bed comforter or spread as a rope or slide might be something to consider for anyone that feels that they cannot climb down a ladder or climb out the window.

I’m sure that many of you have had thoughts on this subject. Send me your ideas and I will pass them along. Fire safety is an ongoing process. Even after you have developed your plan you may change it as your situation changes.

The following are two articles I came across which I found interesting.

Three killed in northwest Arizona motor home fire
KINGMAN, Ariz. - Three Lake Havasu City residents were killed in a fiery motor home accident about eight miles north of the northwestern Arizona city Monday.
The Department of Public Safety said the 2006 motor home towing a Jeep blew a right front tire about 12:05 p.m. on Arizona Route 95.
"The fire started on the right front wheel, which is directly adjacent to the main doorway that you come in and out," Desert Hills Fire Chief Matt Espinoza said. "In that case the primary entrance and exit was blocked by fire which basically forced the occupants to the rear of the RV."
Espinoza said the bodies of the occupants were all located in the rear of the motor home.
The victims were identified as John P. Thomas and Susan L. Thomas, both 63, and Joyce Lowry, 73.
           A right front tire blowout at less than 65 mph on I-95 in South Carolina 2005
A right front tire blowout at less than 65 mph on I-95 in South Carolina resulting in our 2000 Newmar Mountain Aire coach burning (it) to the ground, on Friday, April 22, 2005.

I was traveling Northbound on I-95, in the right lane and the coach was climbing an overpass and at about 300 feet from the top, the right front tire blew out. The coach immediately pulled hard right into the parking lane and it took a lot of strength to keep the coach in that parking lane and not going off the right edge of the road and into the grass and down the grade. I was able to regain control and bring the coach back into the right traffic lane so that I could continue over the overpass and miss the narrowing guard rail. After returning to the right lane and while on the overpass, I was able to begin to apply the brakes and slowly moved to the right and back into the parking lane on the down grade. At this point I already noticed flames in the right rear view mirror. I was unable to stop in the next 600 ft., because of the guard rail adjacent to the parking lane, which would have made it impossible to open the exit door, which is located in front of the right front blown, burning tire. I was able to stop about 600 ft. past the end of the guard rail and off the road in the parking lane. By the time I stopped, the flames were over the top of the exit door, and it was now impossible to exit via the front door. As I attempted to get the FOAM filled fire extinguisher from behind the passenger's seat, I noticed flames between the front door and the passenger seat about a foot high in the coach. I couldn't believe the volume of fire which had developed within less that 1 minute from the time of the blowout. Without any further expectations of possibly being able to extinguishing the fire, my immediate interest shifted to how we were going to get out of the coach. Since the traffic was still screaming by us without stopping, the bedroom emergency exit on the driver's side was out of the question, so the bedroom non-emergency window on the passenger side was the only one left. Exiting the coach via this window wasn't bad, but the edge of the grass was on fire from the end of the guard rail, 600 ft. back to the front of the coach and I had to jump clear of the fire. I jumped first and beyond the flames, and ended up several feet down the steep grade because of the overpass. I climbed back up to the flames and kicked dirt on the fire with my stocking feet. Then I lifted my wife from the rear window to safety. I had her run to the back of our toad and I proceeded to unhook the car. Needless to say, that took less than another minute, and out came the brake buddy, and we were out of there.
For the next 15 minutes we watched our coach burn with all our possessions, jewelry, cloths, identification, money, computers, everything, until the fire department arrived and by that time the coach was fully involved. The fire department couldn't do anything but cool the ashes. I-95 was blocked for about 2 hours and we just stood there, thankful we were alive and trying to figure it all out.
I wanted everyone to know, that I was very safety conscious, and never expected that this could happen to us, but it did. I thought I had thought of everything and prepared for most everything, but never expected it could happen to us. With all the safety preparations we still lost everything. Now there is more, the insurance issues, contents coverage. When you are a full-timer or a most timer we carry a lot of STUFF. We have more than you think you have. Our coverage may not be enough. And of course then there is the insurance for the Motorhome itself. Believe me, I am an insurable person, and I still may have missed things. My insurance is via Mendota, and my homeowner's in Florida is Allstate. I hope I can help better prepare someone better than I was, if we can ever be better prepared.

-Tony & Mary, Pembroke Pines, Fl. NEWMAR CLUB, DATASTORM

These bring it home that we need to BE PREPARED.

We received our Kidde Emergency Escape Ladder and Berkley and I tried it on his and Karen’s Dutch Star as well as our Discovery. It worked well but was quite a bit longer than needed. I cut 5 rungs off and I believe that will work better. I have an extra rung in case the coach is on more of an incline. 

I have included several pictures of the ladder in the packaged and installed mode.
If I can be of any assistance to anyone in evaluating their coach, developing their plan, deciding which detector or extinguishers to buy, practicing their plan or anything else relating to fire safety just let me know.