It was a Friday evening at the West Des Moines KOA where the first unintentional fire needed to be extinguished.
Apparently, this particular weekend was customer appreciation weekend at the Kampgrounds of America – stay Friday and Saturday night at regular rate, stay Sunday night at no additional cost. Lots of people took advantage of this offer, including some first time campers.
Grandma, mom, and her two boys were enjoying a weekend of hot dogs, burgers, and fun. When they set up the grill on their new camper, the propane fuel line wasn’t attached correctly and the gas pooled around the controls. When lit, this created a low pressure propane fire around the control valve. Whoops…
I immediately jumped in and pulled the line line while calmly explaining to the family what I was doing and how to avoid this in the future while at the same time Sean was ensuring that the gas supply was turned off.
Easy fix. No damage done. Fire out. By the end of the weekend all members of the family felt comfortable with the propane system and how to safely connect and disconnect the lines. All is good.
Several hundred miles and two weeks later someone comes to our campground and says a trailer a few spots up is on fire…
My gut reaction was, “Have you called 911?”.
Jumped into action, got on scene and pulled the propane tanks after shutting off the gas. Pulled the power lines from the hookups. Pulled the battery. While I’m doing this (thanks Nrasser for pulling the batter wires) Sean was using our fire extinguishers to put out the visible fire.
Once the visible fire was out (there is no water source at this camp site), Sean broke the window and I ensured that there were no persons in the camper – there were not.
The whole episode took about 15 minutes…
Thirty minutes later, the fire trucks showed up…
Today the owner came by and thanked us for putting out the fire and explained that he’s had many issues with this 2018 camper that are all build defects.
This particular fire was caused by a faulty the emergency brake engagement breakaway cable. This device is at the front of the unit with the propane tanks.
It is evident from witnesses and my inspection today that the fire started at the breakaway switch. The electrical fire destroyed the propane lines which caused a small fire ball in the hitch area. This caused the propane regulator’s protective valves to kick in and stop the flow of gas (allowing me to remove the fuel tanks).
The breakaway switch wires burned down to the breaks where the major fire was ongoing. Once the 120 volt power cord had been removed and the battery disconnected the electrical fire could be put out by our hand held extinguishers. We were assisted as the heat from the fire between the tires ruptured the fresh water and waste water holding tanks, helping to put the fire out.
The electrical lines going from the breakaway switch to the axel breaks are all burned to a crisp. Elements of the propane lines are burned. The visual evidence points to a faulty breakaway switch.
So yeah, two weeks, two fires…