Extreme fire hazard in camping units - important to enforce the safety distance
The video above shows an experiment which illustrates how quickly fire can spread between camping units. The time from ignition to deadly atmosphere within the units is roughly one minute. Video by Bjorn Ulfsson / 90 Seconds Video Series. Reposted with permission from MSB.se.
A Norwegian family of three was killed in a fire in caravan camper today in Rogaland in southern Norway. Eye witnesses describe what looked like an explosion, and the camper unit reached flashover immediately.
"We don´t know the cause of the fire but we are hoping our investigation will show", says police investigator Per Gunnar Kvame to Scandinavian media.
The entire family, a father, a mother and a son, perished in the incident.
Explosions in camper units can have various causes, most commonly propane leaks from faulty heating equipment. What is also very common is smouldering fires starting from electrical problems.
Since campers are tight for space, many people take short cuts when it comes to storage, and put blankets and other items in or near the battery compartments. This can lead to slow burning fires that are hard to detect, and which could develop during the night when everybody is sleeping.
The styrofoam insulation in the campers, when ignited, spread toxic smoke which will kill anybody sleeping in the camper within a minute.
However, what is even more problematic; when the camper ignites with open flames, the whole unit will become involved within about three minutes. At that point, the aluminum siding will ignite and contribute to the fire, creating strong radiant heat which will easily jump to the next camper unit - if it is parked too close.
In summer, when camp grounds are packed with camper units, it is common that camp ground owners will oversell lots beyond their capacity - forcing campers to camp closer to each other than the prescribed safety distance.
Another common problem is "buddy camping" - groups of friends choosing to put their campers very close to each other.
If a fire happens in a situation like that, several camping units can light on fire in a very short time, leading to catastrophic consequences for the people sleeping in the units.
The video in the example above is in Swedish, but the scenario is easy to understand: an electrical problem is simulated in the battery compartment under the seat in the dining room, and a time line will show you how quickly the fire develops and spreads between two ordinary caravan campers.
All propane, batteries and other fire hazards have been removed from the units. The only things burning is the furniture, the insulation and the aluminum siding. In a real situation, with other materials present like cooking oil, propane, clothing, alcohol etc, the fire development could likely be even faster.
In an article on Fireengineering.com procedures are outlined for how to inspect a modern RV for fire hazards.
RVShare.com also writes an excellent article on how campers can check their own camper units for safety hazards.
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