Fire extinguishers

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Jan 13, 2005
I cringe at the thought of an on-board fire and was empathetic to the woman and child rescued from a burning boat a couple of days ago (typical CNN 5-second clip, didn't catch all the details).

Do you carry at least the minimum required number and type of fire extinguishers on board? Do you know how to use them? I've attached a few photos from periodic fire extinguisher training conducted by our boat club. The trainers are active fire fighters at an oil refinery and one of them is a firefighter trainer. They are also active boaters. They provide classroom training in addition to hands-on training putting out fires with different kinds of fire extinguishers.

The fire in the photos is a pan of gasoline deliberately lit (from a safe distance).


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I'm not required to carry one, but have a small one anyway. We use an Arctic Oven tent with wood stoves inside for our remote trips and it's a good thing to have around. It's also on top of the stuff in my tool-emergency gear dry bag in the unlikely event I need it in the boat. When I get my big boat, you bet I'll have a few on it. ;D
dsharp said:
I'm not required to carry one, but have a small one anyway.

That's always a good thing to do. Some misguided folks think that, just because they're not required to carry one, they don't need one. As I recently told someone, a boat only burns to the waterline  :(
I like that Tom.  As for the requriement that you carry one... Well, there are two laws, One is printed on paper and bound in a book in a library somewhere with a a name which often contains the phrase "Compiled Acts"

The other is sort of printed on paper and bound in another book,,, One with the word "Physics" on it's cover, or "Chemistry"

The difference is you can break the first kind of law and get away with it.

But when the boat catches fire in the middle of a big lake. you either extinguish it with you handy dandy extinguisher.

Or it is one LONG swim to shore

As a 30+ year motor maintenance officer in the Army, I am very conscious of the fire hazards around a camp site.  We have 3 fire extinguishers while camping.

One in the truck.
One in the camper, actually 2 counting the puny one provided be the manufacturer.
And one located at a "Fire point" somewhere on the campsite.  The Fire Point has an extinguisher, a shovel and a blanket.  It is located away from both the truck and the camper and easily accessable.

I usually keep a water bottle near the campfire ring, it's 1.5 gallons of tap water, around 30-40 psi on the tank, standard lawn & garden sprayer modified for easier pressure application.

I forgot to include that.  The fun part is where I found to store it in the MH  (The Propane compartment)  Would not take a whole lot of heat to rupture that bottle and the water remains under 40 psi
A year ago we went to a fire prevention seminar and they had a fire extinguisher that used something called halotron.  These extinguishers were so much better than the other type we bought two, one for the house and one for the truck.  I am going to put one in the RV and the other will stay in the house until we sell it than one will go in the toad and one in the RV.  We also bought heat detectors for the house which they say had life time guarantee even if the house burnt down they would replace them.  They showed how much quicker the heat detectors worked over the smoke detectors.  THere was a big difference.
Here's some product information on halotron. Halon used to be the best for fires in enclosed spaces; It would snuff out a fire almost instantly by depleting oxygen, but halon is not longer permitted.
After taking the Fire Safety seminar at FMCA in 1996, I have been carrying 6 foam extinguishers. 2 in the bedroom, two by the door, one in a "Never locked" outside compartment and one in the toad. Mac's demonstration of the foam type units and how well they worked sure convinced me on the merits of this type of extinguisher.

Here's a photo of an RV fire scene I came acroos just outside of Harrisburg about 5 years ago. It sure made me see the benefits of having more extinguishers than  one.



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We too, carry multiple fire extinguishers, nearly all the foam type.  Like Chet, we have them both inside and outside the motorhome and in the toad.  The trick is remembering where they're located so you aren't hunting through cabinets when they're needed.  I need to look for some nice labels I can put on the cabinets and bay doors that say "Fire Extinguisher Inside".
I don't mean to be an alarmist but, while Halotron is a very good fire suppressant, I would suggest everyone read the Halotron MSDS. There's lots of information there which not everyone will understand but, to net it out, like Halon, it should not be used in enclosed spaces without proper breathing apparatus, and the area must be well ventilated before re-entry. High heat causes it to decompose into some very nasty acid fumes (hydrochloric and hydrofluoric) which can have serious, long-lasting effects.

If you decide to purchase these extinguishers, read and follow the instructions to the letter.
As mentioned in an earlier post, Mac McCoy does an outstanding job in his Fire Safety Seminar.  If you get the chance to participate, do so.  One caution...he is VERY thorough, with a bit of a scare tactic, but he knows his stuff!

RVIA code states RV's must have a 10bc extinguisher, which is required by DOT as the RV is registered by the VIN #.  Class b is motor fuels, class c is electrical, however class a is anything that would leave an ash such as wood, carpet, get the idea, 75% or more of what your RV is made of!  PLUS!!! the powder based units must be pulled out, turned upside down and shaken or struck with a rubber mallet several times a year to keep the foam from "caking". 

We produced an RV Safety kit and did extensive research on the subject and even produced a video demonstrating the recommended use for the type used in RVs.  When the fire marshall pulled the extinguisher out of my parents 6 year old motorhome, it did not work.  The gauge read good, but the powder had settled.  Opps, thank goodness we didn't REALLY need it!  Mac's foam extinguishers are the best, however, the foam is hard to find to refill.  Home Depot, Menards, Lowe's all sell a kiddie ABC version for about $10, get several, put one in the bedroom, one in the living area, one in an outside compartment, another in the toad. 
Dang I am glad you gave us that information.  They did not tell us this good stuff a year ago or I would not have bought them.  I also have several of the foam type so I will phase out the others and pick up a couple more of the foam type.  Thanks for the info.
Here is another thought - This agent is excellent for some fires, but not very good for class A fires (paper, wood, etc).  Also it has the hazards already mentioned by others. 

When considering any extinguisher you should think of the potential hazard and try to get an extinguisher rated best for that hazard.  Most dry chemical extinguishers are rated for A. B, and C fires.  The bigger the number for the hazard the better (5A, 10B, 10C etc)

  • Class A Fires: Ordinary combustibles such as paper, cloth, wood, rubber, and many plastics

    Class B Fires: Flammable liquids (e.g., oils, gasoline) and combustible liquids (e.g., charcoal lighter fluid, kerosene)

    Class C Fires: Energized electrical equipment (e.g., wiring, motors). (When the electricity is turned off, the fire becomes a class A fire.)

    If you look at this site the smaller halotron extinguishers are not rated for class A fires at all. :eek:

    One final thought.  Before fighting a fire ensure that you can escape.  Don't let yourself get trapped in a burning RV!  You can replace the RV, if you are alive.
A note about dry chemical extinguishers: Improvements have been made in the last several years, and the new material no longer cakes or clogs. It flows like water, even after months of sitting idle. We use them at Road America almost exclusively (with the exception of water bottles for the alcohol burners) and have had no, zip, zero problems with them.
Really in an RV you need concern yourself with only two different types of fire.  Small and large.

Now if it's small,  Example wires just starting to burn, a pan on the stove, or a spilled oil-candle.  You may be able to grab a proper extinguisher and douse it,  Depending on how you count I have 3 or 4 extinguishers in my MH and 2 in my towed.

(The toy just inside the door that Damon put there, A "All-Fire" Foam unit above it, good for all classes of fire including a couple classes you don't often hear of and a second "All-Fire" on my side of the bed (Wife is useless in emergencies, I tend to panic later, after the fire's out)

If it's big GET OUT FAST.  Motor home smoke is toxic so you have mear seconds to exit to fresh air,  Open the escape hatch, grab the comforter off the bed and toss it over the sharp stuff and help your sig-other out to safety then don't waste time turning around,  Dive into her waiting arms (She did wait right) and beat feet out of the neighborhood. FAST, call 9-1-1 on your cell (if you have it) or the first pay phone you come to.

IF you are a member of FMCA  (If not and you have a Motor Home, as opposed to a trailer of any kind, you should consider joining) go to a Rally,  Odds are Mack the fIre guy will be there.  On a scale of 10 his knowledge of fires is around 15
I talked to halotrons parent company yesterday as well as the local county fire marshall.  They both told me the HalatronI I have is the best grease fighting fire extiguisher made and not to get rid of them.  They both said that I should put them in my vehicle and use them there if needed.  If I should use one in the house just quickly ventilate the area.  They also informed me that the army, airforce, and airlines are the only ones buying them now and they have them on all the aircraft and all the military vehicles.  I will still look into buying another abc for my house and move this halatron to the truck for now.  If and when our house sells I will move all the extiguishers to the rv and the toad.  Interesting too was the fact that the EPA banned them in 98 and this company that sold them to us was not supposed to be selling them and they are going to look into that.
I wasn't suggesting you get rid of them; merely saying that people should be conscious of potential health hazards and how to eliminate or minimize them when used in an enclosed space. While those demonstrations of them putting out a fire on a large pool of gasoline or JP-4 is indeed impressive, one must remember that oil and grease fires in the home are most often the result of leaving a pan sit on a burner too long, raising the temperature of the fat or oil above its' flash point. You can't just remove the oxygen; you must remove the it from the source of the heat or the heat source itself, or it may well ignite again. 
The 2A-10 B:C fire extinguishers work real well as an all around extinguisher.  You can use it on most anything, and you have the reach to hit the fire from the door.  Trying to remember which rated extinguisher is used on what type of fire in the heat of the moment (no pun intended), doesn't always work well. The smaller vehicle/boat type extinguishers lack capacity, although they're better than nothing.  Always having a lid handy that will cover you largest pot or pan goes a long way also.  Just slide it over the burning pot or pan and call for help. I had an acquaintance who would always put a wye on the water connection with a length of hose on it ever since he awoke one night to find his neighbor's camper well involved, which melted the side of his RV. Just wetting the side of it to keep it cool would have saved it.

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