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Do RV Fire Extinguishers Freeze? (DOs & DON’Ts)

A fire extinguisher is a piece of safety equipment that’s necessary to be kept in your RV at all times. While fires that involve motorhomes and RVs are quite uncommon, when they do happen, the danger to the people inside is pretty high, and the damage to the RV itself is sometimes very serious. Aside from this, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) mandates that RVs must be stocked with at least one portable fire extinguisher. Having said that, we can’t stress enough how critical it is to stock your RV with one.

Unfortunately, during the colder months, the majority of people who operate RVs are worried about whether or not fire extinguishers can be stored properly inside an RV, considering that the vast majority of RVs do not have insulation. When exposed to freezing temperatures, do fire extinguishers run the risk of becoming damaged or unable to discharge its contents and freeze? 

Yes. If the temperature goes below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s possible for a water-based extinguisher to freeze. This comprises fire extinguishers of both Class A and Class K, as well as AFFF and FFFP foam.

A foam-based extinguisher is the one that’s most appropriate for RVs. This lightweight and portable extinguisher is fully risk-free to use in restricted places, is effective against both class A and class B fires, and does not leave any residue behind. Additionally, using it to put out electrical fires is completely risk-free. The drawback is, when kept inside an RV over time, foam-based fire extinguishers can freeze.

On the other hand, dry powder fire extinguishers, which are particularly effective in putting out all types of fires, do not freeze. However, they are not advised for small places like RVs, motorhomes, and caravans. The fine powder also damages the interior of a caravan. 

Knowing whether or not RV fire extinguishers freeze over is only the beginning of the discussion. Keep reading to find out more about the DOs and DON’Ts of keeping RV fire extinguishers. 

What are the DOs and DON’Ts of Keeping RV Fire Extinguishers Inside Your RV? 

© The Hills Shire Council

DOs

  • It’s important to check extinguishers on a regular basis in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • The fire extinguisher needs to be hung from a specific bracket close to the entrance, though it shouldn’t be placed too close to the cooking appliances, since the heat from the flames could make it inaccessible.
  • Use match-resistant cushion covers and flame-resistant foam for the upholstery.
  • Choose a fire extinguisher that has a hose (rather than a nozzle) if you want to be able to control the direction in which the extinguishing agent flows from the fire extinguisher.
  • It’s recommended to replace a fire extinguisher every five years or right after it has been used.
  • Have at least 3 working fire extinguishers inside your RV.
  • Before going on a trip, everyone in your group should be familiar with how to use a fire extinguisher and what specific fire extinguisher to use for every specific type of fire. 

DON’Ts

  • Never use a partially discharged extinguisher.
  • It’s not a good idea to try to put out a fire in a frying pan with a fire extinguisher. Fire blankets are a more effective way of extinguishing fires caused by cooking oils or fats.
  • Do not store fire extinguishers outdoors in normal or freezing temperatures

What Happens When a Fire Extinguisher Freezes?

© Axleaddict

When kept in a place with temperatures lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, foam and water-based fire extinguishers can freeze because of a liquid’s nature. Aside from not having to be able to use your fire extinguisher when it freezes, frozen fire extinguishers can cause the internal lining of the dispenser to become damaged. 

How Can You Prevent RV Fire Extinguishers From Freezing?

An antifreeze fire extinguisher is an excellent option to be used as an RV fire extinguisher. They can endure extremely low temperatures without the contents of the canister freezing up, and it guarantees that you are equipped to put out a fire in all-weather conditions. 

Where to Use Water and Foam RV Fire Extinguishers? 

© Fire Alarm Installers

Water-based fire extinguishers can only be used on Class A fires. These include combustibles from wood, paper, trash bags, and plastic materials. Never consider utilizing the water extinguisher on a Class B fire. These include fires from flammable liquids such as alcohol, ether, oil, gasoline, and grease. 

A Class C fire should never be put off by a water-based fire extinguisher. Fires caused by electrical equipment, such as motors or any of the appliances in the kitchen, are some examples of Class C fires. Water carries electricity and can provide a shock hazard even when the light is out, so it’s best to avoid using this type of extinguisher on this type of fire. Not to mention, anyone who touches the appliance or walks across the wet area could put themselves in a very dangerous situation.

Foam-based fire extinguishers, on the other hand, can be used for Class A and B fires. 

What are the Common Causes of RV fires?

© RV SUPPLY Co

Cigarettes and used matches that have been thrown away are the most common causes of fires in RVs and trailers. Other common causes include pressurized containers, such as hairspray or shaving foam, that are kept in close proximity to a heat source, such as an oven. Heaters are another potential source of danger, particularly if their fuses are not installed properly or if they’re placed too close to flammable materials like fabrics, beds, or curtains.

Tips on How to Prevent and Prepare for RV Fires

  • Use match-resistant cushion covers and flame-resistant foam for the upholstery.
  • It’s essential that you maintain a distance of at least six meters between your RV and the car that’s parked next to you.
  • Always have a full bucket of water outside your RV when grilling just in case. 
  • Ensure that your RV has adequate ventilation and that any air vents are not blocked.
  • If you are staying in an RV park, you should familiarize yourself with the whereabouts of all the firefighting equipment in the event of an emergency.
  • Make sure your RV is equipped with at least one smoke alarm, and check it at least once a week to ensure that the batteries are still working.
  • Always leave a distance of at least two meters between the barbecue and your motorhome or any awning. This will ensure that if the barbecue were to topple over, it would not land anywhere near the flammable material that lines the side of your RV or the awning. It’s best not to use a grill underneath an awning or canopy since the heat from the grill can cause major damage to the fabric or even cause it to catch fire.
  • Make sure that the electrical wiring in your RV or motorhome is in good shape by inspecting the appliances there as frequently as you can. Ideally, it should be checked on a regular basis by an electrician with the right qualifications. Never use any piece of equipment that has plugs or cords that have been damaged in any way. Always make sure that your wires are not pressed under anything heavy; doing so could cause the internal wiring to become damaged, which could then result in a fire.
  • Be certain that all of the heaters, cookers, and television sets are turned off before turning in for the night and before leaving your RV. Never block heaters because doing so can start a fire, and keep in mind that heaters require air circulation, so make sure to leave a door or window open.
  • Electrical outlets should not be overloaded, and the use of multiple adaptors should be avoided. It’s unsafe to operate appliances by plugging them into light sockets. 
  • Unless a specific ventilated compartment is provided, make sure all gas cylinders are kept outside the RV.
  • Make sure you have a backup plan in case the primary exit is blocked by smoke or fire; one option could be to escape through a window. Teach everyone who will be staying in your caravan your escape strategy, including how to open the windows and any other doors. In the event that the window cannot be opened quickly and easily,  place an escape hammer next to the window so that you may break the glass and get out of the building easily in case of an emergency.
  • Always take the necessary precautions to guarantee that cigarettes have been properly extinguished and cannot be rekindled. Instead of using plastic ashtrays, which might melt, use metal or glass ones instead.
  • Be sure that all little batteries are stored safely in a container made of plastic so that they cannot roll out in the RV. Loose batteries that can move about can split or combine in a way that induces a fire.

Cooking Tips Inside RV to Avoid Fire

  • It’s crucial that you never leave your cooker unattended when you’re cooking in your RV, particularly if there are children in the area.
  • To reduce the possibility of the pan falling off the cooker, rotate the panhandles so that they are facing away from the edge of the appliance.
  • It’s very important to have a fire blanket in your kitchen area if you’re using a chip pan for cooking. If you can avoid it, use frying appliances that don’t require the use of oil.
  • Be sure that there aren’t any drapes, towels, or other flammable materials dangling anywhere near your stove or oven. Remove any paper or other combustible materials from countertops near kitchen appliances.
  • Immediately clean up any fuel that may have spilled. Both gasoline and propane are very flammable, but propane leaks are especially hazardous. Diesel is less harmful than gasoline, yet it’s still risky to use.
  • Even if the flame on your stove is extinguished, the stove will still continue to emit propane. When you’re finished using it, double-check that it was shut off properly, and under no circumstances should you ever use the stove to heat your RV. 

How to Use Your RV’s Fire Extinguisher

The acronym PASS, which stands for pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep, is an excellent way to remember how to operate a fire extinguisher. 

P – Pull the pin which is located at the top of the fire extinguisher.

A – Aim the nozzle at the fire’s base rather than its flames.

S – Squeeze the trigger or handle while standing 8 to 10 feet away from the flames.

S – Sweep the fire’s base from side to side until it’s extinguished.

How to Check the Condition of Your RV’s Fire Extinguisher

  • Every month, you should check to see if the fire extinguisher that’s installed in your RV still has pressure.
  • If the indicator indicates that the battery is low or empty, the battery should be replaced or recharged as soon as possible. If there’s no gauge, use the button that says “push to test pressure”
  • Never use a partial discharge to test a fire extinguisher.
  • The pin on a fire extinguisher should only be pulled out in the event of a fire, and any of the components should only be discharged in the event of a fire. The extinguisher should also be replenished as soon as possible after usage.
  • Make sure that the fire extinguisher has all of its parts checked out to guarantee that it’s functioning correctly. Check the level indicator, safety pin, handle, trigger, hose, nozzle, inspection tag, and tank.

Smoke Detectors in RVs

© Cypress Trail RV Resort

The presence of a smoke alarm in your RV will enable you and any other passengers to receive early warning of a fire and get out of the vehicle safely. A smoke alarm is the first line of defense since it alerts you when something has begun to give off smoke before it has caught fire. This gives you the opportunity to prevent any significant damage from being inflicted. We strongly suggest installing an optical smoke alarm in your RV because these devices are made to respond rapidly to fires that are still smoldering, such as those that start in soft furniture. In order for your smoke alarm to function effectively, make sure that you install it so that it points downwards rather than horizontally. Through this, it will detect fires quicker. You might want to think about installing more than one smoke detector if you have a large motorhome.

We strongly advise removing the smoke alarm from your RV during the winter months if you don’t plan on using it throughout the year. Store your smoke alarm near your RV keys so you will be reminded every time you want to use your trailer to install the alarm as well or you can add fitting your alarm to your pre-camping checklist.

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