Propane Space Heater Fire Destroys RV & 4 Dogs

Studies show that fires in recreational vehicles, especially older units, tend to be more devastating than those in other forms of residence.


A portable space heater started the fire that consumed this RV. (Credit: The Spokesman-Review)

Heating and electrical system malfunctions are the leading causes of fire in RVs. Together, they account for one-third of the fires.

Four small dogs died and an RV was recently (January 15, 2013) destroyed in a fire blamed on a propane space heater in Spokane, Washington, The Spokesman-Review reported.

A man had been staying in an RV parked in a driveway and was inside the house watching television with the homeowner when they heard a noise, said Assistant Fire Marshal Bill Clifford.

They found the RV in flames. “He was trying to get the dogs out and was unable to,” Clifford said.

The man was treated for smoke inhalation. Clifford said the dogs may have knocked the space heater over or knocked something flammable into it.

A propane heater also shouldn’t be used in an enclosed space because it emits carbon monoxide, which can be deadly, Clifford said.

Nothing much is left of the RV. “They burn so fast,” Clifford said.

“It’s just lightweight construction.”

Propane Space Heater Safety

carbon_monoxide-300x225The following information is provided courtesy of appliance retailer, Air & Water.

You and your family are camping, when someone experiences a sudden headache. Another person becomes nauseous. Suddenly, you realize everyone around you is sick—even you!

These are the first warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from the improper, unsafe use of portable propane heaters. Advanced exposure to carbon monoxide can result in:

  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Coma
  • Death

Clearly, the dangers of using a propane heater are real. However, does this mean all heaters that use this type of gas are dangerous?

Not at all! The answer is the same as for any other space heating device; that is, propane heating is perfectly safe as long as you follow proper directions and safety precautions.

It’s not difficult or time consuming to be safe.

What is a Propane Space Heater?

Propane heaters can come in two specific forms—freestanding or attachment. A freestanding model is all-encompassing, comprised of a base, body, and propane tank attachment that can be attached to a standard LP tank.

A space heater is simply one of many devices using LP gas.

Are Propane Heaters Safe?

Space_HeatersThe danger of propane comes not from the gas itself, but rather from its organic byproduct of combustion—carbon monoxide. Propane has a strong odor, allowing you to quickly discover a leak with a simple sniff. Carbon monoxide, however, is tasteless and odorless. This gas will compete with oxygen binding sites on the hemoglobin molecule, making it a safety hazard.

The actual risk is slight and injuries are uncommon from carbon monoxide poisoning. Since the early 1990’s, there have only been about 80 cases of serious carbon monoxide poisoning due to propane heater misuse.

Propane Space Heater Safety Guide

NEVER use in an enclosed space that’s too small for the corresponding propane heater size. No matter the size, all propane heating units generate CO as a natural byproduct. The most important thing is to determine an appropriately sized heater for your RV.

Reduce the risk in your RV by following these safety guidelines:

  • ENSURE that the heater is installed properly so that it doesn’t leak fuels, will run properly, and all safeguards are functioning
  • TEST your smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm, and propane alarm once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year
  • KEEP all combustible substances away from the heater
  • ENSURE that the heater will not be accidentally knocked over
  • ALWAYS provide ventilation by cracking a window or vent when the heater is in use
  • NEVER use a space heater when sleeping or when unattended

Worth Pondering…

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

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