THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING THE RIGHT FIRE EXTINGUISHER
There is a huge difference between a fire extinguisher, which works, and one of those little ones with powder that came with your RV.
I was in the market for a new fire extinguisher last year. On my way to the Escapade in Goshen, Ind., I stopped at a Wal Mart and was going to buy a replacement. My current one came with the unit when it was new in 1992. I didn't know if I needed a replacement but it seemed to me that the little red thing, which sat by my door, was on the small side. It was also 7 years old. Wal Mart didn't have anything bigger so I procrastinated and postponed a decision.
When I arrived at the Escapade, I saw a seminar on Fire Safety was being offered. It was more than just a seminar. Mac McCoy also took us outside and demonstrated the advantages of foam over powder. And, he had a BIGGER extinguisher. I got out the checkbook and bought a one-gallon extinguisher and a smaller one for the Jeep. I also got several of the small hair spray sized extinguishers for the counter next to the stove, the glove box, and the drawer by my bed.
I felt I was much better protected than I had been.
I was right.
In January, I joined a group of WINs at a gathering in Quartzsite. On the 4th or 5th day, after the 4 p.m. gathering, I went back to my RV to get something. When I came out, an RV was on fire about 100 yards away.
The woman, her dog and cat, were out without injury. Flames were shooting out from all sides of the living room window. Two or three people were using their small powder fire extinguishers with no visible effect. I noticed later that there were already 3 or 4 empty extinguishers at their feet.
I grabbed my extinguisher and ran over. Someone said "There's no way to stop it now."
The fire was out before my one-gallon extinguisher was empty. It had been contained in the couch, rug, fabric and curbside wall. If it had been much more involved, I don't believe all of my extinguishers would have been enough to stop it. But there was ample evidence that the powder extinguishers just could not do the job at all.
Everything Mac had said about the superiority of foam over power was true. As I understand it, the foam not only extinguishes flames but, unlike the powder, it immediately cools the fuel which had been feeding the fire. Without heat, a fire can't burn. With heat, it can re-ignite. Mac had proved foam's ability to cool by putting out a road flare (the HOT burning magnesium kind) with foam. Seconds later he touched the end of the flare. It was cool.
The woman whose RV it was is a full timer. I don't know if the rig can be repaired economically. Although it was driveable, they said, everything forward of the bath seemed to be charred. The sidewall behind the couch and stove was gutted by the fireman who arrived later and who checked for remaining hot spots behind the wall. The good news is that everything in the basement compartments, the pod on top, and in the closets and bath was saved.
A postscript: Mac had said that if we had to use our new extinguishers, he would replace them free of charge - once. I called the phone number on my extinguisher and Mac happened to be in Quartzite doing an exhibit for am FMCA rally. He came over. He refilled my gallon container and replaced one of the small ones I had given to someone else to use. He also was mobbed by WINs who were now also convinced of the advantages of foam over powder.
Please, consider upgrading your fire extinguisher before you need one. I assume that there are other brands of foam extinguishers which are also good but if you are interested, Mac sells the Hawk brand and can be reached at 503-393-1937.
I didn't toss my old powder extinguisher. It is better than nothing. However, I have religiously followed Mac's advice about making sure that it would work if needed.
First, at least monthly, turn the extinguisher over, put it to your ear and listen. Do you hear something like light rain? That is the powder falling. If you don't hear it, the powder has become packed at the bottom of the extinguisher and if you ever pulled the trigger, you would just get air. As a second test, hold the extinguisher about an inch off a hard surface and let it drop on its bottom. It should bounce a little bit.
You need, in addition to loose powder, a charge. Most extinguishers have a gauge which shows whether it is charged, or a little green button than when pressed should pop back up.
If your extinguisher fails any of these tests, you could always throw it at a fire but not much else.
(The usual disclaimer - I have no connection with the product except as a user. Although I begged and pleaded, Mac said he wouldn't give me a commission on any sales - grin)
- Submitted by Jane Young
NOTE: Jane Young does not own a Discovery, and therefore is not a member of our club. She has graciously allowed me to post this article on our website, in hopes that it may save someone's rig or life. - Bob Cook
The DISCOVERY OWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC, was formed to promote the sharing of information and the camraderie of fellow Discovery motorhome owners. Membership in the club is limited to owners of Fleetwood Discovery motorhomes.