Condolences to my Brother (aka The Dutchman)

My brother, a member here but not a frequent poster, lost his RV today. We were supposed to head out to Hershey this afternoon. He had the fridge on electric, and in preparation for leaving switched it over to propane. He waited for the green light indicating it was lit and went in the house. 15 minutes later the trailer exploded. Thank God no one was hurt and the house, while damaged, didn't light up.

I'm still going, but I have to say I'm really shaken up. You may recall that he and I (to a lesser extent) spent a lot of time restoring that thing. He has a month-and-a-half old baby. I can't even think about what could have happened if they were in it or on the road. 

The FD said it had to be a propane leak because of the damage (it was torn apart) rather than an ammonia fire.

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Tags: rv propane systems, travel trailer propane leak, vintage trailer blows up


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Comment by Jim Stoltz on June 30, 2015 at 8:51am
I had a similar issue when I first got mine. I fired up the front furnace and it smelled bad. I thought there was something dead in ducts. But it was actually a propane leak! I should have guessed because someone had shut the gas valve off at the furnace.
Comment by So ska noname on June 30, 2015 at 8:46am
My layout doesn't show any knobs to bump into anything so that's one down. The furnace is next to what I refer to as front door. I will ask which way furnace draft goes at vicars too, to be sure of placement.

Glad to know there is a combination detector before I run out of ceiling. Comedy of errors a new dos and donuts trailer book, Shakespearean style. You could write one. I appreciate the help. Knowledge is power.
Comment by Rich Thomas on June 30, 2015 at 7:44am

So ska,I can enlighten you some on the detectors somewhat. I have a combination detector mounted at a location just off the floor and away from the furnace draft as the directions state. after a camp in may I kept smelling a sour smell when I entered the camper and thought it to be coming from the drains. I even bought some of that Oder killer and put in the sink. well to my surprise it turn out to be propane. the source was the oven. When traveling I have a door stop mounted on my bathroom door so I can see out the back glass as many class C's do. The problem is the door knob bumps my oven gas knob and had actually turned it to pilot light. thus the sour gas smell. Well with the door open it had trapped the gas from getting to the detector. That's now my opinion anyway no harm no foul. I just figured this all out on this last trip by the way and here is how. Saturday night we was setting all quiet on the home front and all of a sudden the gas detector goes off ; we smelled no gas and was about to deem it carbon from running the engine to charge the batteries or the furnace exhaust being blown back into the camper. long story short I had the bathroom door open when I found my water tank leaking and was bumping the handle against the oven knob that had been moved to pilot  while I was sopping up the water with a towel,Yep a comedy of errors but it led to figuring out a flaw in my campers design and also that my combination sensor is doing what it should be doing.  I highly recommend to anyone to install them. as soon as we realized and corrected the situation it was back to normal and all was well. 

Comment by So ska noname on June 29, 2015 at 7:18pm
Let me rephrase that. I think the fridge has a pilot system. For all I know it's electric only!! To date, I have not turned on propane. Trailer is new to me still. Drove it home from Fort Bridger, Wyoming no problems towing nicely with sway bars and lights.
Comment by So ska noname on June 29, 2015 at 7:14pm
My water heater is at other end. I don't want hard wire as am using solar more and more. Sensitive is good. All of my appliances must be started using matches, no igniters.
Comment by Jim Stoltz on June 29, 2015 at 7:08pm

My understanding is that the propane alarms are very sensitive. I have one hard-wired directly under my fridge, which is across the aisle from my range and furnace. The hot water heater is close by too. I think I have the area pretty well covered. The only other propane line and appliance is the rear furnace, which is about 6 feet away. 

Comment by So ska noname on June 29, 2015 at 7:02pm
I think Rich Thomas is right to be proactive.
Comment by So ska noname on June 29, 2015 at 7:01pm
I am going to look into detectors and propane alarms. I don't know if the propane alarm would have helped or if, similar to smoke detectors, you must reach a certain point. I am going ask while at vicars trailer place.
Comment by Jim Stoltz on June 29, 2015 at 6:43pm

I've used my fridge on propane for several days at a time without issue.

It's really hard to say what happened. As So ska noname said, the valve may have failed suddenly. The ignitor keeps trying to light it thinking that just a little bit of pilot gas is flowing. How do you prevent that? It's a bit scary. Would a propane alarm have helped? Or would it have built to a critical mass and exploded before an interior alarm picked up on it?

The good news, sort of, is that my brother said the fire clearly started in the fridge compartment outside. Smoke alarms, and maybe propane detectors, would have alerted anyone inside before the whole thing went up. It took a few minutes before it was totally engulfed.

Comment by Rich Thomas on June 29, 2015 at 6:29pm

I have to say, I've been bit by the frig paranoia bug but, I've decided to be proactive instead. I now carry a spray bottle of soap solution and will check my lines every time I light my frig or my furnace and hot water. My stove is non pilot  and I don't light my oven except when I use it.  I used my frig on propane over the weekend with no problems and I slept very well.



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