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Having an RV Fire Escape Ladder Could Save Your Life!

Having an RV Fire Escape Ladder Could Save Your Life!

For some RVers, our topic for today’s post may seem a little crazy. But for others, an RV fire escape ladder could prove to be a lifesaver.

We became aware of this idea when we heard about a 5th wheel fire. Thankfully, the lives of the occupants were spared. But some of them were injured while trying to escape their burning RV.

An RV fire escape ladder might make all the difference for those of us with rigs where emergency escape windows are fairly high off the ground. (Or those of us old enough to be a bit less agile than we used to be.)

What’s an RV Escape Ladder?

An RV escape ladder is a portable ladder that can quickly be hung out an RV window in the event of an emergency. Preferably they should be compact, lightweight, and easy to deploy.

Obviously, the whole idea is for everyone in the RV to quickly escape in an emergency.

Generally, when we talk about an RV escape ladder, the most common type of emergency for its use would be fire.

So, essentially, an RV escape ladder is one that can quickly deploy to be used as a fire escape.

Since an emergency is generally something that comes up suddenly and unexpectedly, preparedness is the name of the game!

Why Do I Need an RV Escape Ladder?

You may not, depending on the type of RV you have.

However, there are some RVs that can leave occupants pretty high off the ground, often in an RV’s bedroom. Even strategically-placed emergency exit windows can leave a person needing to drop a considerable distance to the ground.

A 5th wheel travel trailer with a red arrow indicating the significant distance from an upper bedroom to the ground

In some cases, such as in this 5th wheel, an RV bedroom’s emergency escape window may be pretty high off the ground.

Bailing out of some RV windows can leave a person injured and unable to move, lying next to a rig that could explode in a fire due to propane that’s likely onboard. You won’t be running far with a broken leg.

Being burned or overcome by smoke inside an RV is certainly worse than getting injured jumping from a window. But why experience either when fire safety doesn’t have to be a binary choice?

Why All the Controversy Over RV Escape Ladders?

We’ve noted some controversy on this topic. There are strong feelings for and against the use of RV escape ladders.

Having read through many comments both pro and con, we understand both perspectives. 

So, why would anyone be against using an RV escape ladder?

Well, some people argue they take too long to deploy and use. And since most people never practice using them, that could end up being a hindrance to a safe exit in an emergency. 

This is why every RVer needs to be familiar with the operation of all of their gear. If you decide to equip your rig with an escape ladder, practice using it before it’s needed for a real emergency. An RV escape ladder (and a fire extinguisher!) also need to be properly placed and ready to use quickly.

Preparedness is your best strategy for surviving a crisis.

But here’s the thing…

Some experts estimate that you may have only 20 seconds or less to get out of a burning RV before the rig may be consumed by fire or toxic smoke. And fumbling with an escape ladder may use up precious seconds.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t choose to have an escape ladder as part of your exit strategy. That’s especially true if you sleep in an area of the rig that’s high off the ground, or if you’re not physically able to lower yourself or jump from that height.

It bears repeating that preparedness is everything. An emergency escape ladder under your bed in a box that you’ve never opened is unlikely to save your life. In fact, the opposite could be true.

Practice is the most important aspect of any safety plan, ladder or not. Practice your exit strategy in advance.

What Are the Most Common Areas Where RV Fires Start?

Let’s take a look at the most common reasons for RV fires that could leave you needing an RV escape plan (ladder or not) to get out of and away from a burning rig.

Engine Compartment (Gas and Diesel)

Motorized RVs could have an issue with a fuel or hydraulic leak that could catch fire. 

We’ve heard of these fires starting as a result of wiring damage, possibly due to rodents chewing on them. 

Propane-Powered RV Refrigerator

The typical propane-powered RV refrigerator is one of the most common places for an RV fire to start. Videos of RV fires often show the fridge as the culprit.

One cause of RV fridge fires is a build-up of nests, spider webs, or other debris in the burner area. Check for the presence of these fire hazards behind your fridge regularly, and clean them out as needed.

For more on how RV fridges work, and how they use heat to create cold, see our post on absorption refrigerators.

Open Flame on a Propane Stove

Cooking on a propane stove can present fire hazards due to things like flammable oils and grease.

Also, RV galleys/kitchens are often small enough for paper towels, dishtowels, or potholders to be located close to the stove, near an open flame when you’re cooking. 

A hand towel near the open flame of a propane stove catching fire

A propane stove may ignite flammable items allowed to get too close to the flame.

Other Propane Appliances

As with an RV fridge, nests and other debris can accumulate where your RV water heater or furnace exhaust to the outside.

Take care to either install screens in these locations and/or periodically check for build-up. Various types and sizes are widely available and not very expensive. 

Check the exhaust areas on your particular RV for the correct screen types and sizes, likely something like these:

RV Furnace Vent Screen for RV Water Heater Vent Cover, RV Bugs Screen, Flying Insect Screen, Stainless Steel Mesh with Installation Tool
  • 【Package Include】: 1x RV Water Heater Screen( 8.5''x 6''x1.3''), 1x RV Water Heater Screen (4.5" x 4.5" x 1.3") , 2 x RV Furance Screen( 2.8" x...
  • 【RV Insect Screen 8.5" x 6" x 1.3"】 : Compatible with Atw-ood 6 & 10 Gallon and Sub-urban 6 Gallon water heater vents. Easy to install: It comes...

Electrical Systems

RVs generally have not one, but two electrical systems (12V DC and 120V AC) where wiring could short.

Battery compartments, fuse panels, inverters, and other electrical distribution areas can all be subject to fires.


And finally, a generator can be a source of fire.

Anywhere on your RV where there’s a spark, propane, or fuel is an area where combustible elements can cause a fire.

Examples of RV Escape Ladders

If you decide that an RV emergency escape ladder is right for you and your situation, let’s take a look at some options.

The main thing to keep in mind is that any ladder should be quickly deployable. That may require them to be kept (or pre-installed) in a strategic location for quick use in an emergency.

EMEKIAN Emergency Fire Escape Ladder

This 6.6-foot (2M) model is a flame-resistant rope ladder. It can be modified for the specific length you need for use with your RV.

It’s important to note that with this type of flexible rope ladder (and with the emergency ladder we’ll link to after this one), it can be difficult to climb due to the non-rigid sides.

In other words, this type of ladder may be best for the more agile among us.

A big benefit is an ability to permanently install it for quick deployment. In the event of an emergency, you’ll open the window, toss it out, and go.

EMEKIAN Emergency Fire Escape Ladder Flame Resistant Safety Extension Rope Ladder with 2 Hooks, 2 Story Homes Reusable Compact & Portable External Ladder (2M / 6.6FT)
  • ✅HIGH-QUALITY MATERIAL - Our emergency escape rope ladder is made of high-quality polyester material, which is strong sturdy, stable and reusable,...
  • ✅EASY TO DEPLOY - This heavy-duty multifunctional ladder with 2 gourd shape hooks can be quickly deployed from the home window balcony railing in a...

Kidde Fire Escape

This fire escape ladder has a similar design, though it hooks onto the window sill for deployment. It can be modified for appropriate length if needed.

It weighs under 8 pounds and has been tested to hold up to 1,000 pounds, but again… this model has flexible sides that can make it more difficult to use, especially for a less-agile RVer.

Kidde Fire Escape Ladder, 2-Story Rope Ladder, Extends to 13-Feet, Anti-Slip Rungs
  • Easy to use fire ladder - attaches quickly to most common windows (up to 11 inches deep & 16 inches wide) before rungs are released - works on...
  • No assembly required

DasMarine 4 Step Ladder

This marine ladder offers a different approach but isn’t actually designed for RV use. That means it won’t be suitable for all RV applications but may be perfect for some.

This is a 4-step ladder that may be able to be permanently mounted for quick deployment in some situations. (Note that you may need to modify the mounting system for an RV application.)

This is a marine-grade stainless steel telescoping ladder designed to fold over a boat platform for swimming. The strap that secures the rungs is easily released for quick deployment.

Again, this ladder wasn’t designed for use with an RV, but may work really well in some situations. Check your rig to see if it might be right for you.

DasMarine 4 Step Ladder 316 Stainless Steel Telescoping Ladder, Telescoping Folding Over Platform Boarding Swim Step Ladder with Built in Handle, 900 lbs. Capacity with Secure Strap
  • 【OEM Quality】: Constructed of marine grade 316 stainless steel and have a proofload to support even the biggest swimmer. Each step has a...
  • 【Build in Handle】: The ladder has a built in handle,which make the ladder much stable, the telescoping steps on this boat ladder fold quickly and...

ISOP Fire Rescue Ladder

This fire escape ladder weighs 8 pounds and has a 330-pound load capacity. 

It’s 13 feet long, but could likely be modified for a shorter length, which would be better for RV use.

There are a couple of nice things about this type of ladder.

First — it could conceivably be permanently installed, and then simply be flipped out the open window in an emergency situation.

Second — the rungs have stabilizers that prevent them from simply hanging against the surface of the RV. That provides more room for your feet to step safely on the rungs for an easier descent.

But again, this is a soft-sided rope-type ladder, which may not be the easiest to use for less-agile RVers.

ISOP Fire Ladder 2 Story Window 13ft | Retractable Ladder for Second Floor Window | Lightweight, Compact & Portable | Rescue Rope Ladder Suitable for Balcony & Windows Escape
  • Gentle to hands. When creating these fire ladder 2 story window, we considered the flaws of our competitors. The bestsellers such as first alert and...
  • Integral straps. Again, comparing our ladders to competitors, it should be noted that, unlike others, from top end to the bottom our ladders consist...

LUISLADDERS Telescoping Ladder

You may have seen our post on collapsible ladders, where we highlighted the 16.5-foot PEAYLI Telescoping Extension Ladder.

PEAYLI also makes a shorter version of their collapsible ladder (12.5 ft) which is still quite long for use as an RV fire escape ladder, but a shorter collapsible ladder could come in handy.

This 6.5-foot telescoping ladder from LUISLADDERS could be just the ticket. A ladder like this one could be stored beneath any window and extended for a safe descent to the ground.

Again, you’d want to practice extending the ladder rapidly, setting it against the RV, and stepping out the window (backward) onto the first rungs while holding onto the window sill.

There are some telescoping ladders that have hooks at the top for hooking to the sill, which could be a nice feature depending on the sill and setup.

This particular ladder is short enough that it could even be quickly deployed inside the RV, the window opened, and the ladder set against the RV.

Again, the key is to practice using any RV fire escape ladder you choose to have on hand.

LUISLADDERS Telescoping Ladder Multi-Use Telescopic Extension Ladder One-Button Retraction Anti-Pinch and Anti-Slip 330 Lb Capacity (6.5 Feet)
  • One Botton for Easy Close : When closing, keep the switch of each step in the closed state, and then press the one-botton contraction switch, the...
  • Portable and Space Saving: Lightweight and compact size, easy to transport and store; a heavy duty securing strap secures the ladder firmly and with...

Check Your RV’s Detectors Regularly!

As we conclude this post on RV escape ladders, we’ll take the opportunity to remind you about the importance of regular maintenance of your RV detectors.

This is the first order of business in preventing the need for an RV fire escape ladder. If your smoke detector does its job, you may well be able to step out the door to safety, or even put the fire out before it gets too big.

See our post on 13 things you didn’t know expire on your RV, as well as our post “What Is an RV Propane Detector?

Remember that smoke detectors require batteries, and propane detectors have a specific lifespan. Time to replace yours with a fresh one? No problem! Follow along as we replace ours in this how-to video:

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Gay Traveler (Jason)

Saturday 17th of February 2024

Every RV needs to come standard with an emergency ladder, or any means to escape in case of fire, electrical short, or smoke. If yours doesn't, why the hell not?


Sunday 18th of February 2024

I guess the figure many people can just hang out over the sill of the emergency escape window and drop a couple/few feet to the ground. Of course less able-bodied RVers might have an issue with that.

John S.

Friday 17th of February 2023

In a fire emergency it would take an extraordinarily calm and experienced person to use the escape ladders you have described.

As you know I did emergency training twice a year for decades and got to see dozens of real live emergency videos. Watching those videos it still amazes me how easy it is for even experienced fully trained people to do the wrong thing, do it too quickly and mess up or sometimes just freeze.

These emergency escape ladders are a good idea, in the right emergency. For example a tree falling on the RV blocking the door. Or a chemical spill blocking the door.

But heavy smoke and fire? Every second counts and I would not waste five seconds fiddling with a ladder. I'd open the emergency window and exit feet first facing inwards.


Friday 17th of February 2023

That level of practice is exactly why the airlines have such good track records (generally speaking). But keep in mind that not all RVers are as able-bodied, John. So exiting feet first out an emergency exit window likely isn't going to work for them, either.

Gay Travel Enthusiast (Jason)

Friday 17th of February 2023

Hey guys. I hope you're safe. Great idea. While it's a good idea to have something to prevent a fire from engulfing an RV, it's also a great idea to have a means of escape in case the fire becomes out of control. Your lives are more important the RV. While it can get expensive, you can buy another motorhome, you can't buy another Peter or John.

Gay Travel Enthusiast (Jason)

Saturday 18th of February 2023

@TheRVgeeks, I agree. If you can save your stuff, you should, such as your wallets. But other things aren't as important saving your own skin or your partner's.


Friday 17th of February 2023

LOL, thanks Jason! Too many people get caught up with "saving their things" in the event of an emergency and lose precious time needed to save their own lives.

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