The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires that all RVs be equipped with at least one RV fire extinguisher. But we recently decided to upgrade our fire extinguishers to a fully automatic RV fire suppression system.
In this post, we’ll talk about the differences between a traditional fire extinguisher and a fire suppression system and why we decided to move to a suppression system despite having carried extinguishers for the past 20 years.
We’ll also share some of the best fire extinguishers for any rig and the RV fire suppression system we chose to protect our own RV.
Fire safety is an important topic (we recently wrote about RV fire escape ladders) so let’s dive right in!
- 1) Why Is Every RV Required to Have a Fire Extinguisher?
- 2) What Are the Areas Most Vulnerable to Fire on an RV?
- 3) What Are the Requirements for Fire Extinguishers on an RV?
- 4) How to Use a Manual Fire Extinguisher
- 5) Portable Fire Extinguishers
- 6) What’s the Difference Between a Fire Extinguisher and an RV Fire Suppression System?
- 7) Our Choice for a Fire Suppression System for Our RV
- 8) Why Proteng Over Other Fire Suppression Systems?
- 9) What’s Your Fire Safety Plan?
- 10) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews, Giveaways & More
Why Is Every RV Required to Have a Fire Extinguisher?
In addition to the requirements mandated by the NFPA, a traditional dry chemical extinguisher is the minimum tool needed to put out several types of fires that can start on an RV.
In addition, an RV fire can move incredibly fast so a rig can be quickly engulfed by fire and smoke.
There are often flammable materials and fuels on board — gas or diesel on a motorhome, and propane on rigs of all types.
So, every RV is required to have at least one extinguisher on board because the ability to suppress a fire as quickly as possible is critical to the safety of those on board.
What Are the Areas Most Vulnerable to Fire on an RV?
There are lots of reasons a fire might start on an RV, and several areas are especially vulnerable.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the most common causes of RV fires are equipment failure or user error (also known as a self-inflicted wound).
As you might assume, a common area where RV fires tend to start is in the kitchen — in particular the propane stove/oven or the RV refrigerator.
Propane-powered RV fridges are a common fire ignition point due to the combination of heat, propane, and electricity used to power them. (Take a look back at our power on RV absorption refrigerators to see how they use heat to keep things cold.)
An engine compartment, generator, electrical components, wheel bearing, tires, brakes, propane RV refrigerator, stove & oven, and propane-fueled water heaters make an RV especially vulnerable to fire.
Add human actions such as smoking, using candles, or even building a campfire too close to an RV and you can see why being adequately prepared to deal with fire is so important.
We’ll let Mac the Fire Guy provide further details about the common causes of RV fires, and then we’ll get into the types of fire extinguishers that are required in various locations.
What Are the Requirements for Fire Extinguishers on an RV?
There are some specific guidelines related to fire extinguishers in every RV. They’re related to the class (type) of extinguisher we need to carry as well as where they should be installed.
Let’s take a look at the NFPA requirements.
Class of Extinguishers
Portable/manual fire extinguishers are rated by class. Each class of extinguisher refers to the substance inside it and what types of fires they’re rated to put out.
We’ll go through the various ratings briefly, but the most important thing for RV owners to know is that the NFPA requires that all RVs have a B/C rated fire extinguisher. Note that there are A/B/C fire extinguishers (tri-class) that are considered multi-purpose and are excellent for RV safety.
Let’s take a quick look at the ratings of portable fire extinguishers and what each one covers.
- Class A – ordinary combustibles (for example wood, paper, textiles, cloth, trash, rubber, and plastics)
- Class B – flammable liquids & gasses such as propane & gasoline, oil-based liquids, solvents, etc.
- Class C – energized electrical equipment such as RV appliances, wiring, motors, controls, etc.
- Class D – metals
- Class K – cooking oils
You can see why the NFPA requires a Class B/C (or A/B/C) extinguisher on every RV just by looking at the class ratings and what types of fires they cover.
A fire at the engine or a propane-powered appliance requires an extinguisher that’s rated to put out fires that originate from flammable liquids (Class B).
An electrical fire on an RV needs to be covered by an extinguisher capable of handling electrical fires (Class C).
According to the NFPA, every fire extinguisher on board an RV should be installed in accordance with NFPA 10 standards. And one extinguisher must be located within 24 inches of the primary exit, which would be considered your primary means of escape.
In most RVs, you’ll find mounts that indicate pre-determined locations for fire extinguishers. It’s important to make sure your extinguishers are mounted in the proper locations and are in working order.
You’ll want to have 3 working fire extinguishers: in your rig’s kitchen, bedroom, and ideally, one in an unlocked outside storage compartment.
For more information including the most recent (2021) NFPA 1192 RV code changes, refer to the following video.
Although portable fire extinguishers aren’t required to be professionally inspected, you should inspect them yourself on a regular basis.
Check the pressure gauge to make sure it’s still in the green.
Also, as you may have seen in our post on 13 things you didn’t know expire on your RV, be sure to check the date on your fire extinguishers. Many have a life expectancy of 10-12 years.
And finally, if a fire extinguisher has been used even once, it needs to be replaced.
How to Use a Manual Fire Extinguisher
Everyone who travels in an RV who’s old enough to handle a fire extinguisher should know how to use one.
The easiest way to remember what to do is with the PASS acronym.
- P – Pull the pin at the top of the fire extinguisher.
- A – Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
- S – Squeeze the handle.
- S – Sweep from side to side until the fire is extinguished.
Stand at least 8 to 10 feet away from a fire if possible. If you’re unable to get the fire under control very quickly, leave the RV immediately and call 911.
If you have a fire that’s too large or out of control to begin with, don’t even try to use your fire extinguisher before getting everyone out of the rig (pets, too!) and calling 911.
Portable Fire Extinguishers
Now let’s take a look at some good portable/manual fire extinguishers that are appropriate for carrying on board an RV.
Choosing a fire extinguisher doesn’t need to be complicated. Any UL-certified, reasonably sized extinguisher of the correct type from a quality manufacturer will do the job.
What’s most important is to place your extinguishers in the proper locations with the included mounting bracket, make sure they’re up to date and in working condition, and take care to teach everyone traveling on board your rig how to use one.
First Alert HOME1
From First Alert, a well-known brand in fire safety since they introduced the home smoke alarm, comes the HOME1, a UL-rated A/B/C fire extinguisher.
These multi-purpose extinguishers are constructed of metal, including the valve and trigger. Their color-coded metal gauge is easy to read.
After use, First Alert’s fire extinguishers are rechargeable (by a professional).
For you boaters out there, First Alert home fire extinguishers are also approved by the U.S. Coast Guard for marine use.
- First Alert's HOME1 FE1A10GR Fire Extinguisher is UL rated 1-A: 10-B:C; it features durable all-metal construction with a commercial-grade metal valve...
- Multipurpose fire extinguisher fights wood, paper, trash, plastics, gasoline, oil, and electrical-equipment fires
If you need several extinguishers around your RV, or one in your truck and a few scattered throughout your travel trailer, these First Alert units are also available in a four-pack.
- MULTIPURPOSE USE| Fights wood, paper, trash, plastics, gasoline, oil, and electrical-equipment fires
- ALL-METAL CONSTRUCTION | UL rated 1-A:10-B:C; durable all-metal construction with a commercial-grade metal valve and trigger
First Alert HOME2PRO
Also from First Alert comes the HOME2PRO.
These portable A/B/C fire extinguishers are larger and heavier than the HOME1 units above, with double the capacity.
In considering these, you’ll want to make sure that those on board the RV are capable of handling an extinguisher that weighs nearly 10 pounds.
- The First Alert HOME2PRO Fire Extinguisher is UL rated 2-A: 10-B:C and meets minimum 2-A: 10-B:C code requirements; It features durable all-metal...
- Heavy-duty fire extinguisher fights wood, paper, trash, plastics, gasoline, oil, and electrical-equipment fires; ideal for offices, homes, and...
First Alert Fire Extinguisher FE5GR, Recreational Vehicle and Marine Fire Extinguisher
These are B/C extinguishers, effective against fires involving flammable liquids or electrical equipment.
They’re noted to be specifically for recreational vehicles and marine use as well as home use.
It comes with a bracket and strap for mounting in an RV or boat, and is rechargeable (again, by a professional).
The agent in these is sodium bicarbonate. They have a metal pull pin with a safety seal.
One difference between this unit and those listed above is this one is B/C rated, not A/B/C.
- Rechargeable REC5 Recreational Fire Extinguisher is UL rated 5-B: C and has a durable metal head, and is ideal for use in your RV
- Designed to fight flammable-liquid and electrical fires; Uses sodium bicarbonate extinguishing agent
Other reputable brands include Amerex and Kidde.
- 6 Year Manufacturer's Warranty when purchased from an authorized distributor
- Mounting bracket is included to easily hang the unit anywhere
What’s the Difference Between a Fire Extinguisher and an RV Fire Suppression System?
An RV fire extinguisher is a hand-held tool that’s used to manually put out a fire that you’ve detected.
It requires a human to both become aware of the fire, and then actively work to put it out.
A fire suppression system automatically detects and extinguishes a fire on your RV — before you may even be aware of it!
This is especially helpful in areas where you might not know a fire had started until it was too late. Examples might include the engine or generator compartment, electrical compartment, propane RV refrigerator, or water heater.
Our Choice for a Fire Suppression System for Our RV
We’ve been talking about installing an RV fire suppression system on our 43′ diesel pusher motorhome for some time.
RV fire safety is serious. We’ve written posts about RV propane detectors, and made a video about propane detector replacement.
And we recently wrote a post on RV escape ladders for those of us with rigs that could leave an occupant needing to escape a burning RV from high off the ground.
We decided to take our RV’s fire prevention and protection to the next level by having a Proteng fully automatic fire suppression system installed on our rig.
As National Indoor RV Centers is the exclusive supplier and installer of Proteng, we had them do the job during a recent chassis service appointment.
Proteng is an automatic fire suppression system that detects and extinguishes fire at its earliest stage — before it gets out of control. Appropriately sized flexible Proteng tubes are installed in high fire-risk areas.
Proteng is a static system. It uses heat-sensitive/heat-activated tubes that are filled with a non-toxic and non-corrosive fire suppression agent (FM-200®) that leaves no residue behind, unlike traditional fire extinguishers.
Proteng offers three types and lengths of THIA tubes, which are chosen based on the area needing protection. (THIA by Proteng is an acronym meaning Tube + Heat = Instant Action.)
The system is able to detect and suppress fires in enclosed areas. We’ve always had some concern about that since RV fires often start in electrical, engine, or generator compartments.
Our favorite feature of Proteng’s RV fire suppression system is that it requires no action from us to operate. It is literally fully automatic. It doesn’t even require us to be on board the RV to do its job.
Now, we don’t travel with pets, but we have many friends who do. A fully automated fire suppression system that works even when a pet owner is off on a hike, having dinner in a restaurant, or simply running errands, offers the gift of peace of mind that no portable fire extinguisher can offer.
Our RV is our full-time home, so a fire suppression system is something we really should have installed a long time ago.
There are other “automatic extinguisher” systems on the market, but many of them have electronics and/or moving parts and require regular maintenance to remain effective. Proteng has no moving parts and nothing to maintain. It’s a dead simple way not to end up dead.
Below are several more photos of Proteng fire suppression system tubes installed in vulnerable areas of our RV:
Why Proteng Over Other Fire Suppression Systems?
In addition to the reasons we’ve noted above, many other RV fire suppression systems offer a single area of detection where they’d release the fire suppression agent.
The Proteng system is a series of tubes that detect fire and release a suppression agent anywhere they’re installed. And since the areas of highest fire risk are the exact places NIRVC puts them, the danger of an RV fire is dramatically reduced.
Essentially, the area of a tube detecting the greatest amount of heat is where the Proteng system releases the FM-200® gas to extinguish the fire.
There are other automatic fire suppression systems on the market that might work well for others. But for us, the Proteng system checks all the boxes and covers the scenarios that concerned us, specifically the small enclosed spaces and high fire-danger areas for which the system is designed.
While no fire safety plan is guaranteed to be 100% effective against all RV fires, we added Proteng because it’s automatic peace of mind, plain and simple.
What’s Your Fire Safety Plan?
Drop us a comment below if you’d like to share your RV fire safety plan with others.
We’d also like to hear from you if you’ve experienced a fire on your RV or if you’ve installed a fire suppression system on your own rig. What did you choose, and (gulp) did it ever go off?!
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Tuesday 21st of March 2023
There was a Class A on fire in the RV Park yesterday. I found a lot of similar items on Amazon. Although one of the places I want to protect are more open than the say are right for these tube suppressors.
Friday 24th of February 2023
Thanks for the article. What did the system cost for your RV?
Saturday 25th of February 2023
@TheRVgeeks, Thank you, my Country Coach is a 45' like yours so probably a good ball park estimate for me. I was taken back by their comment that the system was not a primary protection system, but instead supplementary to somethings else. They say: PROTENG IS AN AUXILIARY AUTOMATIC FIRE SUPPRESSION AND DETECTION DEVICE TO SUPPLEMENT BUT NOT REPLACE ANY FIRE EXTINGUISHING SYSTEMS OR PRODUCTS. THIS PRODUCT IS NOT A FIRE EXTINGUISHING DEVICE AND CUSTOMER SHOULD NOT USE PRODUCT TO REPLACE ITS FIRE EXTINGUISHING SYSTEMS OR TO OTHERWISE MEET FIRE EXTINGUISHING REQUIREMENTS OF LAW.
All caps is their emphasis not mine. How does this affect how you use the product? What is your main protection?
Saturday 25th of February 2023
Hi John! Keeping in mind that the system is HIGHLY customizable and different on every RV, we pulled out ALL the stops to have every single location throughout our rig protected, which was about $4,500 worth of work. But that's almost certainly the most expensive we'd think you could go, since we did it all. It's completely up to each RV owner exactly which areas they're most interested in protecting, and of course smaller or less heavily equipped rigs would surely come in less expensive.
Friday 24th of February 2023
There are also early notification mechanisms; i.e. bluetooth smoke detectors in key chassis or bay positions. We recently bought our Tiffin 33AA all electric which minimizes some likely sources but short of the Proteng expense we are considering early notification and extinguishers as a first step.
Friday 24th of February 2023
We have a 5th wheel. When we contacted Proteng, they informed us that they don’t do 5th wheels. Disappointed to learn that.
Friday 24th of February 2023
I'm surprised to hear that they won't do fifth wheels, Ed. It seems like the same thing as a motorhome. You'd think they'd want to have that additional business available to them. Maybe they'll reconsider that at some point, unless there's something I'm missing here that would make them motorhome-specific.
Friday 24th of February 2023
This article has a lot of sections that are repeating. May want to clean it up a bit.
Friday 24th of February 2023
Hi Mike! We have no idea what caused that repeating, but we've got it fixed. Thanks!