Its getting colder, so be careful with space heaters

Steveo4090

Super Active Member
Jun 26, 2020
848
Lancaster PA
So, just as a friendly reminder, please be very careful with space heaters in your campers. Use a ceramic type heater vs a metal coil just to be more careful.

This (see below) is the result of the camper right next to my site from a couple weekends ago. We camp with a good sized group from my parents Sunday school class in the spring and fall. The camper went up like a box of matches. Other than a 1 lb propane bottle popping (pressure relief valve) and the tires blowing, it was just a straight up fire. We had 3 water hoses on the front propane tank for about 15-20 minutes until the 3 fire departments showed up simultaneously. Various people used at least a dozen fire extinguishers on the camper, but they had very little effect. Even the 4 large, full size ones didn't slow it for long. They're really only good up to a certain point in the fire. After that it's either going to burn out or you need a fire hose.

20221010_164710.jpg

No one was hurt thank goodness. They had turned the space heater on for their 2 grandkids, just to warm up the camper before they went to bed. Not totally sure how it happened, but they're are sure it was the older style space heater

The owners truck had some damage from the heat, but he was able to move it quickly. His wifes minivan did not fare as well since its keys were in the camper and it was locked. It was parked between my camper and their's and luckily they were able to attach a tow strap around the front axle and drag it away. The driver's side was very melted and the heat broke the back side window out. I can't really express how hot this fire was. I was as far away as I could be and still have water from my hose get to the propane tank and I still had what felt like wind burn on my face. It was so hot that all the aluminum pieces melted into puddles. I don't ever remember the roof collapsing, it was apparently just eviscerated by the flames.

Also, please make sure your smoke alarms work. His didn't as far as I heard and I was outside at my fire ring, so I should have heard it. So camping friends, please be careful this fall and do whatever you can to be as safe as possible.
 

jonkquil

Super Active Member
Jul 20, 2009
897
Oh my gosh, how awful, i'm so sorry for the owners! That's really sad to see but relieved that no one was hurt. I think this serves as a lesson to all of us, to be cautious with heat/flames. If you find out what type of space heater it was I'd be interested to know.
 

tfischer

A bad day camping beats a good day at the office
That's really scary. A smoke alarm was one of the first things I added when we got our pup. I later upgrade it to a smoke & CO alarm.

I wonder what's considered an "older style" space heater? I have one we sometimes bring... I consider it "modern" but it's actually probably 20+ years ago because I bought it for my office desk years ago and that's how long ago I worked at that office.

Chances are someone accidentally draped a towel or shirt or something over the space heater. That's a pretty common way fires start. Any space heater from the 70s on should shut down if tipped over.
 

djmello99

Active Member
Feb 19, 2013
157
Anthem, AZ
Sad to see for sure but thanks for sharing so that others don’t have the same misfortune. I’m very glad to hear no one was hurt or killed.
 

freshme4t

Member
Aug 2, 2022
31
Southeast, PA
Pretty sure I know the answer already, but I have a Pelonis oil style radiator space heater that I was planning on using in the PUP this weekend on our first camping trip. My question is, is this considered relatively safe? We plan on using it at night to sleep as the temps are supposed to be in the low 40s/high 30s. Will this do the job or should we expect to have to use the propane furnace? I know many ppl use the furnace, but I still don't like the idea of having any type of flame nearby when we're sleeping.
 

Sjm9911

Super Active Member
May 31, 2018
12,585
Nj
Oil filled are safest. Biggest thing is to make sure they have an auto shut off if tipped over. Don't have it around combustibles, so under the curtains is a no ,no. And make sure people dont kick it under stuff when getting up on the middle of the night. Check the smoke and co detectors before using.
 

freshme4t

Member
Aug 2, 2022
31
Southeast, PA
Oil filled are safest. Biggest thing is to make sure they have an auto shut off if tipped over. Don't have it around combustibles, so under the curtains is a no ,no. And make sure people dont kick it under stuff when getting up on the middle of the night. Check the smoke and co detectors before using.
Cool thanks for the reply. Hopefully that will kick off enough heat to keep us comfortable in the high 30s. We also have heated mattresses so that will help.
 

Sjm9911

Super Active Member
May 31, 2018
12,585
Nj
To add, try to plug the heater directly into the 20 amp for the ac. Your not supost to use extention cord, but you can if they are rated for the wattage. They dont want you to over load the outlet, or cheap homeowner cords.
 

Sjm9911

Super Active Member
May 31, 2018
12,585
Nj
And glad no one was hurt. Remember the small extinguisher in the cabin is just for that, small fires that haven't really started yet. If the fire is bigger, get out , and stay back.
 

tfischer

A bad day camping beats a good day at the office
should we expect to have to use the propane furnace? I know many ppl use the furnace, but I still don't like the idea of having any type of flame nearby when we're sleeping.

Minnesotan here... we use gas for everything lol. I know I'm probably not going to convince you, but the ability to use flames safely in appliance was mastered decades ago. These devices have flame sensors, sail sensors for proper airflow, etc. and will shut down if there's any problems. The furnace is likely safer than any electric heater you'll use, because heaters draw a LOT of power which can heat up older electrical outlets, etc and cause fires, and the camper furnace is much less likely to cause a surface ignition fire (e.g. you draped a towel over it) than a portable heater.
 

Steveo4090

Super Active Member
Jun 26, 2020
848
Lancaster PA
Minnesotan here... we use gas for everything lol. I know I'm probably not going to convince you, but the ability to use flames safely in appliance was mastered decades ago. These devices have flame sensors, sail sensors for proper airflow, etc. and will shut down if there's any problems. The furnace is likely safer than any electric heater you'll use, because heaters draw a LOT of power which can heat up older electrical outlets, etc and cause fires, and the camper furnace is much less likely to cause a surface ignition fire (e.g. you draped a towel over it) than a portable heater.
I totally agree that it's the safest... usually. Just need to maintain it properly as well. Personally we don't use the furnace because it turns on and off all night and wakes people up (my wife and I mainly lol). It also sucks down the propane like a pig. If it's cold enough that the space heater and electric mattress heaters don't keep up, I will turn it on.

As far as oil filled radiator style space heaters, they're very safe as long as there's plenty of room all the way around them. We used to use that type to heat our various rooms in our house. In a pop up, I'd be tempted to put it on top of the dinette since our pup didn't have enough clear floor space for me to feel safe.

I think the ceramic type heater for a pop up is great just because the housing is pretty cool to the touch and it won't spark accidentally like a metal coil filament can.
 

Steveo4090

Super Active Member
Jun 26, 2020
848
Lancaster PA
One last thing is that the owners of the pop up still had it insured and the insurance company was actually good to them with the price offered for the camper and the van. The van was totalled as well.

We also ended up taking the entire remains of the camper and stripping it down to the metal frame and wheels. Everything fit into a smaller dumpster that the campground offered to them to use. Another person in the group went home and got his flatbed trailer that we loaded the frame onto. I'm still surprised it all fit in the dumpster...
 

Sjm9911

Super Active Member
May 31, 2018
12,585
Nj
In the pop up , I put the ceramic heater in the old metal milk crate on the table. Kept the kido from tipping it over going to the bathroom.
 

jmkay1

2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah
Oct 10, 2013
7,989
Northern Virginia
Glad no one is hurt. Campers burn mighty quick and usually doesn’t smolder long before it turn Into something more concerning. My ceramic heater has a tip feature and I put it in the center of my table away from everything. i also use my furnace on the camper. The ceramic heater i Use to supplement the furnace so I’m not going through as much propane.
 

J Starsky

Super Active Member
Aug 3, 2017
1,427
East Central MN
Minnesotan here...

We were in Florida about 20 years ago. Local News was running "Space Heater Safety" videos all day. It was 40-50 degrees. I was wearing shorts, driving a convertible rental car, going on water rides at Disney.

A good warning either way. But, here in MN, we don't warn folks about space heaters until it's 32 degrees and dropping [LOL]
 

Steveo4090

Super Active Member
Jun 26, 2020
848
Lancaster PA
I'm in PA, so not quite as cold as Minnesota but I pretty much wear shorts all year long. The cold here doesn't bother me usually. I would have been in the convertible along with you lol.

I remember the Florida people coming to college in Southern Virginia. When fall started they were in winter coats and gloves. All what you're used to I guess.
 




Top