Caravan fires. We don’t want to believe that our own pride and joy could be affected by fire, but the harsh truth is that they can and do happen. Whether sparked by a rare malfunction in the electrical system, or perhaps an accident involving the gas cooktop, it’s essential to be prepared for such an eventuality.
WHAT IS REQUIRED
In truth, the law does not mandate a great deal on this front. Revision 6 of the Vehicle Standards Bulletin 1 – Trailers with an Aggregate Trailer Mass of 4.5 Tonnes or Less stipulates that a caravan with a single compartment must be fitted with at least one fire extinguisher, while a ‘multi-compartment’ caravan must be fitted with a minimum of two fire extinguishers.
In all cases, these fire extinguishers must have a minimum rating and classification of 1A:5B. Fire extinguishers in Australia come in six main types: water, foam, carbon dioxide or wet chemical, dry powder and vaporising liquid.
Knowing how to effectively fight a small fire requires knowledge of the different fire types and using the correct fire extinguisher for that fire. The 1A:5B rating and classification of the extinguishers required for caravans is reference to the type of fire likely to occur in a caravan.
Needless to say, fire-extinguishers (as well as fire blankets, if supplied/fitted) must adhere to the relevant Australian Standard for such equipment. In this case, it’s AS 244-1985 – Portable Fire Extinguishers and Fire Blankets – Selection and Location.
While fire blankets are not a requirement set down by VSB 1, it does recommend that they are fitted to caravans that have cooking appliances installed. According to the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service, fire blankets – when used correctly – offer one of the safest ways to extinguish a flammable liquid burning in a container, such as oil or fat burning in a saucepan.
Further, caravans that are intended for travelling in remote areas are recommended to be fitted out with additional fire-fighting equipment; however, VSB 1 doesn’t stipulate this as a requirement. Rather, the onus appears to be either on the manufacturer to provide the extra equipment, or on the owner to fit their rig out accordingly before they head into remote areas. It’s worth remembering, though, that fire extinguishers can be quite heavy. Any owner-provided fire-fighting equipment (i.e., not provided by the caravan manufacturer at the time of construction) must be factored in as payload.
Additionally, VSB 1 only recommends the fitment of smoke alarms; however, these are largely required by the states and territories across Australia anyway. Besides which, smoke alarms are so inexpensive that there’s really no excuse not to fit one.
Note: this article is not intended to offer advice on how to fight fires in a caravan or in the home. Rather, it is intended to aid potential caravan purchasers understand the fire-fighting equipment that must be fitted to a caravan and what is recommended.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Max Taylor has been caravanning since he was a kid and was the editor of some of Australia’s most well-known RV publications for almost 10 years.