In this deeply emotional episode, Stuart takes us on a journey through one of the most challenging experiences of his RV life. A fire that not only tested his resolve but reshaped his perspective. Dive in as he recounts the harrowing moments, the split-second decisions, and the profound lessons learned as he helped a family as their trailer burned to the ground.
- The Day of the Fire: Stuart paints a vivid picture of the day, from the first whiff of smoke to the roaring flames. What went through his mind? How did he react?
- Decisions in the Heat of the Moment: Faced with a rapidly escalating situation, Stuart had to make choices that would impact not just his RV, but that of those who lived in the RV and those close to it. Discover the thought process behind these crucial decisions.
- Life After the Blaze: The fire left more than just physical scars. Stuart delves into the emotional aftermath and the changes he’s made since that fateful day.
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A fire broke out in a trailer just a few spots down from me. This is what happened, and what I did, and what I learned during this chaotic time. Welcome to the RV Dreaming Podcast. Welcome to RV Dreaming. In this podcast, we help you prepare for life on the road. Whether you're in an RV, van, or in the back of your car, we teach you how to get on the road and how to survive your first year as a full time nomad. RV Dreaming. Start here. Go anywhere. How you doing, everyone? My name is Stuart from Stuart Doing Stuff on Instagram. I've been a nomad since 2020, and I split my time between my 40 foot Super CR V and my 24 foot Sprinter van. I travel with my two cats, Camden and Izzy, and you can follow me on Instagram at Stuart Doing Stuff for more stories and videos. So today we're going to talk about something that I think if you ask any rv or what is your worst fear being on the road Fire breaking out in your rv and just totally taking it over is going to be the number one Answer you're going to get I think no matter how brave somebody is fire is just something that still terrifies everybody because you just can't control it. A lot of times you can't predict it and a lot of times it happens so fast you don't even know that it happened and that's exactly. The experience I had when I was staying at a campground in Las Vegas, I was sitting down to record a podcast, and all of a sudden, I had my windows open, and all of a sudden I started smelling smoke, like campfire smoke, like, you know, the smell of things burning. different than other smells. And my first thought was, Whoa, wait, what is that smell? It's really strong. So my first thing is fortunately I'm in a van so I can just look left, look right. And I can see that there's nothing in my rig that's burning. That was my first thing that I popped my head out my back window. And I looked at my, you know, the pedestal where you plug in your power because I thought, well, maybe that might be something. So I looked at that and that was fine. And then I kind of dismissed it. I kind of went, well, maybe someone just. Starting a campfire and they're, you know, I'm in a campground, there's a lot of kids, it's a weekend. But then I realized, duh, I'm in like freaking Las Vegas. It's 90 something degrees out outside in the middle of the day. No one, no one is starting a campfire right now. And so I was like, wait, what's going on? So I kind of took my head and I looked around my other window and that's when I saw it., There is a trailer that was about five or six spaces down from me and the back part was just flaming. You could see smoke coming out of the front door, you could see smoke coming out of the windows, and at that point, I could see... Flames as well some orange, you know kind of flame so I threw my headphones off because I was recording the podcast and I put some shoes on and I ran over to where the Trailer was to see if there was anybody inside and as I got really close, I'm talking maybe about 10 feet from the trailer I saw this little girl and she was just standing there. She was all alone and she wasn't Doing anything she was just standing there like frozen and I grabbed her and I talked to her and I said hey Hey, little girl. Is this your trailer? Do you do you live here? And she goes? Yes. I was like, well, where's your mommy and your daddy? She goes, I don't know and I said, well, do you have any brothers or sisters inside and she goes no and I said, okay Well, why don't why don't you just come with me? And so I grabbed her and I grabbed her hand and then I walked her back behind my rig and there were some other people That were gathering so I found a family that had something and and I said this this is a girl that lives in the trailer Can you watch her? While I go back and they're like, yeah, we'll watch her. We'll keep her safe. So I went back over there to look. And by now the fire is even more engulfed and it's even hotter. So I was like, okay, I got to go get my fire extinguisher. I, and I thought at this point, and we're maybe less than a minute into the fire. We're maybe like 30, 45 seconds from the time that I started smelling smoke to this point. Okay. So I ran back to my van and I went to go get my fire extinguisher. I knew exactly, I knew exactly where this thing was. It's right behind my passenger seat, right by the sliding door. Easy to get to. I ran back to my van, I opened the sliding glass door, or the sliding door, and I went to go get the fire extinguisher. But here's the problem. Behind my seat, I happened to have a lot of crap in my van at the time, so my fire extinguisher was buried. So for me to be able to get to that fire extinguisher, I had tomove my toolbox... There was a case of soda that was sitting in the back there. There was some other dirty clothes that was just kind of piling up in that corner over there. I had to move all this stuff, and then I got to the fire extinguisher, but it was stuck. I couldn't get the clip. The clip was broken. It wasn't... I wasn't able to get it off right away. I had to break the clip to be able to get the fire extinguisher off of the back of the wall. That process of moving all that stuff and getting that fire extinguisher probably was another 20 to 25 seconds. And by the time I grabbed that thing and I turned around and I started heading back to the trailer that was on fire... It was completely engulfed. There were flames coming out of the front door. The smell of that smoke was just so overwhelming. The heat was getting stronger and stronger. And just as I start getting over there and I'm there, I realized my little fire extinguisher is not going to do anything at this point. It could have started, it could have helped at the beginning. But now this thing is, is all gone. There's no way that I can do anything. And just as I was having that kind of revelation, coming around the backside, so this would have been the driver's side of the trailer, um, I saw the mom, and mom's screaming and yelling, Where's my baby? Where's my baby? So I grabbed her, I grabbed the mom, and said, She's over there, we got her safe, she's okay. So the mom ran over to the kid and was okay. And dad was over there hooking up a garden hose on the driver's side of the trailer. He was taking one of those garden hoses and trying to get, and that also did nothing. That was... A futile, it was a nice try, but it, it, it, it, it, it made no difference at all. This thing was engulfed. And what made it worse is even after the fire started and it started coming out of the roof, they were parked under a tree and then that tree caught fire and that thing just started whoosh. I mean, we're talking Vegas, you know, so it was dry. It was hot. And that, when that tree caught fire, that's when I think a lot of panic from some of the other camps started setting in. People were starting to move their rigs. Cars were starting to get pulled away. We were trying to create a path for the fire trucks, which had still not arrived. And it was, um, it got... Really, really, really intense, really fast. We're talking, this was only two minutes into this, I would say, that all this started happening. So then, we had to kind of take a step back and go, Listen, we're not going to be able to get anything in there. So we're looking at the situation. It was a trailer, it was probably about 30 feet, maybe 28 feet longer. So it was an older one. And then right in front, there were two cars. There's an SUV and a sedan car that was parked. And I asked the wife, I said, do you guys have propane? She goes, yes, the tanks are in the front. And so fortunately right now, the fire is still contained to the back and it's moving forward. And my thing is fire gets to the front. You got propane, you got cars, you got gas tanks, you got all this stuff. And people were just kind of standing around watching and recording. And I said. Do you have your car keys? Can we move your cars? And she goes, no, they're inside, they're inside, we can't do it. I said, are your cars unlocked? Maybe we can run and grab one of the cars, put it in a neutral, and push it out of the way. And she goes, I don't know if it's locked or not. And so there was another dude that was just sitting there, or standing there next to me, you know, probably like two or three people away from me. And I said, can you help me? You want to go and push this car? And the dude just kind of goes, nah. He's like, nah, I'm good, man. So I'm like, alright, well, I can't do this on my own. And there's no one else that's able to, everyone else is moving their own stuff. You know, people are breaking down their cars, people are breaking down their camps and moving. Because we were afraid at that time, with that tree going up, that it was going to catch the other trees and it was going to travel around. So I'm looking around, and just kind of looking, and I go, these people are right across the street. And they're in one of those... Big huge fifth wheels one of those big ones and they they're carrying those, you know They're towing with this big Dodge Ram dually trucks or whatever. They they weren't even outside I knew they were home because their trucks were outside, but they weren't outside watching I was like, I wonder if they even know what's going on three spaces down from them So I went over and I banged on their door and I said hey and the door and it's all hey, man You might need to move your, you might want to move your truck, just in case. And the guy's all, what are you talking about? He comes around, he's like, holy crap. And he grabs his keys, and he moves his truck. He had no idea any of this was going on. So as soon as he moved his truck out of the way, he grabbed his garden hose, and then he started hosing down the roof of his... fifth wheel because it by this time it was raining ash that tree was totally engulfed in flames and ash and little bits of Things were coming down on us that could have easily Although unlikely could have started another little fire So he gets up onto onto the roof of his fifth wheel with his hose And just starts hosing everything down and kind of all the stuff that's around and around this time The first fire truck got there, and it's a fire medic it's a fire truck, but it was like an ambulance. It was one of those tinier paramedic, uh, things, but they were fire. They were able to get this. The guy asked me, if I knew where the fire hydrant was, and I said, I I have no idea. I've never come to think of it. I don't think I've ever seen a fire hydrant. Inside of a campground and maybe you have but I haven't but he goes do you know where I can find a fire hydrant because this is the truck again. It's an ambulance, but it's a firefighting capability truck, but they don't have their own water so. I don't, they, I don't, I don't remember what they or did or what they didn't do. I don't remember because I said, hey, the wife is over here. She's complaining of chest problems. She's lying on the ground. That's why I went to ask if you were a medic or whatever. So, just after that short amount of time, then the next fire truck comes in here and then more and more and more and all of a sudden Calvary is here. So they put out the rig fire, they put out the tree fire, they put out all the... All the stuff they tend to the wife they they go through this and then during the time where the fire truck started arriving is when the Campground management started showing up on their golf carts and stuff. I guess nobody really informed them or they didn't know Uh, because the campground office is way on the other side But I bet you once the fire trucks and the ambulances and all that other stuff starts rolling through their park, you know They're gonna they're gonna know that they're gonna get picked up on that. So that was it. They got there They put out the fire Everyone was safe, but the trailer was a total wreck. The firefighters were able to get it so that it burned from the back to the front. And about 80 percent of it was totally destroyed and then it was just getting to the front part before the fire was able to be put out. So, the good thing is the two vehicles that were there... They, they were fine. They didn't get hurt at all. The propane tanks were fine. The front cap of the travel trailer was fine. I mean, smoke damage, water damage, all that, but it didn't burn. It wasn't like, you know, things. So, so that was that moment in all of this. Was in the span of, like, under 10 minutes. This happened so fast, you didn't even have time to really comprehend what was going on. And, and I think that was the thing, and now that I've had a chance to kind of stop and think about it and replay it over again in my head, and, and to say, what did I learn from this? Or what, What could I have done better? What could people around me have done better? What could the people who lived in that trailer have done better? You know, I started kind of thinking about this and going, Am I really prepared for an emergency? Or am I as prepared for an emergency as What I thought I would be, and I think that was kind of got me really, really going. So after the everything settled, I started talking to the wife again. I didn't talk to the husband. He was, but I said, What happened? And she said that she was watching TV. They were all watching football. It's a Sunday afternoon. They were watching football. And the husband said, You smell something burning. And she goes, yeah, so he got up off the sofa and went to the back of the trailer where their bathroom is and he opened the door and as soon as he opened the door, that's when whoosh, a huge fireball just overtook the entire trailer and they were gone. The, the mom, dad, and the kid, they just, they just ran out. That was, and they couldn't, and they never went back in. It was that fast of a moment where that fireball comes in and whoosh, that overwhelming heat inside that trailer goes, oh crap, and then they were gone. They were out of the thing. They didn't have shoes on, didn't have jackets. They didn't have anything, but literally the clothes on their back. And that's how I found the little girls just standing right there by the trailer with, you know, barefoot and, and her little, you know, Sunday pajama things, watching the game. That was. That was all they had after this was over, and it, and it happened all in just a matter of seconds. And that was, it's just even thinking about it now, on how fast everything just took place. You've really got to ask yourself, are you, are you really prepared? So, as I kind of go through this in my head, and I'm like, well, what did I hear and what did I not hear? What did I learn? What could I have done better? I, a couple things, okay? When I look back on it, if I saw the fire, which I did, if I had grabbed my fire extinguisher right away and headed over to the trailer, it was small enough to where maybe, maybe my tiny extinguisher or maybe one or two other fire, tiny extinguishers could have gotten the fire out, but my first thought was Is there anybody inside, which is why I took off from my van and went straight to the trailer is to see if anyone needed help getting out, you know, it's an older trailer. You don't know if they're seniors in there. You don't know if there's somebody with mobility issues. You don't know if there's, you know, whatever. So my first thought wasn't grab the fire extinguisher, put out the fire. My first thought was, let's get over there and see if anybody needs to get out, see if anybody needs help getting out. That was where my first thought was, so that's why I ran over there and I found the girl and we moved her to the side. That's why I had to come back to the van to get the fire extinguisher, because now that I knew everyone was out and everyone was away from the fire, then it was like, okay, let's put the fire out. Now, was that the right call? I don't know. You, you tell me, because I could have grabbed my fire extinguisher, and headed straight over, but my, that wasn't my first thought. My first thought was. Is there anybody inside they need to get out? And then I, I think even my thought may have been, the fire's not that big right now. I can get in there and help somebody get out if they need it. And somebody else can help with the fire. I don't, I don't, I don't exactly remember the, all the thoughts that were going through my head. I just remember, if there's someone in there, they need to get out. And that was, that was where my mindset went first. Not, put out the fire. It was, get people out. So, I noticed that. As I started processing things more, another thing I didn't no another thing that I noticed that I didn't notice at the time, if that makes sense, is I didn't hear a fire alarm. Normally, in a trailer with all that smoke, you'd be hearing a fire alarm go off. Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, and I didn't hear that. Like, I was cooking one day in my van, um, with the air fryer, and the air fryer set off my fire alarm on my van, and I had somebody from my neighbors come over and knock on my van just to make sure everything was okay. So, these things are loud, and when you're, you're, when you're tucked in as tight as you are, especially at this campground that I was at in Las Vegas, you know, you can hear your neighbor's television if they have their windows open. You can hear them screaming and yelling and fighting. You can hear a fire alarm, you know, and I didn't, now that I think about it, I didn't. I didn't hear a fire alarm, so it either melted, which is possible, but I don't remember hearing one at all, uh, during this entire time. Another thing that, I didn't, I don't, I didn't ever even thought about until I said, Can we move your car? Do you have your keys? You know, they're just lounging around, and they didn't have their keys to, to move the vehicles in that event. Their, their instinct was get out, and they didn't grab anything. They didn't grab their wallet, they didn't grab their car keys, they didn't grab their cell phones. Didn't grab anything. Instinct just kicked in and said, I'm out. So, this tells me that, like, if you're trying to, if you think that you're prepared, and you think you know what you're going to do, you're really maybe not as prepared as you think. That you're gonna that you're gonna be and then like mom and dad and the kid she was five years old She's five years old this little girl this little girl mom and dad's their first instinct was to run out I'm sure the kid followed them and mom and dad ran out of the Passenger door out of the door of the trailer and they both went over to go in and try and attach the garden hose because it Wasn't attached already They went over Tried to attach the garden hose to try and get that thing once dad got the hose going and started doing the fire That's when mom came around and said where's my baby? So even mom's first impression was Put out the fire or get the garden hose or something. They didn't even know where their child was. Like, there could have been another baby in there. And that's why I asked, is there anyone else inside? You know, I didn't know if there was anyone else in there. And mom and dad, I'm looking around going like, well, where are they? They're not here. And now that I'm saying this story again, it's like, I was gonna say, mom and dad may have just left this kid at home alone, or maybe they're at the pool or doing laundry or something, but I got, I remember there were two cars there, so I'm like, they gotta be here. Where are they? I didn't see them. At all. Until after I got the kid to safety, and I grabbed my fire extinguisher, and then I went back over there. So that was, all of this just happened so fast, and, and, and I just can't even, uh, think about it. So, all of this just kind of gives me a second to think. Ever since this moment, I relocated my fire extinguisher. So it's still in the same spot behind the back seat, but I moved it. Into a pocket that I had, um, so I got, on the back of my passenger seat, I got one of those, uh, shoe racks, you know, where they have little pouches where you put your shoes in them, they go over the back of a door or something in a home. So I had one of those and I use it for storage. So I moved my fire extinguisher from the clip that was attached to the back of the seat and I put it in one of those, uh, pockets. So that way, if I need it, I can just grab it, it's always there. It's in the same spot. Behind the seat, but I don't I don't have to grab it anymore I checked the expiration date and I noticed it didn't have one. I think it's okay But I made it more available and more accessible and more quickly accessible Ever ever since then the other thing I recommend that You do is if you can go to Amazon. I did this too and look up fire bags. These are some amazing fireproof bags that you can put your possessions and your Important documents in so I put like my passport inside of my fire bag. I put all my spare keys I put a lot of the the stuff that you need. I put some cash in there as well It's a small amount just in case I need like a hotel room or something like that. I've got multiple credit cards, a lot of them that I don't use but are active, so I put those in there as well because if you need to, something happens and, and you need to go and get a rental car, you need to go get a hotel room, at least I have my credit cards with me. That I can use to be able to do that. So even if I don't have my phone for Apple pay or whatever, I have some form of payment. I have my passport card and some old credit cards that are still working that I can use to be able to in a pinch survive. You know, if you have medications that you have, you need to put some medications in that fire bag as well and put it in a spot that. Is safe, put it in a spot that you know, that you can grab it. And that's the thing. If you have to leave your rig, just like this family did you, you're not going to think about grabbing your phone, your keys, your shoes, your wallet. You're not going to think about it. You're only going to think about get the heck out. And that's what you should do. Just get the heck out. So once the fire department got there, once everything gets out in the fire, hopefully that fire bag will preserve many of your important documents that you'll need to be able to. at least for the short term interim, take care of your needs. Uh, while we were doing that, and, and, and, this is what was great about the community of the people that were all at the RV park, is we all, we all experience, you know, different kind of events when we're on the road. While the firefighters were still fighting the fire, this thing was still going. Still, you know, flaming while they were doing that there was a group of ladies that actually already were on the phone with the American Red Cross. They were already on the phone with all these aid people to come out because mom was hysterical during this entire time. They were full time in this thing and everything they had within it. So there was a group of people that were there making phone calls to these organizations while that thing was still burning. That was, they, they had that foresight to say, I can't help. Put out the fire, but I can't help them with what's next and there were aide workers on site within probably about two or three hours from the time that the fire department left. So that was great work from the American Red Cross and the people that were making those calls on behalf of the family to get them set up with food, shelter, clothing, everything they needed for that night and the next, you know, several days that's going on so. Look, so, look at your firebag, and know that you need to put stuff in it, and if you just need to get out, know that, like, think about it, if you had to start over today, if you had nothing, if you were in their shoes, and you just ran out of your rig, with nothing on, but the clothes on your back, what would you need? ID. Credit card. Backup cell phone maybe? I don't know. Documents? Insurance documents? Prescriptions? Um, have those in your go bag. Have them in the fire bag. Ready, ready to go. What about your fire extinguisher? When was the last time you checked the expiration date on it? When was the last time you took it off of the wall and learned how to attach it to the wall and check the hinges and, and all that? And... Did you fall into the same trap that I did, where I know where it is, but through just the course of life, it got buried, it got pushed away, it got pushed back, and it made it inaccessible, and it took me time, you know, precious seconds to be able to retrieve that. That was, um, that was the learning experience for me. That was, uh, that was something else. Um, another thing, if you're really concerned about fire and you should always be concerned about fire, there's a solution that I was looking at when I first started RVing in my super C and that's called Proteng fire solution, it's P R O T E N G. And what this is, is think of it. It's like a road flare. It's about the size of a road flare and you put it where fires. start. You put one in the engine compartment. Maybe you put one by your generator. You put one during your, where your circuit breakers are. And this thing... If it senses heat, or there's a triggering mechanism, I forget what it is, it's either heat, or fire, or flame, or something. Um, as soon as it reaches that point, the device explodes, and it just sends fire retardant chemicals all over whatever the thing is, and it stops the fire. Even before it starts, so it works when you're at your rig, and when you're not at your rig, it works whether you're aware of it, as a matter of fact, they were telling me that this thing will work and go off before you even knew there was a fire, so if you're really concerned about that, look into the Proteng, and I'm sure there's others, but that's just the one that I remember, and I'm not supported or endorsed or anything affiliated with them, I just, that, they're just the ones that I remember going to the seminars and, and learning about them, P R O T E N G, um, they're expensive, But think about the alternative as well, as to the cost of, of what. other options maybe out there. So, so think about that. And there's also fire blankets. And when you have a fire blanket, it's, it's just a simple blanket that just hangs somewhere easily accessible. You pull out the thing from the bottom and then you just put it over the top of the fire. And this is especially useful in, uh, kitchen fires. So as I was researching RV fires, one of the things I saw, and this was a house fire video where there's a fire that starts on the stove, maybe too much grease or whatever, and you take the pan and people will take the pan and they'll move it away from the stove. But there was one video I saw, and I don't mean to laugh and make light of it, but they moved it from the stove to the countertop, but where the countertop was, there was, it was, there was a window and there was. Curtains hanging off that window, the flames from the pan moved over to the fire or moved over to the curtains and it set the whole kitchen up. That's where a fire blanket would come in handy. You know, where instead of having to move open flame from one place to another where you can drop it, it could spill or it can, you know, the flames could catch something else. Just take that fire blanket and throw it right on top of whatever is on fire and that will take care of it. So a fire blanket would be really good to have as well. If you're in a space where you can use it, and you know that that's an issue. Especially for a lot of us that have propane rigs, and propane stoves, and all that. You could be cooking up some bacon in the morning, and some grease. Catches fire, and it just gets too hot, and whoosh, next thing you know, there everything goes. So, that's an important thing, if you can have a, if you can have that as well. That would be, Really beneficial and I'm sure there's a lot of other things that you can have that can prevent fires or different tools my impression from What happened with the father is when he opened that door and that flame, you know Caught that the the fire caught that oxygen when the door opened and it just fireballed out through the rig I think you learned this in elementary school, where you feel the door. If you think there's a fire, you feel the door and you see if it's hot. And if it's hot, don't open it. Like, there's some common, basic stuff that was there. I'm assuming that he left the door open. I'm wondering if when that flame If he closed that bathroom door again and isolated that fire, if that was even a possibility, um, that could have stopped something. So, I don't know. All that's hypothetical. All I know is that I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was, and I thought I was pretty well prepared. And now I start questioning, did I do things in the right order? You know, like I said, my first thought was, Is there anyone in there? We need to get them out. Not. Let's put out the fire and you just don't know how you're going to react until you're in that kind of situation and I'd Love to hear from you. If you've been in a similar situation, how did you react? What did you do with my thought process, right? Was it wrong? I don't know. That's just what happened The moral of the story here is everyone's okay and stuff can be replaced, but it's still a traumatic event Especially for this five year old that's gonna carry that memory for with her for the rest of her life. So I'd love to hear your comments on it. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave them in the comments. Go to our Facebook page and our RV Dreaming pages, and let me know what your thoughts are. Uh, email firstname.lastname@example.org at rvdreaming. tv. I just, you know, this is one of those things that I just would love to hear what you think, how you prepare, and if you've had similar situations, alright? So, thank you for listening to the RV Dreaming podcast. If you've liked what you heard or you got something out of this episode, please take a moment and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts Spotify. It helps us get more exposure and it helps more people just like you to thrive on the road. So, enjoy your travels, make them safe, make them fun, and make them memorable. RV Dreaming, start here. Go anywhere. We'll see you in the next episode. Thanks for listening to the RV Dreaming Podcast. See the action on Instagram, Stewart doing Stuff, hear about it on the podcast. Be sure to subscribe. We'll see you in the next episode.