KEYWORDS: fire, tent, fires, stove, trailer, grease

Have Trailer--Will Travel--Part 1: Fires

David Berg

DFO812-113 July 1979

1. LIKE THE OTHER FORMS OF CAMPING‚ TRAILER TRAVEL IS A WHOLE ART IN ITSELF, & particularly the art of buying one & towing one & knowing how to drive one‚ as well a learning to live in one! So the next is mostly about motorised campers & trailers—or caravans, as they are called in Europe—but it's still camping out! As I said, the type of camping equipment you choose depends a great deal on how much camping you are going to do, & where you are going to do it, & how many of you there are, & what you can afford etc.

2. IF YOU ARE ONLY GOING TO BE A SUMMER CAMPER OR A PART-TIME CAMPER, probably the bedroll, sleeping-bag routine, or the car-camping or tent-camping will be sufficient. But if you plan to spend your full-time camping, year–around, Winter & Summer, on the road full-time, really living on the road &/or camped out, then you are going to need a little bit more secure, warmer, drier & a more solid type of camping equipment, since you have become a permanent camper, & you are going to live that way & travel that way full–time.

3. IN THAT CASE‚ YOU NEED SOME KIND OF MOTORISED CAMPER OR TRAILER OR CARAVAN, as they are called in Europe.—They are called trailers only in the United States. Although you can camp out with a car &/or with a tent in the Wintertime—& I have done it—& you can stay warm, it's not easy! We used to have a huge tent, almost like a circus tent, when we were camping out with 125 people on the road for a whole year, & we could sleep about a hundred people in that tent alone! It was a big long tent, & we had stoves in the tent‚ two big heating stoves‚ that kept it nice & warm.

4. SO IT IS POSSIBLE TO CAMP OUT IN A TENT IN THE WINTERTIME, even in the snow & the rain & the cold & freezing weather!—But it has its difficulties, & it takes quite a bit of fuel to heat a tent, because you are constantly losing your heat right through the canvas & all the cracks & crannies & flaps etc., & with no insulation. And you've got to be very cautious how you heat a tent of course, as it can easily catch fire! Of course, this is true of any fire:

5. YOU'VE GOT TO BE CAREFUL & PRAYERFUL HOW YOU HANDLE FIRES!—& nobody should handle the fires except the people who know what they are doing & how to do it! Because it doesn't matter whether you are cooking on a can of Sterno or a campfire or you are using a full–fledged furnace in your trailer—fires are dangerous! Children should not be allowed to play with the fire or even around or near it!

6. YOUR INFLAMMABLE FUEL FIRES ARE THE MOST DANGEROUS OF ALL! I would say a wood fire with a good grill or an open fire–pit is a fairly safe fire, providing you keep children away from it & keep your fire away from overhanging branches & nearby shrubbery that you're apt to catch on fire along with the whole forest! In a wind, try to keep your embers & sparks from blowing & catching the forest on fire‚ because normally you will have a wood fire in a forest where there is plenty of wood—or near a forest, & often plenty of wind!

7. SO THERE IS ALWAYS ALSO THE DANGER OF FIRE, & catching other things on fire which you didn't intend to catch on fire! My father was camping out in a tent in the woods in the hills behind Westmont College in Montecito, California near Santa Barbara‚ an exclusive suburb where he had failed to find reasonable housing nearby. So he just got himself a big 12-foot-by-12-foot Army tent, built a nice strong wooden platform for it well off the ground, & put his tent on it. He had it luxuriously furnished with thick carpets & comfortable beds & living room furniture, cookstove, electricity & heat & everything!

8. HE WAS DOING JUST FINE UNTIL ONE DAY HE ACCIDENTALLY SET THE WHOLE PLACE AFIRE! He had a wood stove with a wood fire inside his big tent-house, because there was lots of old dry wood there in the forest. But one day when he was throwing out the hot ashes, they caught the grass & dry brush on fire! He'd been carrying his water to his campsite in old gas cans‚ so he grabbed this can that he thought was water to put out the fire, but it turned out it was kerosene for his kerosene stove! So, when he threw that on the fire, it really made a fire!

9. IT CAUGHT THE WHOLE HILLSIDE ON FIRE with a big brush fire‚ & several fire departments had to come out to put out the fire! Then, of course, the authorities wanted to know what caused it, & I think they fined him & the college for starting a dangerous fire! The college also thereby discovered that he was camped out in their forest on this huge palatial estate which was their campus in a community of millionaires, where Lucky Baldwin, Diamond Jim Brady & some other celebrities had their big multimillionaire mansions:

10. SO THAT PUT AN END TO HIS CAMPING ON THE COLLEGE CAMPUS!—It's funny, they call it a campus, but they don't allow you to camp on it!—Ha! So the college right away quick found him an apartment—that's one good thing it did! Ha! Ah me!—Of all the funny things that can happen when you are camping! So be sure you can very well & quickly distinguish between your non-inflammable liquids & your inflammable liquids & be sure that if you keep anything like gasoline or diesel or kerosene around for your camp stove, camp fires, lanterns etc., that you have them in red cans that don't look like water cans!

11. IT'S REQUIRED BY LAW SOME PLACES, THAT YOU KEEP INFLAMMABLE LIQUIDS IN RED METAL CANS! You cannot keep them in plastic jugs‚ because the plastic will melt. So‚ if you have any kind of inflammable liquids, liquids that can catch fire, be sure you keep them far from your fires in red metal cans, plainly marked, so nobody grabs one of them to try to put out a fire!—Like my Dad did, poor fellow! He burned his hands pretty badly too! Thank God it didn't kill him!

12. SO FIRES CAN BE DANGEROUS! They can not only catch your fire on fire & your meal on fire, but they can also catch you or your kids or your campsite or your tent or your forest or your trailer or your camper on fire!—If you don't handle your fires very cautiously! So, no one should ever be allowed to handle fires except those who know how to handle them, & know the danger & how to guard against it, & who are very, very cautious with it!

13. OF COURSE, THESE DANGERS ARE EVEN MORE PRONOUNCED WHEN YOU ARE CAMPING OUT with a car or tent, & you have to use flammable liquids, & you do a great deal of pouring of those liquids into containers or into your stove or lantern etc. There is a much greater danger of things catching fire, especially when you have to pump up the pressure, & they have been known to explode!—Or if your gas bottle gets too near the heat or fire, it can explode!

14. SO, OF COURSE, A TRAILER OR CAMPER IS A VERY SMALL HOUSE, & a little less subject to catching fire‚ or to the fire getting away from where it is supposed to be in the stove, than in a tent or car-camping.—Because caravans have regular stoves like a home cook stove, & a kitchen almost the same as your kitchen at home‚ with burners & grills usually well-surrounded with metal etc. Nevertheless, most campers & trailers are constructed largely of wood & plastic, & if your fire should ever get away from you, your caravan can catch fire more easily than a house! One of the most common causes of home fires is the grease fire, the catching afire of greasy foods on the cookstove—like a pan of grease when you are frying potatoes or bacon or something very greasy.

15. SOMETIMES THE GREASE IN THE PAN OR THE SKILLET WILL CATCH FIRE, for grease is very flammable & very explosive & almost bursts into flames, almost explodes!—And if there is any woodwork or curtains or anything near your cookstove—as there often is—it can easily catch fire & the surrounding material on fire.

16. A TRAILER FIRE IS USUALLY A VERY QUICK, RAPID ONE, because the trailer is composed almost entirely of very flammable, combustible materials, & will burn very quickly, & there's not much of any way hardly to put it out before too late! Most camps & laws require you to have a fire extinguisher in your trailer or camper‚ & if you're fast enough‚ you might succeed in remembering where it is, & grabbing it quick enough, & squirting it rapidly enough to stop the fire! But trailer or camper fires can be very fast, very quick & very dangerous!—Especially grease fires, which are virtually explosive!-& water won't put it out!

17. THIS IS HOW FRED JORDAN'S BIG HOUSE BURNED DOWN! The cook went out the door just for a moment to see what the children were doing, & her pan of grease on the fire caught fire suddenly, & flamed up, almost exploded, & caught the wooden cupboards above the stove on fire & then the whole house!—They should never have wooden cupboards above a stove in the first place, but they're often built that way.—And the grease caught them on fire before she could get back in the kitchen! By the time she got back, the cupboards were on fire & the kitchen was on fire, & pretty soon the whole house burned down—the entire house—with everything they had in it!

18. IT'S DANGEROUS IF YOU HAVE WOODWORK TOO CLOSE TO A FIRE! So you've got to be very cautious with your trailer fires, especially grease fires, open skillets with grease in them, or deep–frying, like french-frying potatoes or chips, or deep-fat frying like fondues etc. Remember, that liquid fat that you have in that pan is almost as flammable & explosive as gasoline or kerosene or fuel oil, & therefore you've got to be mighty careful with it!

19. SO, IT'S ADVISABLE TO HAVE A GOOD FIRE–EXTINGUISHER VERY HANDY, preferably right by your door, where you can also have some way to get out in case anything catches on fire, & you can squirt from there to try to put it out. If your kitchen is built where there is woodwork too close to the flames, that is not good, so it might pay you to put up some type of asbestos shield around your stove on the surrounding wooden walls.

20. YOU CAN BUY SHEETS OF ASBESTOS or asbestos insulators, plates of it, like big square hot pads of metal-covered asbestos that you can put up on the walls around your stove. If there is a wooden wall too close & it seems to be getting too hot when you cook, I suggest you nail or screw a piece of asbestos to that wall, or a metal plate of some kind, to keep the fire from causing that wood to get too hot & possibly catch fire, especially when you have a pan on the burner & the flame spreads out closer to the walls, & the walls thereby are apt to get too hot & catch fire!