KEYWORDS: gas, flame, fire, heater, floor, heat

Have Trailer--Will Travel--Part 2: Gas Fires

David Berg

DFO812-2July 1979

1. BUT NORMALLY‚ YOUR FIRES ARE SAFER IN YOUR CAMPER OR CARAVAN than they are even in an open campsite where you use so many liquid combustibles like gasoline or kerosene or gas oil. Even in using bottled gas there is always some danger, because if the fire should blow out & your stove is not equipt with a safety valve which then shuts it off, a thermostatic valve that automatically shuts it off if the flame blows out, then the gas will continue to flow & will explode if reaches another flame! If you haven't noticed that the gas fire has blown out—which it often easily does in camping—you may have trouble! Because you are so close to the outdoors & you have lots of winds & air, & you need a lot when you are in a small space like that, & you are apt to have your kitchen window open.

2. SO MAYBE YOUR FIRE BLOWS OUT! If you don't have the thermostatically controlled safety valve which will automatically cut off the gas from the burner when the flame goes out, then the gas will continue to flow & possibly ignite in an explosion from some other nearby flame! If you are not attending the fire closely, if you have got something on the burner there that may boil over & put out the flame, or you are not watching it closely & you don't notice that it's blown out, the gas will flow downward & possibly be ignited by your fridge or heater flame, & you'll have an explosion!

3. BUTANE & PROPANE GAS ARE NOT LIGHTER-THAN-AIR GASSES—THEY ARE HEAVIER-THAN-AIR GASSES, & in this way are more dangerous than what is called natural gas or city gas. Natural gas or city gas rises & dissipates. But butane & propane are heavy & go down. They will flow down from your burner to the floor, then spread out on the floor in an invisible gas, & then find the nearest outlet, just like water pouring out, bottled gas finds the nearest lowest level‚ & if it can find some hole or somewhere to pour out of the floor & down outdoors to the ground, that's all very well & good, providing, it doesn't reach some other flame first.

4. BUT IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER FIRE ON‚ such as a heating fire or gas fridge close to the floor—which is where most gas heaters & fridges are—if you have a fire on there & your kitchen fire has blown out‚ & the gas flows down to the floor & reaches the other open gas flame, by that time it will have accumulated so much gas on the floor‚ that you will have an explosion! You won't have to worry about your trailer anymore, & maybe not about your family either! You'll all go to be with the Lord!

5. SO, IF YOU HAVE BURNERS WHICH ARE NOT EQUIPPED WITH AUTOMATIC SHUT-OFF VALVES, such as many European trailers (except German ones—by law!), you'd better be very extra cautious to watch your fires‚ & see that they don't blow out, particularly if you are using a gas refrigerator or a gas heater‚ flames which were not normally visible to the eye, & you have to get down on all fours to look through some little hole to see if it is burning!

6. THESE SOMETIMES EASILY BLOW OUT FROM A SUDDEN GUST OF WIND, & if it doesn't have an automatic cut-off, the gas will continue to flow, pouring down to the nearest, lowest level. For example, if the heater flame goes out‚ its gas may reach the refrigerator flame‚ or vice versa! In either case, except by a miracle of God, you will have an explosion!

7. SO BE VERY CAUTIOUS ABOUT THESE GAS-FLAME FIRES of your cookstove, heater & refrigerator. It's best to have those that automatically cut off. The German & American makes are required by law to have automatic cut-offs. So if you have an American or German-made trailer or camper, if the refrigerator‚ heater, or the stove blows out, the gas valve will cut off automatically. So therefore, the German & American trailers are better equipt & more conscious of safety‚ but sad to say, many other European trailers are not!

8. THEREFORE, YOU HAD BETTER WATCH OUT ABOUT YOUR GAS FIRES‚ & never have one burning unless you keep an eye on it & make sure it is not blown out! A sudden gust of wind can do it, even if you are all closed up & it's Winter time, & all the windows & doors & everything are closed—which they should not be, and you should always have some kind of ventilation. But if you have any kind of fire at all‚ then somebody opens the door & a sudden gust of wind suddenly blows through violently, it could easily blow out your fire, & if you don't have an automatic shutoff valve, the gas will continue to flow!

9. SO I SUGGEST THAT ANYTIME YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS about whether a fire has been blown out or not, that you quickly check it, & if you don't see the flame, quickly turn off your main valve, wherever it may be! Many of the modern latest trailers have inside the kitchen cupboard or beneath the sink, usually, a set of valves where you can quickly shut off the gas, either to the stove, heater or fridge or all three!

10. IF NOT‚ YOU CAN RUN OUTSIDE & QUICKLY TURN OFF THE VALVE ON THE TOP OF THE GAS BOTTLE ITSELF! So, whatever it is, if you have any doubt at all about your flame blowing out—or any possibility of it—be sure you cut off all gas valves immediately & open up the trailer or the camper & air it out, so the gas can flow out & clear out & dissipate before it blows up! This is the danger in some of these cheaper trailer makes which do not provide safety valves! So be very cautious about such gas utilities which are not provided with this safety feature. You may say‚

11. "BUT, HOW DO I KNOW WHETHER MY TRAILER IS OR NOT?" Well, normally if your fire is equipt with a thermostatic control valve which will shut it off when the flame goes out, that is usually the type of heater or fridge that you have to hold a match to a pilot flame, & when it ignites you then have to hold your finger on a button for about a minute to keep that pilot flame burning until the little thermostat warms up & you can take your finger off the button & it will still keep burning.

12. IF IT DOES NOT HAVE THAT TYPE OF BUTTON-CONTROLLED PILOT LIGHT, if you can just push a button or turn on a switch, light a match & it lights immediately, & you don't have to keep your hand or finger on the button or knob for a minute until it warms up to keep it burning, then you don't have an automatically controlled cut-off valve, & it can cause trouble if you are not careful! This is extremely important, living in a trailer or a camper, because you are living in extremely small confined space where there are a number of different types of fires & open flames—usually a stove, heater & fridge—& this can be very dangerous if you are not very careful to watch these things!

13. WHEN WE WERE CAMPING IN TRAILERS & CAMPERS, THEY WERE USUALLY EQUIPPED WITH GAS HEATERS, GAS STOVES & SOMETIMES GAS REFRIGERATORS. Some would work on either gas or electricity, depending on which kind you had. Sometimes the fridge would work on either. But if we were able to hook up to electricity, I was always leery of gas, ever since I had that gas water heater explode in my face that burned my eyes & blinded me, & I would still have been blind today if it hadn't been for the Lord's miracle of healing! So I've always been leery of gas & gas explosions ever since!

14. I HAVE ALWAYS PREFERRED TO USE ELECTRICITY IF POSSIBLE. But‚ of course, if you're not careful with electricity, it can be just as dangerous, if you don't know how to handle it! But in the Cruiser‚ the Ark, our motorised camper or caravan, in the Wintertime, I usually preferred to use a little electric blow-heater. That was sufficient even in the dead of Winter, in cold & snow! In that small confined space, it doesn't take much to heat it—even your own body heat is sometimes sufficient! Just your cooking heat is usually sufficient, & you don't need a lot of extra heat. But I found that just a little electric blower-heater gave enough heat to keep us warm in such a small space.

15. I HAD A LITTLE THERMOSTATICALLY CONTROLLED ELECTRIC BLOWER-HEATER that was only about a foot square & six-inches thick & sat on the floor & had a little fan in it that blew & circulated the heat. It had electric wires or coils that glowed red, & a little fan that blew the air through them, blew hot air, & therefore circulated the heat in that small space.

16. YOU'LL FIND THAT IN TRAILERS & CAMPERS, IF THE FLOOR IS NOT VERY WELL INSULATED &/OR HEATED‚ you'll find your feet getting pretty cold on the floor, because the cold & the cold wind blows right through underneath your vehicle right underneath that floor, & the floor can be awfully cold, unless you have some type of circulatory–heater or blower-heater of some kind.

17. SOME CAMPERS COME EQUIPPED WITH GAS BLOWER-HEATERS, a gas heater that has a fan, & it'll circulate the heat throughout the vehicle. But I found that a little electric fan-type heater—if we were hooked up to electricity—was ideal for that—so you can try that. There were a few times when it went down below freezing & was really bitter cold, that the tiny electric fan-type blower-heater was not quite sufficient‚ so I would light my gas heater as well, & supplement the electric heat with a little gas heat.

18. NEARLY ALL THE NEW TRAILERS HAVE THREE–WAY REFRIGERATORS—12 VOLT, 220 OR GAS! They can work on 12 volts from the car while you are travelling & keep your fridge cold from the electricity generated by your car generator as you ride. But I warn you right now, your battery won't last long if the car isn't running & you try to run that refrigerator on your car battery alone! So don't try that!

19. THAT'S WHY MOST OF THEM ARE ALSO EQUIPPED TO OPERATE ON GAS so that if you are not hooked up to electricity & your car is stopped, & therefore not generating electricity, & you don't have either 12-volt or 220 or 110, or whatever it is, your fridge can work on gas as well, just like an Electrolux Servel gas home-fridge. You nearly always have bottled gas for your gas fires, so your fridge can work on gas from your bottles no matter where you are camped, far from civilisation or electricity, so you can refrigerate, heat & cook, all on bottled gas!

20. OF COURSE, IT'S ALWAYS WISE TO HAVE TWO BOTTLES, so when one runs out you can run on the other until you have time to get somewhere to fill the empty one. Some camps sell bottled gas themselves‚ or the gas man comes through with his truck & swaps your empty for a full one. They have this bottle-swap system in Europe. But usually in the States they are not quite as smart for some reason, & they don't swap bottles—they insist on filling yours. Most camps & cities in the States forbid them to fill bottles on the spot, so they come by & pick up your bottles & take them somewhere safer to fill them, & bring them back later. But the bottle-swap system is quicker, safer & surer—& sometimes cheaper!

21. SOMETIMES THOSE GAS GUYS GET CARELESS & forget they are smoking while they are doing it, & they have explosions! So it's wise not to get your bottle filled right there on the spot at your campsite. We used to have to go get our bottles filled in the States at a butane or propane station. They fill them there, usually weighing them on a scale to make sure they get the right amount in.

22. BE VERY CAREFUL & SURE THAT THEY DON'T OVER-FILL THEM! Because they have to have a little space left in the bottle for the expansion of the gas when it is a warm or hot day, the sun may hit the bottles, etc., & you don't dare have so much gas that it can't expand. Each bottle in the states is stamped with the exact amount & weight of gas that can be put in that bottle safely‚ & they usually put your bottle on a scale while they are filling it, so they can tell exactly now much they are getting in it, & no more! Be sure you get enough, but not too much!—Too much can be more dangerous than not enough!