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Fire prevention is key for people living in campers this winter

Posted 12/15/10 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
Although winter hasn’t officially begun, McKenzie County residents who are living in campers may think that they’ve experienced winter, especially with the recent snowstorms and cold temperatures. However, for those native to North Dakota, they know that this is just the beginning and winter has barely shown itself, with much more to come before spring.
With hundreds of campers in the area and lots of cold weather ahead, the Watford City Fire Department is concerned about the number of fire dangers associated with living in a camper during the winter.
“There are so many fire dangers that it is impossible to list them all,” says Ben Weltikol, Watford City fire chief. “The biggest concern comes with thawing things out. When pipes become frozen, people need to remember to never use an open flame. A torch is not a good idea for thawing pipes.”
Another concern is the use of skirting materials and heaters to warm under a camper.
“Hay bales are an absolute ‘no’ for insulation,” states Weltikol. “People need to think about the fire risks when they insulate, and keep heaters away from anything combustible and also keep an eye on things. If you are using heat tape to insulate pipes, check it often, and if the tape looks bad, replace it.”
So far, the Watford City Fire Department has only had to respond to one camper fire. But with more than 100 campers in town, it is likely that there will be more camper fires this winter, and Weltikol hopes to eliminate some of those through prevention.
“Lowell Cutshaw, the Watford City city engineer/administrator has been doing a good job of keeping an eye on the campers,” comments Weltikol. “The city has codes for camper spacing and they have also been watching to make sure that people aren’t putting themselves at risk. But people living in campers need to take steps to prevent fires and be careful this winter.”
In addition to preventing camper fires, Weltikol urges people to make sure that they have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes or campers.
“People need to protect themselves, and having working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is one way to do that,” adds Weltikol. “Another way is to know how to give good directions to their camper. Campers aren’t built like a home and they burn very quickly.”
Because campers burn much faster than other structures, Weltikol urges people to follow the city’s spacing codes and make sure that they can give good thorough directions to their camper.
“Most fires happen during the night, and even though we have a very fast responding fire department, it takes longer to get to a fire at night,” states Weltikol. “If campers are parked close together, a single camper fire can quickly turn into a whole row of campers on fire, and that is something the spacing code hopes to prevent.”
If you’re living in a camper this winter, Weltikol urges you to keep an eye on your property and check things out on a regular basis to make sure that everything is in good working order.