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Old 04-27-2017, 10:34 PM   #1
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Default Sprinter-based Class B fire in LA?

Pardon me if this has already been covered in another child forum (that I cannot locate), but does anyone know anything about the story on this recent Class B fire in Los Angeles?

It's obviously a T1N Sprinter, but that's all I can tell from the information I found by google-searching. The story popped up on Air Forums today and I'm curious as to the failure mode and the brand of the Class B (one of the usual manufacturers or DIY).

Man Attempts to Extinguish Dangerous RV Fire at Propane Tank Refill Station in Sun Valley | KTLA
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Old 04-28-2017, 12:25 AM   #2
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Its obviously another lithium battery explosion. Those electrons are highly flammable, should have stuck with propane, a much safer energy source.
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Old 04-30-2017, 02:08 AM   #3
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A propane fire at propane fueling is a major concern of mine. The fuel is there from the tank venting or the fuel hose venting, all it takes is an ignition source. It would be informative to learn of the ignition source. The possibilities are a spark of unknown source in the fueling area, or a furnace or refrigerator ignition at the wrong time. We would certainly like to know.
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Old 04-30-2017, 02:23 AM   #4
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...or the fridge was still running on LPG with open flame. It would be wise in the RV business to have a safety circuit turning a fridge LPG power off once a door for LPG enclosure is open in preparation for refueling. Most of RVs have some kind of enclosure for LPG tanks.

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Old 04-30-2017, 02:30 AM   #5
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In the eight years we have had our B, I can remember just once that the attendant asked if we had all the power off, which is the law, I think, and nobody ever asked about flames or other gas stuff in use.
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Old 04-30-2017, 02:03 PM   #6
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There are a few longer versions of the film on YouTube, including
^^that one. From those, it's obvious that the propane delivery hose was indeed hooked up at the time of the fire, but the fire did not appear to originate in the area of the connection. In other words the overfill venting does not appear to be the fuel source - I suspect strongly that propane was escaping at the tank itself.

Which leads to the obvious question - whose tank is it? Well, to answer that question it helps to first know which rig it is. Unfortunately the viewing angles are poor and the strong sunshine is washing out details of the rig. It *might* be a Pleasure Way, circa 2006, based on the format of the rear camera. But I wouldn't put money on that.

There are only a few manufacturers of these integrated RV tanks and to my knowledge, they all base them on the same standard specs even if they are different shops. The most common fabber seems to be Manchester (it pulls up first in google searches and in product catalogs, e.g., by PPL), and on a T1N Sprinter (as that vehicle clearly is), there's a good chance it's either a Manchester 68162 or Manchester 6813.

Why would I know this much detail? Because we had to replace our Manchester tank due to a leak that I discovered (blog post here).

Furthermore, we have a friend with the same rig as ours whose tank is currently behaving badly for unknown reasons. It seems to vent propane from the tank well before the tank reaches its fill capacity. That rig is currently scheduled to go into the shop so the failure can be determined.

We'd all like to know the cause of the incident, not just the ignition source but why was there LP present in that area, which appears to have been the tank area, to be ignited in the first place? Because clearly there shouldn't have been. What happened to this guy might be an isolated incident in which a mistake is made, or it might be a systemic risk that could effect X% of tank owners. X is obviously small or else we would see these kinds of fires more frequently. But it sure would be nice to resolve the conditions that lead to an elevated risk, if there are resolvable conditions.
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Old 04-30-2017, 03:52 PM   #7
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That's so sad to see. I'd say there was no opportunity to get any belongings out of the unit as the fire was intense from the start of the video. Hopefully the owner wasn't far from home.

My guess is that it was an '05 or '06 Roadtrek based on the stripes, bathroom vent, tv antenna and location of water heater and fridge vents.

tv antenna bathroom vent.jpg

fridge vent stripes water heater.jpg

06 adventurous.jpg

Propane leaks can & do happen but I wouldn't expect a leak to result in a fire. I'd like to know what the source of ignition was. My guess would be the fridge flame.
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Old 04-30-2017, 04:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
From those, it's obvious that the propane delivery hose was indeed hooked up at the time of the fire, but the fire did not appear to originate in the area of the connection. In other words the overfill venting does not appear to be the fuel source - I suspect strongly that propane was escaping at the tank itself.
I don't understand what you are saying. The vent on our tank is right next to the fill (is yours somewhere else?), and if it is venting, gas could easily travel to the ignition source, likely the frig, and ignite. That is the most likely thing that would happen, and the wind direction would indicate the direction of movement of the gas. The fact that the hose is still connected would say it is likely the vent is purging, as it was being filled.
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Old 04-30-2017, 04:20 PM   #9
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If it was vented propane that ignited wouldn't there just be a "woompf" and that would be the end of it? There does appear to be a continuous leak to cause so much flame.

I do have a de-rusted, repainted tank. Time to take a better look at it.
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Old 04-30-2017, 04:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hbn7hj View Post
If it was vented propane that ignited wouldn't there just be a "woompf" and that would be the end of it? There does appear to be a continuous leak to cause so much flame.

I do have a de-rusted, repainted tank. Time to take a better look at it.
Harry

One would have to guess it would blow up the regulator on the burner, opening it up to vent more gas, or it could back up to the tank where the vent may even have been blowing out liquid, which is a lot more gas.

There were and awful lot of explosions which seemed strange. You might get on from the fuel tank and when the propane tank broke or the regulator burned open, but there were more than that, and they lasted longer than tire explosions would seem to. There also seemed to be an awful lot of combustibles under the van to burn, fuel and propane would be gone faster than that, I would think.
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Old 04-30-2017, 05:14 PM   #11
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There was one angle that showed what appeared to be the 3 Roadtrek windows, but this is an older Sprinter, so there is little or no chance of it being from lithium batteries.
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Old 04-30-2017, 05:22 PM   #12
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About 5 years ago we toured France for a month in the dual fueled car, LPG and gasoline. Refueling the LPG tank was very easy with practically no release of propane. Most stations were self-service, refueling required inserting the nozzle, pulling the nozzle’s lever to latch it in place, push the button on the stand, after refueling was automatically finished, unlatching and removing the nozzle. No screwdriver, no venting, no LPG fumes. The space between the nozzle and the inlet mating parts was designed in a way that practically no propane was released during decoupling. Without the need for venting during the refilling process at least one potential source of disaster is eliminated.

Because of lower LPG cost LPG powered cars are popular in EU. Australian company – Orbital designed the liquid LPG injection system competing successfully in performance with gasoline powered cars.

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Old 04-30-2017, 05:31 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mumkin View Post
There was one angle that showed what appeared to be the 3 Roadtrek windows, but this is an older Sprinter, so there is little or no chance of it being from lithium batteries.
Well spotted! I watched the beginning of the video again and they are visible.

window decals.jpg
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Old 05-01-2017, 05:48 PM   #14
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My LP fill port and my tank are on opposite sides of my vehicle. I don't know why. Perhaps because drivers are required to shut the tanks off in certain transportation scenarios - e.g., every time I cross our local ferry, I have to physically jump out and show the attendant how I'm closing the line - it has to be witnessed. It would be less safe and less convenient if that apparatus were located on the passenger side, as the tank is. In that case, I'd have to be dashing between vehicles in the queue and the ferry attendant would be required to leave his or her post to examine the curb side of my rig.

And yes to the other poster - if it had simply been an overfill vent episode, I too would have expected it to simply go "WHOMPH!" and be done with it.

Of course we are all speculating, but it looks as if that tank (or an appliance line emerging from the tank) might have been actively feeding the fire even before the tank engaged in its emergency pressure venting that caused the extra-large flare-ups. The fire appears to have very quickly gone from incipient to consuming the right side of the vehicle. It suggests an accelerant that pre-existed by several minutes the very obvious tank pressure venting that even the news chopper pilot could distinguish.
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Old 05-01-2017, 05:51 PM   #15
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Oh, I forgot to mention in the reply above -

Good call on the Roadtrek. I see it now at the ten second mark in the extended video. I didn't see it initially because I was focused on watching the fireball grow.

Given that the evidence points to Roadtrek, I sent an email to Mike Wendland asking him about the event. If anyone could track down the full story, it would be him.
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Old 05-01-2017, 06:08 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by InterBlog View Post
Oh, I forgot to mention in the reply above -

Good call on the Roadtrek. I see it now at the ten second mark in the extended video. I didn't see it initially because I was focused on watching the fireball grow.

Given that the evidence points to Roadtrek, I sent an email to Mike Wendland asking him about the event. If anyone could track down the full story, it would be him.
You sent an email to Mike on a RT booboo?
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Old 05-01-2017, 08:59 PM   #17
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I don't know the politics and even if I did it wouldn't matter to me. I have a dead LP tank on one of our garage shelves and every time I look at it, it makes me cringe. I am no expert on these things and I should not speak out of turn, but I know why I retained that tank - in case the day came where evidence pointed to a flaw that perhaps made the tank eligible for recall. In which case I would need the tank to make a claim. I have suspicions as to why the tank leaked, suspicions not backed up by professional evaluation, but if there's anything to those suspicions, peoples' lives could be at risk.

All that being half-said, the best person to take a peek at the whole situation is probably someone (a) with a journalism background who (b) would be expected to have an intense interest in the subject matter.
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Old 08-07-2017, 01:50 PM   #18
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Backfilling this thread with more info...

Husband and I did a DIY replacement on our propane flex lines, of which our rig had four segments.

During this process, the line manufacturer's authorized rep noted that the line type used by Airstream had a 5-year expected life expectancy. There's nothing that I can find in our owner's manual or other sales literature mentioning anything of the kind, but a 5-year life expectancy would explain nicely why our friend's 10-year-old rig suddenly developed multiple leaks in its fill line. It might also explain what happened to the rig that went up in flames in California, but I never did find any follow-up reporting that explained the cause of that fire.

Blog post with details as to how I got the new segments manufactured:

REPLACING THE LP FLEX LINES IN AN AIRSTREAM INTERSTATE
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Old 08-07-2017, 03:43 PM   #19
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Wow, thank you for Posting....really scary, informative, funny, full of excellent advice and wisdom! This serves notice that to change the hoses is a real Safety Factor...why wouldn't RT and other B Manufacturer's make it part of the building...charge extra, but it our lives at stake! Ron
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Old 08-07-2017, 03:57 PM   #20
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I don't understand it. I'm not an attorney, but to me, this has the makings of a class action suit. Just TELL people what they need to do, and then it's on them to do the replacements or whatever on the manufacturer's recommended schedule.

Many of the Class B owners with whom I've conversed weren't even aware that they had flex segments in their propane distribution system to begin with. It becomes a Johari Window blind spot - how is anyone supposed to know to CHECK the system when they don't even have information on what's IN the system?
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