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Old 12-04-2013, 09:14 AM   #1
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FIRE!



Fire! Not something you want to hear yelled at 5:30 am.

A few weeks back, we were camped at our favorite spot just south of San Felipe, an isolated little bluff above a beautiful secluded cove on the Sea of Cortez. It takes 4-wheel drive to get up there, even then two of the vans got stuck on the way in, but it is well worth it!

We arrived just before dark, set up camp and enjoyed a wonderful dinner and drinks with friends.

It was warm enough that we slept in the SMB with the back doors open and had a great night's sleep.

Early the next morning, I got up and climbed up the sand dune behind us to capture the morning sunrise over the Sea of Cortez and our camp. Jan got her camera and walked to the edge of the bluff to take some pictures like the one above.

A few minutes later she returned to the van to change lenses - she smelled something burning .
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Old 12-04-2013, 09:15 AM   #2
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Re: FIRE!

Jan could not see anything wrong, but something didn't smell right, so she called for me to come down off the dune. I started walking down and then I heard "fire" and started running - losing my Flip-flops in the deep sand and running across the desert bare footed - didn't even notice.

When I got to the van she said something was burning and smoke was coming out of the wall behind the driver's door. I climbed in and instantly recognized the all too familiar smell of an electrical fire.

Lots of things happened in a very short time, and I don't remember the exact sequence of events but here is a short list:

Jan handed me a large kitchen knife.
Jan handed me the Fire Extinguisher.
I pulled the van hood release.
I pried back the paneling on the wall and flames were coming out the gap.
I got the nozzle of the Extinguisher in the crack I had pried open and discharged it.
Rob pulled the ground cable off the chassis battery - 50/50 chance.
I hacked out a big piece of the smoldering paneling and confirmed the fire was out.

Wow! That was close.
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Old 12-04-2013, 09:31 AM   #3
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Re: FIRE!

So what happened?

About a dozen wires from the factory van wiring harness were completely burned and fused together into one big charred bundle. None of the Sportsmobile build out wiring was involved in the fire.

We cut out the burned sections of the wires and started tracing them to see what was effected - brake lights and tail lights were the most important items to repair. There were several fuses blown in both of the fuse blocks and we had to check every fuse to figure it all out.

Of course getting the radio to work was just as important - we had several more days in Baja to enjoy, and rely heavily of Sirius XM for tunes and news. The radio fix was the key to finding the problem.

The radio is on the same circuit and fuse as the door courtesy light, door chime, and mirrors. The wire running back to the rear doors had chaffed through where it had been routed through a factory hole in an inner body structure and grounded out.

We sleep with radio on and the door was open all night, but I had the courtesy light turned off with the cancel buttons - the courtesy light circuit also times out after several minutes, but when I opened the side door to get out a few minutes earlier it must have got things started. The wiring must have gotten hot, but not blown the fuse, as it was not a direct short, but through the door button which provided some resistance.

When Jan opened another door to get to her camera lens - things melted down!
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Old 12-04-2013, 09:35 AM   #4
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Re: FIRE!

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Old 12-04-2013, 09:39 AM   #5
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Re: FIRE!

Lucky? Lucky is an understatement!

A few second more and the flames would have extended into the Penthouse fabric, consumed the wood paneling and the whole thing would have been a Carbecue - burned to the ground.

Lessons learned:

It is always better to be lucky!
Timing is everything - a few minutes earlier we were sound asleep.
Come when you are called - listen to your wife.
Baja is always awesome!
Live large - anything can and will happen.
Sunrise was spectacular.
Good thing the Fire Extinguisher worked - though I have to admit that without glasses (getting old) I had a hard time figuring it out in a panic
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Old 12-04-2013, 11:01 AM   #6
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Re: FIRE!

Glad to hear your OK and it turned out about as good as it could have under the situation. That is a good reminder to get acquainted with the fire extinguisher.

Greg
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Old 12-04-2013, 11:42 AM   #7
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Re: FIRE!

Did you have to cut out the burnt portion and splice in new wires to get everything working again? If you did, lucky you had the tools and supplies to do such a thing way out where you were. Glad to hear no one got hurt and no carbeque took place!
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Old 12-04-2013, 11:57 AM   #8
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Re: FIRE!

Wow. That's crazy! Glad you're all OK.
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Old 12-04-2013, 05:51 PM   #9
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Re: FIRE!

Sounds like you and your wife responded well and fast. I have been married for over 40 years myself and SOMETIMES do not listen to my wife, but there are TONES of voice and when I hear the 'right' one out of her I KNOW it is time to get really serious and REACT. Great you both are OK.

Number of years ago my in-laws lost a 33 foot Airstream. Burned to the ground (literally) and they both got out in the middle of the night with only seconds to spare. Mother-in-law smelled smoke and woke up first.
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Old 12-04-2013, 06:21 PM   #10
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Re: FIRE!

Wow, glad you guys are OK!
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