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Data Snapshot: Recreational Vehicle Fires (2016-2018)

From 2016 to 2018, an estimated 3,700 recreational vehicle (RV) fires were reported to fire departments in the United States each year. Annually, these fires resulted in an estimated 15 civilian deaths, 100 civilian injuries and $58,500,000 in loss.1

Loss measures for recreational vehicle fires (three-year average, 2016-2018)

Loss measureRV fires
Average loss:
 
Fatalities/1,000 fires
4.6
Injuries/1,000 fires
15.9
Dollar loss/fire
$16,140
Source: NFIRS 5.0.

The average number of fatalities per 1,000 RV fires reported to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) from 2016 to 2018 was 4.6. During the same time period, the number of injuries per 1,000 fires was 15.9. Additionally, the amount of dollar loss per RV fire was $16,140.2

Recreational vehicle fires, self-propelled versus not self-propelled (2016-2018)

Of the 3,700 RV fires, 84% were not self-propelled, and the remaining 16% were self-propelled. Source: NFIRS 5.0.

RV fires by time of alarm (2016-2018)

RV fires most frequently occurred during the afternoon, peaking from 1 to 3 p.m. (14%). RV fires occurred least often in the morning hours from 4 to 5 a.m. (2%). Source: NFIRS 5.0.

RV fires by day of the week (2016-2018)

RV fires occurred most frequently on Fridays (15%) and Saturdays (16%). This coincides with the weekend and time off. Source: NFIRS 5.0.

RV fires by month (2016-2018)

RV fires occurred most often during the months of May through August, accounting for 38% of the fires. It is possible this slight peak may be due to elevated outdoor temperatures or increased vehicle use, as many individuals and families take vacations during these months. Source: NFIRS 5.0.

RV fire cause (2016-2018, unknowns apportioned)

In 37% of the RV fires, the cause of ignition was unintentional actions, followed by failure of equipment or heat source (15%). Exposures and intentional actions caused an additional 6% and 4% of the RV fires, respectively, while acts of nature resulted in less than 1% of the fires. The cause of ignition was undetermined after the investigation in 24% of the RV fires and was still under investigation in 13% of the fires. Source: NFIRS 5.0.

Unintentional 37.1%
Cause undetermined after investigation 24.5%
Failure of equipment or heat source 15.2%
Cause under investigation 13.0%
Exposure 6.3%
Intentional 3.6%
Act of nature 0.4%

37.1% Unintentional

24.5% Cause undetermined after investigation

15.2% Failure of equipment or heat source

13.0% Cause under investigation

6.3% Exposure

3.6% Intentional

0.4% Act of nature

Total does not add up to 100% due to rounding for the unknowns apportioned distribution.

Leading areas of fire origin in RV fires (2016-2018, unknowns apportioned)

Areas of fire originPercent
Engine area, running gear, wheel area
28.0
Other vehicle area
15.9
Operator, passenger area of vehicle
9.8
Cooking area
7.5
Vehicle exterior
6.8
Other area of fire origin
3.6
Cargo, trunk area
3.5
Source: NFIRS 5.0.

RV fires most often started in engine, running gear and wheel areas (28%), followed by other miscellaneous vehicle areas (16%) and operator/passenger areas (10%). Smaller but not minor percentages of fires started in cooking areas (8%), vehicle exterior areas (7%), other areas of fire origin (4%) and cargo/trunk areas (4%).

Sources: NFIRS and the National Fire Protection Association.

For more information

Vehicle Fires: What You Need to Know. This pamphlet highlights what the public should and should not do in the event of a vehicle fire.

Notes:

  1. RV fires are defined by NFIRS Incident Type Codes 136 and 137. These fires include self-propelled motor homes or RVs and campers or RVs that are not self-propelled (includes trailers). Aid Types 3 (mutual aid given) and 4 (automatic aid given) were excluded to avoid counting a single incident more than once.
  2. Average loss for fatalities and injuries is computed per 1,000 fires. Average dollar loss is computed per fire and rounded to the nearest $10. The 2016 and 2017 dollar-loss values were adjusted to 2018 dollars. The average loss measures computed from the NFIRS data alone in the table differ from the average loss measures computed from national estimates. The fire death rate computed from national estimates is (1,000 x (15/3,700)) = 4.1 deaths per 1,000 RV fires, and the fire injury rate is (1,000 x (100/3,700)) = 27.0 injuries per 1,000 RV fires.