Enjoying a campfire is one of the greatest camping pleasures for many travellers. Cooking on the fire can also be a great pleasure. Read on for some handy information about fire safety when camping with an Off-road caravan. It's also a good time to cover some basics about cooking inside your caravan during total fire bans.
Fire Safety Basics
It's great to set up a campfire for cooking and then gather round swapping tales of adventures and the 'ones that got away'. Experienced travellers are adept at lighting fires but it is good to refresh ourselves on the Best Practices of setting up a campsite and campfire.
According to Fire and Rescue NSW (especially during bushfire season) you need to think about these things when planning your campsite:
Good access and escape routes
- Flat site with a cleared area that is not on a hilltop
- Nearby safe location to go to in case of fire
- Avoid driving over long grass as hot exhaust pipes can ignite grass
Familiarise yourself with parks local evacuation plan and location of fire-fighting equipment
Locate campfires downwind and a safe distance from any tents.
Turn off any lanterns and extinguish campfires before going to bed
STOP! Put down that kindling... is there a Total Fire Ban current? If so, you won't be lighting any fires! You may need to cook inside your caravan during a total fire ban.
Is your Caravan Fire Safe?
If you don't have a smoke alarm in your Off-road Caravan, get one! This is required by law and fines apply for non-compliance. If you are purchasing a new off-road caravan make sure it is fitted with one before you take delivery. Here is the legislation (taken from the Fire & Rescue NSW website http://www.fire.nsw.gov.au/ on 31.01.2013):
"As of 25th February 2011, under changes to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation, smoke alarms must be installed in all new and existing moveable dwellings where people sleep (regardless of whether they are registered for road use or not). These include caravans, campervans, holiday vans, park van annexes and associated structures. This does not include tents or camper trailers. Smoke alarms must comply with Australian Standard AS 3786, be fitted with a hush button, and installed according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Owners were given six months grace to install smoke alarms in their moveable dwellings. Penalties now apply for any breaches after the grace period. These include on the spot fines of $200, with a maximum penalty of $550 if the matter goes to court.
The fire services also recommend this simple safety checklist to assist you to have a safer holiday:
- When planning to use a caravan ensure that you turn off any pilot lights before towing or when the towing vehicles engine is running.
- Install a smoke alarm close to the sleeping area and consider having a fire extinguisher and fire blanket near the exit as well.
- Gas cylinders on caravans should be external, secure, with valves facing away from the van. You should regularly check gas pipes and connectors are in good working order, particularly after driving on country roads.
- Have a portable radio to keep updated regarding weather conditions and fire restrictions that may be in force.
- make sure the caravan is well ventilated
- ensure no combustible materials are located near the stove.
- diesel cooktops have easy to clean wipe-down ceramic tops
- diesel is easier to get in the outback
- LPG cylinders are difficult to partially top-off when filling
- you can visually see how much diesel you have left at any time - no guessing required!
- if you run out in remote location you can easily fill from a jerry can
A few last safety tips from Fire & Rescue NSW:
If your caravan catches fire, 'once you get out – stay out' and dial Triple Zero (000). Develop a fire escape plan that considers all occupants of a caravan and practice it.
Install a smoke alarm in the caravan and test before leaving on holiday and once a week when the caravan is in use. Test it monthly and change the batteries yearly.
A photo electric type smoke alarm with a hush button (that desensitises the alarm for a short period during cooking), and powered by a 10 year life, non-removable, non-replaceable battery, is recommended.
Links to State Fire Authorities:
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Cameron Johnston | Kimberley Group