Davie, Barker W. Jr. Facts, Hazards and Investigative Considerations
of Mobile Home Fires. The National Fire & Arson Report. Vol 9 No 1 (1991).
Abstract: The fact that mobile home fires often result in near
total destruction of the dwelling has made investigation of those fires
rely more on the observations of firefighters and witnesses. Investigators
of these fires should pay heed to safety concerns particular to mobile home
- toxic gases may take longer to vent as burning plastics and composite
wood products smolder
- toxic gases and compounds may be trapped in rubble and released as
investigators probe the debris (such as Chromium-Copper-Arsenate in pressure-treated
- older mobile homes may be more susceptible to deterioration from moisture
and the elements, making floors, walls, and ceilings more likely to collapse,
especially from the effects of dry rot
Thus, breathing apparatus and filter masks should be used in mobile homes.
Accidental fire causes particular to mobile homes include:
- vibrations causing staples to rub through wiring insulation
- problems with resistance connections
- improper fuel mixtures
- crowding of combustibles near heaters
- pyrolysis near recessed lighting fixtures, under gas-fired water heaters,
or near under-cabinet appliances
Traditional origin determination methods may not be reliable in mobile
home fires. The author shows how the concept of the area of lowest burning
may not be a reliable origin-determination method due to many factors, including
the pervasive use of paneling. Burning of plastics and polyurethane in mobile
homes is also discussed. In addition, "ghost patterns" resulting
in high-traffic floor areas may present confusing signs.
The burn patterns produced by various types of accelerants on different
floorings are also discussed. Lines of demarcation were more pronounced
on tile than on particle board or plywood floors. Tile also allowed accelerants
to flow more freely, such as under doors.
The burning of mobile homes is more complete than wood frame structures
because of the extensive use of plastics that produce combustible gases
when burned, which in turn ignite. Flashover time is often accelerated.
Burn test data concludes the article by giving a picture of fire spread
in mobile homes.