Davie, Barker W. Jr. The Investigation of Mobile Home Fires. The National
Fire & Arson Report. Vol 6 No 4 (1988).
Abstract: Cost-competitiveness in the mobile home construction
industry has led manufacturers to utilize processes that result in intense
burning in mobile home fires. In addition to the fire danger, reconstruction
of a burned mobile home is also difficult because the damage is often so
Analyzing the flow of fire in a mobile home can be difficult because:
- Vinyl and resin particle board construction increases the production
of volatile vapors which can accelerate the production of an explosive
fuel-to-air ratio much faster than in larger homes with different construction.
This can bring a room to flashover more quickly.
- Metallic sidewalls, roof, and frame conduct heat efficiently and allow
rapid penetration of fire into the walls and ceilings and through the roof.
Heat also radiates back into the house, creating an "oven" effect.
- The rectangular shape necesitates a long central hallway that acts
like a chimney, allowing fire to race quickly to other rooms. Thin walls
exacerbate the situation.
- The average ceiling height of 7' and the low square footage means a
low cubic square footage of air which fills quickly with toxic gases and
heats quickly to flashover.
The author asserts that the majority of the fire science principles used
in wood-frame structures do not apply in mobile homes because of the types
of materials and the furnishings cause temperature inversions when flashover
occurs. The author documents this through his firm's test burns, including
evidence of high floor temperatures, even floor burning on clear areas and
under tables, and unexpected glass fragmentation. The author suggests that
rust or oxidation patterns may be a more reliable way to trace fire flow
in mobile homes.
- Accidental fire sources particular to mobile homes are also discussed.
- Appliance vibration causing staples wearing through electrical wire
- Recessed lighting bulbs with higher-than-recommended wattage
- Expansion and contraction of copper and aluminum conductors as seasons
- Movement of the mobile home loosening fuel gas connections