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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 blazes:

  • 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 lumber
  • 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.

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