Motor home catches fire in downtown Bellingham with propane inside; no explosions

A motor home that caught fire on a downtown street Thursday morning sent a man to the hospital with minor injuries and resulted in a total loss of the vehicle.

Firefighters with the Bellingham Fire Department responded to the fire along the 1300 block of Cornwall Avenue at about 8:30 a.m., said Assistant Chief Bill Hewett. The blaze forced crews to close the entire block to traffic for about two hours, Hewett said.

Flames shot out of the RV’s windows as the first firefighters arrived on scene. They extinguished the fire quickly, Hewett said.

But propane tanks inside the motor home began venting as the fire burned, requiring crews to keep spraying the motor home to keep the tanks cool, Hewett said. Propane tanks are outfitted with vents to allow the gas to leak out slowly as it expands, he added.

“The scary part is if it expands too quickly and we aren’t able to cool it quick enough, it can explode and send shrapnel out,” he said.

Hewett added he didn’t know how big these particular tanks were, but most motor home propane tanks are typically 5 or 10 gallons. The vents on the tanks inside the motor home did their job, he said, and there were no explosions.

One man was inside the RV when firefighters arrived, Hewett said. He was taken to St. Joseph hospital with minor injuries, but Hewett couldn’t specify what the injuries were.

The motor home was impounded by the Bellingham Police Department, he said. It was a total loss.

Crews were not able to determine what caused the fire, Hewett said.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan