5 Causes For RV Refrigerator Fires & How Common They Are!

Did you know there is a 0.037 % risk that your RV will catch fire each year? Firstly in this article, we will go through 5 different causes of RV refrigerator fires and then dive into how common they are.

Here are FIVE common causes for motorhome, RV, or caravan refrigerator fires.

1. Electric Short Circuit & Other Electric Problems

Electric short circuits seemed to be one of the more common causes of RV fridge fires, and it seemed that in most cases, the fire starts with the combination of a short circuit and another problem, such as dust or dirt build-up. Other issues, like the light inside the fridge staying on all the time even if the door is closed, causing the plastic around it to melt and catch fire, have also been mentioned as a cause of RV fridge fires.

1.1 Electric Short Circuit Fire Preventions:

To help prevent this from happening to you and potentially stop your fridge from catching fire, you can regularly check the area behind the refrigerator and the cable connections near the circuit board or the control panels of your fridge.

Ensure that all the cables are well connected and are not at risk of being short-circuited. Ensure that the wires are well drawn and mounted so that in case a line is uninsulated, you may have time to notice it before it causes a short circuit; for this reason, it is good to check that the cables are well insulated.

Remember that the RV and all its parts move around a lot when you drive, which could cause some tears on specific points; there is also a possibility that a rat or mouse comes in and starts biting on your wires, so do those easy checks a couple of times a year by simply opening up the ventilation holes behind your fridge and have a look.

2. Rodents Such As Rats and Mice

Electrical short circuits have also been reported to have been caused by rodents crawling around behind the fridge and biting the wires. Others have also said that rodents have started building homes in the space behind the fridge.

Remember that a refrigerator powered by propane has a slight burning fire going behind the fridge, which is why it is so important to keep the area behind the fridge clean, so there isn’t a bigger unintentional fire.

As you can understand, rodents building nests or lying dead behind your fridge where there is a fire while you run your fridge on propane can be a significant fire hazard. And those bastards tend to bite on anything they find, especially wires & cables, which could lead you to the first mentioned RV fridge fire cause.

If you usually run your fridge on propane, or maybe you are thinking about starting doing so and wondering how much it costs to power the fridge on propane, I have made calculations to show you exactly how much it costs to power different-sized fridges on propane.

3. Dust and Dirt Build-Up Behind the Fridge

As an extension of the reason mentioned above, having a lot of dust and dirt building up behind your fridge where there will be a controlled fire burning when you power your fridge on propane will be a fire hazard in the same way dead rodents or their nests will be a fire hazard.

Both reasons will also increase the fire risk if you have a short circuit behind the fridge since when you have a short circuit, heat will build up, and there could be sparks, which could serve as the ignition for a fire.

3.1 Dust and dirt build-up Fridge Fire Prevention:

To prevent this from causing an RV fridge fire, you should also clean out the area behind the refrigerator. Get rid of all that dust and flammable material to minimize the fire risk. Since the solution to prevent fire for this cause is very similar to the other causes when we check the cables and wires to the fridge.

A time-saving and good idea is to do those preventions simultaneously, start by cleaning out the area and then check for wiring and cable damages while you also look for any potential tracks of rodents such as feces or nests.

Clean the area behind your fridge regularly and at the same time check the wires!

4. The Wind Blowing the Propane Fire Towards Flammable Material

Another follow-up on the previous causes of RV fridge fires reported was that a person was powering their fridge on propane while driving during heavy winds. There are big ventilation holes behind the refrigerator near the controlled flame that powers the fridge.

The assumed cause of this fridge fire was the wind blowing the flame towards flammable material that wasn’t supposed to be there.

5. Not Responding to Recalls From Manufacturers

If the manufacturer of an RV fridge issues a recall, there for sure is something wrong with that fridge, so it will be essential to keep your eyes and ears out in case they do and be sure to respond to that recall according to what they say.

5.1 Respond To Recalls Fire Preventions:

Keep a note on what brand and model your fridge is and keep an eye out on the manufacturer’s website from time to time during the first years; it can be an easy way of keeping your RV from burning down.

Suppose you missed a recall or are thinking of getting a new fridge for your motorhome, RV, or caravan soon. In that case, I recommend you to read my other article where I go through how much different types of RV fridges of different sizes cost, which might make the decision easier for you.

How Common Are RV Fridge Fires & How High Is The Risk?

There are roughly 160 motorhome, RV, or caravan refrigerator fires in the US each year, leaving us at a 0.0014 % risk of having to go through an RV fridge fire yearly. On average, there are 4200 RV fires reported each year out of 11.2 million RVs in the USA, leaving us with a 0.037% risk of an RV fire yearly.

According to the United States fire administration, there was an average of 4200 RV fires each year from 2018 to 2020. According to their statistics, the origin of 7.7 % or 323 of those fires came from the cooking area of the RV, which I would assume would include the fridge and the stove as the main origins of those fires.

Combine that information with a class action lawsuit stating that Dometic gas absorption refrigerators caused at least 3000 fires on both boats and RVs between 1997 and 2016.

“In a 2016 class action lawsuit, consumers allege that faulty Dometic gas absorption refrigerators have caused and/or contributed to at least 3,000 fires since 1997” –


So if we use our imagination a little bit, we can assume that roughly half of the fridge fires from the lawsuit were on boats and half on RVs, which gives us approximately 1500 Dometic RV fridge fires in 19 years or 79 each year.

If we also assume that out of the 323 RV fires with an origin in the cooking area, roughly 50 % of the time originates from the fridge, that would be about 160 RV fridge fires/year in the USA, and since Dometic is one of the biggest RV fridge brands it would also be a pretty good assumption if they would cause around 50% of all those fridge fires which would all add up with the 79 Dometic fridge fires/year from the lawsuit and the 323 RV fires with an origin from the cooking area.

Hence I have made the assumption based on this that roughly 160 RV fires each year are caused by the refrigerator, but remember that there have been a lot of assumptions drawn here, but at least this made it possible for me to come up with a rough number.

Remember that the only hard facts we have are that 7.7 % out of 4200 RV fires each year originate from the cooking area.

Are you curious how long a motorhome, RV, or caravan fridge usually lasts? I gathered the response from 61 different RV owners who had an old working fridge or a broken one. Out of the 24 broken fridges, two were reportedly broken due to a refrigerator fire soon after the cooling unit was replaced, but more about that in the other article that I recommend you read.

Rikard Adamsson

Hello! My name is Rikard Adamsson; I am the creator of Motorhomeking.com. I live full-time in my motorhome, and right now, I am traveling through Europe the right way, without campsites; yes, wild camping and being off the grid works excellent even in a real beauty from 1996. I have done a lot of rebuilding and upgrades. I am happy to share my experiences with everything regarding motorhomes, RVs, or caravans with you here at motorhomeking.com.

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