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Old 07-28-2013, 02:20 PM   #1
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30A to 50A Adapter Causes MH Fire

I was camping with our local WIT club this weekend. One of our club members had a fire in his 2000 Itasca Meridian at about 12:30am Saturday morning.

Apparently the 30A to 50A adapter shorted while in his electrical bay, resulting in a ball of fire inside the compartment.

They were in bed, but heard a loud 'pop'. The coach quickly filled with smoke, and they immediately got out of the motorhome. The owner used a fire extinguisher and got the flames down, and the fire truck shortly arrived. Their smoke alarm did go off.

Next door neighbor was a retired sheriff deputy, and quickly helped out. Thanks to him, they are both safe.

First picture shows the shorted 30A to 50A adapter which apparently caused the fire.

Second picture shows the damage to the electrical compartment. There was significant damage to the coach, and of course smoke damage inside.

Here are my learnings:

1) Always use the shortest length of shore supply cord to the power pedestal, starting with your 50A shore power cord, to run to the power post. If necessary, use the 30A to 50A adapter at the pedestal; DO NOT keep it coiled up inside your coach, and simply run a 30A extension cord to the power post.

Use the adapter outside of the coach. If it does short out, apparently as happened in this situation, it will happen outside of the coach.

Don't keep extra lengths of extension cords on your shore cord if you don't need them. 30A plugs have a habit of getting hot and melting the connections. The longer the run of wire, the more resistance, potentially causing heat build-up at the connections.

2) 30-to-50A adapters cost about $14. Replace them every few years.
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Old 07-28-2013, 02:35 PM   #2
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I'm confused - did they run a long 30A cable from the pedestal to the compartment?

Typically we use dog bones at the pedestal.

Thank goodness they were safe!
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Old 07-28-2013, 02:38 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveclv View Post
I'm confused - did they run a long 30A cable from the pedestal to the compartment?

Typically we use dog bones at the pedestal.

Thank goodness they were safe!
Yes, they kept the 50A shore cord coiled in the electrical bay, adapted it with the dog-bone inside the electrical bay, and ran the 30A extension cord to the pedestal. They could have made it to the power pedestal with their 50A cord, and used the dog bone at the power pedestal.

Would have kept any fire from a shorted dog-bone adapter outside of the coach.
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Old 07-28-2013, 02:40 PM   #4
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Thanks for the pictures and admonition about using under-sized cords and multiple cords.
In the 2nd picture, is that water filters seen in the left side of the compartment? If it is, it was a very poor choice to put water in the electrical bay. Also, in the 1st picture it appears like the 30A cord had been repaired with a replacement end. I repaired one that way; it lasted for about a year until the wire-nuts got hot from current and allowed the wires to touch. Thankfully it was all outside our 5er. Decided right then to never attempt a cord repair again.
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Old 07-28-2013, 02:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray,IN View Post
Thanks for the pictures and admonition about using under-sized cords and multiple cords.
In the 2nd picture, is that water filters seen in the left side of the compartment? If it is, it was a very poor choice to put water in the electrical bay.
Yes. Interesting observation. Mine's the same way on my winnie, but the wet bay and electrical bay, both behind one door, are divided by a metal divider. Ray -- good points.
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Old 07-28-2013, 02:46 PM   #6
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Gotchaa - sometimes I guess 'common sense' grows wings and flies away
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Old 07-28-2013, 03:01 PM   #7
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First thing that comes to mind is that was not a 50 down to a 30 ,it was a 50 trying to use a 30 with what looks like a homemade cord .any time u try to draw 50 amps thru a 30 amp receptacle you will over heat the connection .common sense tells you anytime you use a adaptor of any kind you should check it to see if the cord is getting warn-hot and if it is you are at risk for a fire on't I say Don't go to sleep when you have this risk unplug the damn thing.you might get hot during the night but not fire and smoke hot
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Old 07-28-2013, 03:10 PM   #8
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There might of been a problem with the 30 amp. breaker???? even on a 50 cord when the Coach drew 30 amps or more the 30 amp. breaker should of tripped, I have this problem when I hook up to a 30 amp. outlet and try to run to much as we all have run into with a 50 amp. setup. I believe the problem was to long of a cord and to many plug in connections and the connection at the 30 amp. side of the dog-bone was not a good connection and developed heat with the amp. draw. Good news that no one was hurt!
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Old 07-28-2013, 03:19 PM   #9
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Glad they are safe, but leaving any power cord coiled is never a good idea. A coil always creates heat. JMHO. Jim
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Old 07-28-2013, 03:24 PM   #10
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Pusherman;

I also would like to thank you for taking the time to post the pictures and the expert advice. This brings up another question to my mind. I have a 50 Amp Portable Surge Guard locked to the plug on my power cord. I would have installed the 50 amp to 30 amp adapter between my Surge Guard and the pedestal. Do you think the Surge Guard would have sensed a problem and shut down the power before a fire broke out? We had a lightning storm one time that burned out the coil on the transfer switch and that is when I purchased a Surge Guard.

I also am happy nobody was hurt.

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Old 07-28-2013, 03:30 PM   #11
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Sounds stupid and lazy how they did it, just asking for trouble. Glad they are ok without any extensive damage based on the photos.

I have a 30A motorhome and use a dogbone style adapter at the pedestal as needed. Where I am now, it's a 50A hookup so I have a 50A male to 30A female adapter. In the past I have used a 20A adapter and just monitored the adapter at the plug to be sure it wasn't getting too hot.

I leave NO excess cable in the compartment, it lays on the ground under the van.
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Old 07-28-2013, 03:43 PM   #12
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I always extend my 50A cable as far as it will go towards the power source, then adapt and extend as needed. Not because I had the brilliant foresight to foresee this sort of failure, but just because it seems like the logical thing to do.
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Old 07-28-2013, 04:21 PM   #13
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I have 50 amps and use a portable surge guard that I plug the power cord into. I leave the cord coiled in the bay. Then I run a 50 amp extension cord from the surge guard to the pedestal. The whole setup stays cool to the touch. The blades show no black marks.

I do it to keep the surge guard out of the weather and the hands of thieves. If there is only 30 amp service, I put the converter at the pedestal.
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Old 07-28-2013, 04:38 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cubey View Post
Sounds stupid and lazy how they did it, just asking for trouble. Glad they are ok without any extensive damage based on the photos.

I have a 30A motorhome and use a dogbone style adapter at the pedestal as needed. Where I am now, it's a 50A hookup so I have a 50A male to 30A female adapter. In the past I have used a 20A adapter and just monitored the adapter at the plug to be sure it wasn't getting too hot.

I leave NO excess cable in the compartment, it lays on the ground under the van.
I hope I misunderstand your post. You said you have a 30 amp motorhome. do you have a 30 amp cable with a 30 amp male end for the shore pedestal. Do you then take a 50 amp male adapter which you plug into the 50 amp shore pedestal. Does this 50 amp male adapter plugged into the 50 amp shore pedestal have a 30 amp female on it which you plug your 30 amp cable from the coach into. I hope I have that explained clearly. In simpler terms is the cable from your coach rated at 30 amps and is it plugged into a 50 amp receptacle with 50 amp breakers. If this is what you have it is extremely dangerous and you would be a major candidate for a fire somewhere in your coach.
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