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Episode 87: Fleeing the Alberta Fires

| Updated May 11, 2016

You’ve no doubt heard of the horrific fires that have devastated the Canadian province of Alberta, forcing 88,000 people in the town of Fort McMurray to evacuate in a mad rush to escape the flames.

In this episode of the podcast, we interview a young mom who escaped with her husband, toddler son and dogs in her RV. Their house was completely destroyed by the fires but thanks to their Fifth Wheel RV, the family is safe and has shelter in a lakefront RV park that has become a mobile refugee center for the evacuees.

Also in this episode, we have lots of listener questions and tips, including news of a class action settlement over fire problems affecting a popular RV refrigerator. Plus a brand new segment called RV Basic Training , as well as some traveling tech tips and a great Off-The-Beaten-Path Report.


Show Notes for Episode #87 May 11, 2016 of Roadtreking – The RV Lifestyle Podcast (click the time hyperlink to go directly to that part of the podcast):

JENNIFER'S TIP OF THE WEEK – Occupied Campsite signs

[spp-timestamp time=”6:30″]One of the nice things about having a Class B motorhome is mobility.

occupied signYou don’t have to tow a car behind you when you set out on your RV adventures.

And when you’re at a campground and you want to to do some sight-seeing or head into town for some shopping, you just unplug and take off.

But what do you do about that campsite you are only temporarily vacating?

How do you prevent newly arriving campers from thinking it’s available and taking your spot?

What Mike and I do is put up a sign that says “Campsite if occupied.” It’s a bright red sign with white lettering and we push it into the dirt at the campsite.

We got it at a campground we visited and we’ve since seen them in Camping World stores and at RV shows around the country.

We’ve also seen people string rope across the campsite, or they leave their chairs or water hose and electrical cords behind. We don’t leave anything but the sign when we’re away for any length of time. Water hoses and electrical cords could easily be stolen.

So far nobody has stolen our sign or tried to take our campsite. So it works!

If you’d like something a little nicer and that is personalized, let me tell you about my friend Rhonda Phipps.

Rhonda makes a customized campsite flag that has your names, hometown and even an embroidered drawing of your RV. Because they are personalized just for you, they are less likely to go missing when you’re away from the campsite.

They’re made of durable nylon ripstop and measure 11 by 17 inches.

Here’s a link to a video showing Rhonda’s work. Or go to for ordering info.

The tip of the week is brought to you by Good Sam, the world's most popular RV organization, now celebrating its 50th year.


Ron checks in with two questions, one about where to install a spare tire on his Sprinter based RV and another about how to install a brush guard on the front… a question brought about by a recent run in with a deer. Mike refers him to SprinterWorld, an aftermarket shop for Sprinters. [spp-timestamp time=”11:02″]

settlement-issuesListener Tom alerts us to settlement of a class action lawsuit involving Norcold refrigerators, specifically the 1200 Series, N8 Series and N6 Series of gas absorption refrigerators typically installed in RVs, motorhomes, trailers and lots of boats. The issue involves a safety related defect in the cooling unit which, in certain circumstances, causes the boiler tubes to corrode and leak flammable gas, exposing owners and other users of the RVs to the risk of fire.  This was a $36 million settlement. Details are available at [spp-timestamp time=”17:25″]

Listener Kevin offers some tips on what to do in Nashville, besides the touristy honky tonk action [spp-timestamp time=”20:35″]

And listener Janet checks in to say how she appreciates information on traveling with dogs in an RV [spp-timestamp time=”24:30″]

Sponsoring this part of the podcast is Van City RV in St. Louis, and their Partner Dealerships Creston RV in Kalispell, Montana, and Wagon Trail RV in Las Vegas. Bringing You the largest Inventory of class B’s from three locations.


What are the differences between a Class A, B, and C motorhome? [spp-timestamp time=”28:15″]

3-motorhomesAll are motorized recreational vehicles

Class A motorhomes – 21-40 feet, from $60,000 to $1million plus, sleep up to 6

Class B motorhomes – 16-22 feet, from about $60,000 to $160,000, sleep up to 4 but typically two

Class C motorhomes – 21-35 feet, sleeps up to 8, from aboit $43,000 to over $200,000

For a free ebook from Campers Inn, go to

This part of the podcast is brought to you by Campers Inn, the nation’s largest family-operated RV dealership with 15 locations on the East Coast 

Campers Inn RV is giving away The Ultimate Camping Package! The camping package includes a: propane grill, large cooler, 2 camping chairs, a two-person lazy river tube and more. A $500 value! Go to for your chance to win.  Promo code: camping.

Disclaimer* Must be 18 year or older, no purchase necessary, visit the page for giveaway rules and regulations. Winner will be announced Aug 1, 2016.

RV NEWS OF THE WEEK: Escaping the Fires

Amanda Arrowsmith and her family at the campground they fled to when their home was destroyed by wildfires in Fort McMurray, Alberta

Alberta fires sent tens of thousands fleeing – The devastating fires in Alberta, Canada that swept through Canada's energy hub of Fort McMurray resulted in the evacuation of 88,000 residents. About 2,400 buildings were lost in the fire, while 25,000 were spared, including the airport, all schools, hospitals and water treatment facilities. The premier said she expects to have a plan to return residents to Fort McMurray over the next two weeks, cautioning that it remains a dangerous place. Some neighborhoods were completely destroyed by the wildfires, which began April 30. [spp-timestamp time=”40:02″]

Hundreds of evacuees fled with RVs – motorhomes, campers, travel trailers – and are camped all over the province, in campgrounds, at the homes of friends and relatives, on vacant lots.

The following account is from one of them – Amanda Arrowsmith, of Fort McMurray, Alberta. I wanted to record an interview her and have her voice on the podcast but she said it was too emotional and she would have trouble choking back tears. So she asked me to interview her in writing.

Here’s her account:

Only 20 minutes to Evacuate

Our house burnt down this week in the Fort McMurray fire so I finally get to live my tiny home RV dreams! We're staying at a lake lot in Alberta and we've been so fortunate to have donated food and items from many different people all over Canada and the world. Our toddler is having the time of his life and our dogs are enjoying plenty of fresh air. So thankful for our tiny second home and that we all got out safe from the horrific fire.

They only gave us about 20 minutes to get out and even then we barely escaped. We had to drive off road and pray not to get stuck to make it out. It was a poorly executed evacuation. The winds were too strong and the fire got out of control quickly

It was a mess getting out. Being in beacon hill we were both fortunate and unfortunate. Fortunate that once we escaped we hit the highway south immediately. Unfortunate that the fire was already burning houses down while we were still packing. We had to escape by driving over the burn down to the highway.

Panicked drivers

evacueesSome drivers were very, very courteous and others were in a panic driving through ditches in fear for their lives. The smoke made it almost impossible to navigate through and there were flames all over the sides of the highway. Those that were downtown were forced north towards site where they were put into camps if there was space for them. Some slept in their cars because they had not enough gas to make it to the camps even those with babies and small children. The schools were evacuated to down town and when the closed off the highway many people were stuck heading south with their children heading north.

 It was very painful for many. Those that did try to go south drove through flames and around burning vehicles to do so. People are connecting now like I have never seen. Once to safety everyone is sharing what little they saved and helping people obtain what they need. Thousands of people have been saved off the highways by kind volunteers driving up and down the high way with gas to fill them up or offer water or mechanical services 

Trying to straighten out the mess

The place we are staying is Christina lake by Conklin. It's still relatively close to the fires so many people have come and pulled their units out in fear of the fire coming closer. Most have fled to areas like Edmonton and Calgary to live in their trailers. I am unsure of the status of the parks around those areas but I do know that many are in search of cheap or free areas to park until they can straighten out the mess back home and move closer back for commute.  

fireWe left May 3rd with about 20 minutes notice for evacuation. We were not prepared at all and our trailer was not ready. When we first arrived we didn't have a battery for our 5th wheel or a generator. We had a few pots and pans some plastic cups and plates and what ever else had been randomly left behind from the previous year. Because of the possibility of mice we had removed all blanketing and towels. The first few days before donations were received were awful. Luckily I brought my son's blanket but we had nothing for ourselves. With generosity of others we now have a battery as well as a generator and a nice warm blanket on our bed. Having lived in Beacon Hill which was the front of the fire our neighborhood lost 80% of the homes and ours was one of the unlucky ones.

The RV park was the first to burn down however (centennial) and many many full timers lost their RVs and everything in them. I don't believe they were even able to go in at all for their belongings. People can help by sending out donations, offering homes, offering an rv to sleep in for the summer, donating to red cross, or even just offering emotional support. 88,000 people have been displaced from this fire, many who didn't get to save anything and are living with only the clothes on their backs.

Many are looking for help and people come from all over Canada and the world to work in Fort McMurray which means no matter where you live there may just be someone returning home who has lost everything.

For more info go to Alberta strong at

To help, see Jim Hammill’s post at

This portion of the podcast is brought to you by Alde  the only name in heat that you need to know for your RV


Lots of people love to shop garage sales this time of year, but sometimes it’s simply easier and more convenient to bring the garage sale to you. [spp-timestamp time=”50:07″]

I have three apps for you to try… and then get ready to find treasures.

Wallapop is great for buying and selling. Take a picture, write a short description, set a price and wait for buyers to get in touch. The app uses your location to find what’s close to you so you won’t have to travel great distances, either. And you can instantly chat with sellers should buyers want more details about items for sale. The app is free for iOS and Android.

The makers of the Letgo app say you can list items in 30 seconds or less. Take a picture, write a short description and it’s posted. Buyers and sellers can connect and negotiate via chat. Buyers can browse items listed for sale nearby. And Letgo has a cool feature to let sellers create mini-commercials for items. The app is free for iOS and Android.

Developers of the OfferUp app say it’s the biggest mobile marketplace for local buyers and sellers. Like Wallapop and Letgo, simply take a pic, name a price, and off you go. Buyers can message sellers directly and it uses a rating system similar to eBay that allows sellers to build up their reputations. For Android and iOS.

Verizon's Steve Van Dinter reports on how you can now travel to Canada to Mexico and have all your data services available for $2 extra a day thanks to Travel Pass. [spp-timestamp time=”53:08″]

This podcast is brought to you by Verizon, which operates America’s most reliable wireless network, with more than 112 million retail connections nationwide.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT –  Tom Burkett reports on Lamberts Café in Sikeston, MO

Tom shares his take on this unique establishment. [spp-timestamp time=”57:44″]

Jennifer and I visited this a couple years ago and did a video… here it is:

This part of the podcast is brought to you by AllStays – the Internets #1 RV and camping app since 2010

Please Subscribe and Give Us a Rating and Review!

Many listeners are asking how they can subscribe, review and rate the Roadtreking Podcast on iTunes. With a new podcast like this, those reviews and ratings are really important to be able to show well in the iTunes listings. So if you can, I’d sure appreciate it if you’d subscribe and leave me your review.

Here’s how:

How to subscribe, rate and review a podcast

First, open up the iTunes app on your computer or mobile device. Click on Podcasts up on the top
> From the iTunes Podcasts page, use the “Search Store” field up at the top right corner of the page. Type in Mike Wendland or Roadtreking RV Podcast.
> Click on the logo image of the Roadtreking RV Podcast on the search return page
> From there (see photo above), you can…

1) Subscribe

2) Choose and Click on a star (1-5) that reflects your rating. Five stars means you really like it, one star not so much.

3) Leave a written review.

Thanks to all for the kind reviews we’ve received so far. That got us noticed by Apple/iTunes as “New and Noteworthy.” I appreciate every review!

And remember, you can appear in future episodes. Ask a question or voice your comments about RV topics by clicking the Leave Voicemail tab on the right side of this page here at You can then use the microphone on your computer to record your words.

Mike Wendland

Published on 2016-05-11

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

One Response to “Episode 87: Fleeing the Alberta Fires”

December 06, 2016at3:42 pm, Gene Bjerke said:

A few years ago, when we left a campsite for the day we just unhooked our gear and left it neatly coiled. That worked fine for a while, but then it all got stolen (several hundred dollars worth). Now we only hook up the shore power, which is quick and easy to unhook and take with us. So we bought a small traffic cone and some stick-on letters and marked it “In Use.” That promptly got stolen as well. I like the rope across the front idea. I have a big spool of 3/16″ line called “pot warp” (used for marking crab pots on the water). If that gets taken, I can just whack off another piece.

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