Sask. family’s camper bursts into flames after fridge explosion

Trent Tomanek was doing a final walk around his Jayco camper trailer on Friday before heading to Jackfish Lake when he heard a noise that didn’t seem right.

“I heard kind of a ‘whoof’ noise, and then an explosion, the whole rig behind the fridge exploded, and the gas was shooting a flame through the side of the camper and out the roof of the camper probably 15 feet long,” Tomanek told CTV News.

“I heard kind of a ‘whoof’ noise, and then an explosion, the whole rig behind the fridge exploded, and the gas was shooting a flame through the side of the camper and out the roof of the camper probably 15 feet long,” Tomanek told CTV News. (Courtesy: Trent Tomanek)

He ran to his truck where the RV was already hitched and told his wife and two kids to get to a safe distance before running back to disconnect the truck and move it away.

When he got back to see what he could salvage of their personal belongings, flames were shooting out of the fridge and melting the roof vents, making it impossible to get inside.

Fearing the fire would spread, he unhooked the propane tanks from the trailer and towed it away from any potential hazards.

“Within 15 minutes it was just completely toast,” he said.

Tomanek said as a former firefighter, he’s seen camper fires before, but watching his own camper burn along with his family’s belongings packed inside was different.

“More than just a camper and the possessions, it puts a perspective on the value of the memories you’ve made in there,” he said.

After posting about the issue on social media, Tomanek says he’s received messages from other Jayco owners with similar issues.

He also discovered there was a recall issued for the propane regulator on his model-year trailer, a 2020 Jayco Jay Flight camper.

According to Transport Canada’s website, if the propane regulator fails “high-pressure propane could reach the appliances,” creating the risk of an appliance fire.

“The safety of drivers, passengers and road users is a priority for Transport Canada,” a spokesperson for the agency told CTV News.

“Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, a company is required to notify Transport Canada and all current owners when they become aware of a defect in the design, construction or functioning of a vehicle that could affect public safety. These notices are commonly referred to as ‘safety recalls.’”

Transport Canada confirmed there’s an open investigation focused on propane regulator failures, and encouraged anyone who believes they have experienced a similar issue to report it as quickly as possible.

Tomanek says the fire started in his camper when he unplugged the trailer before leaving, he heard the click as the refrigerator moved from electric to propane power before the explosion.

If this had happened while they were camping, with a power failure causing the gas power to kick in, the fire could have ignited with everyone asleep in the trailer, he says.

The remains of Tomanek’s Jayco trailer. (Courtesy: Trent Tomanek)

Tomanek said he never received a notice about the recall. It’s not the sort of message he would have ignored, he says.

He reached out to the company. He says Jayco confirmed the recall and said they would work with him once they heard from his insurance company, but wouldn’t tell him anything more until then.

CTV News reached out to Jayco by phone and email on Tuesday, but the company did not respond as of publication time.

Insurance will cover the monetary value of the lost property, but not the emotional cost of the experience. Tomanek says his family is devastated and his two children are having a hard time sleeping.

“So we’re covered for our belongings; as for, you know, the experience itself, there’s no real insurance for that,” he said.

“My two-year-old plays with trucks every day in our basement. And right now every truck is on fire. And he’s showing a truck pull a truck that’s on fire because that’s what dad did,”

For other camper and RV owners out there, Tomanek cautions they should use the end of the camping season as an opportunity to do their own due diligence.

“If I saw this article … Jayco I’d definitely be checking my recalls and going over my stuff to make sure this wouldn’t happen.” 


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