Tag Archives: Maintenance

How many years full-timing?

2-dswkayak2015 was a good year for us. It wrapped up an enjoyable eighth year of full-timing. We began the year in a wet and chilly Corpus Christi TX, and the year mostly improved from there.  Our year was full of interesting travels throughout much of the United States. We visited another FL state park (Silver Springs) for the first time before visiting Sarasota and Miami again. We added another state, Pennsylvania, to our camping list with two weeks enjoyable visits there.

5-liarWe traveled a different path westward to Farmington NM for the Airstream Club’s annual meeting and rally. It was fun to stop at the mother ship of Bass Pro stores in St Louis MO. Along the way we discovered a free city park in Elk City OK (electricity and water,) and nice RVers everywhere we went. While in Farmington at the annual meeting, Jim was elected to 2nd Vice-President of the international Airstream Club. This was an exciting event and promises to provide a lot of hard and rewarding work.

9-ChacoFarmington NM is a great part of the USA to visit. Attractions include Shiprock, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and Aztec Ruins, and Hovenweep National Monument, and Durango, among other ancient and more recently developed attractions. Summer may not be the best time to visit the southwest but we found the weather manageable and enjoyed our stay and the attractions.

3-CWCSadly, Jim’s mother died in mid-March last year. We left Miami earlier than planned to rush home to be with Catie and family during this tough time. Thankfully the campground in southwest Miami was very accommodating about refunding our unused camping nights, and we’re glad we weren’t any further away from the family home. Our full-timing lifestyle allowed us to quickly respond to the family’s needs and care for Catie so she could stay home during her last two weeks.

4-firewoodland

One of our daughters and her family repatriated from Vancouver in Canada last month. They’re getting settled in with many adjustments after being out of the country for ten years. We’re excited to have all our children and grands living in North Carolina for the first time. We sense, on the other hand, a tug to start settling on our NC mountain acreage. Doesn’t this look really inviting? We have courtesy parking – let us know if you’d like to stop in. It’s pretty nice.

 

6-Charlotte1-SAF

Two new grandchildren joined our family last year. We’re grateful our travels and their arrivals all timed well, and they’re both in N.C.

 

We encountered our fair share of mechanical issues last year. Our fridge and water heater both failed on our rain-soaked trip from Farmington. Not until we hit some dry pavement in Tennessee did these start working again. Our batteries stopped charging from shore power. We accidentally destroyed our folding step when we ran it into a projecting concrete sidewalk. Precipitates from the water heater clogged our sink faucet completely. The solar charger quit. Debbie’s makeup mirror LED lights failed. We found ourselves needing to replace the trailer’s brakes and turn the drums. We had our worst water leaks into the cabin. One that soaked the fabric base of our sofa and one that dripped onto the floor from inside the roof air conditioner.

These are all pretty routine maintenance issues to us. To have a gaggle of mechanical issues in the same year is unusual for us and was frustrating at times. We sometimes defer maintenance when we think we can count on getting to it before long. Ideally, we catch problems before they catch us. Other times, a delay turns out to be punctuated by a repair instead of preventive or scheduled maintenance. Dry camping is easy when most things are working. Living in an RV is easy for us when most things are working. Our RV is eleven years old and is apparently becoming a little more demanding. Okay – we’re on it!

Our 2015 towing mileage was 11,740, down from 14,866 miles in 2014. This brings our total full-timing towing miles to just under 108,000 miles. Our truck has 157,000 total miles, so towing represents 70% of our total truck mileage. The truck and trailer each continue to delight us with low maintenance needs and costs. We still plan to run the truck to 200,000 miles, or another three to four years, before replacement. Get your bids in soon for future purchase of a lightly used truck!

Our full-timing travel costs continued another year to trend downward. We spent $2,966 on camping sites, down from $4,050 and $4,565 the prior two years. Our average cost of camp site rental for 2015 dropped to $8/night, down from $11 and $13 the prior two years. Our average nights stay per site returned to six nights.

One expected decrease is our towing miles per relocation. We averaged 178 miles per relocation in 2015, our second lowest number in eight years. Moving more often within southeast USA from July through December 2015 drove this and other reductions. This year we’re likely to spend more time traveling out west, so some of these may swing upward again.

10-75 degrees

Finally, we now freely admit we’re likely to build a house. We bought very nice land two years ago in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Weeks spent at various times of the year getting a feel for the sun, the weather, the wind, and the neighbors, provide us good ideas for site placement.

This attraction to building a house runs counter to our full-timing ethic of the past 8+ years. We promised we would only stay on the road full-time so long as we wanted. We’re still loving it, but are beginning to wonder how many more years. We think it’d be nice to eventually have a house again.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie
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©2007-2016 Dreamstreamr odyssey

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Spare Parts for Full-Timing

Last post I said, “Next post may be about spare parts — what else do we carry?”

It’s taken awhile to get around to this post. I’ve been writing elsewhere about our adventures on our land in the Blue Ridge Mountains of N.C. While thinking about this post, I just didn’t get to writing it.

We’ve addressed previously the gear list of our truck and trailer on our dreamstreamr.com web pages.

This post is to talk about spare parts we carry. We try to be self-sufficient as much as we can. If we can, we’ll fix what breaks. Sometimes things wear out or break. Some things are more important than others. If we lose refrigeration of our food it’s not quite disastrous. We have dry goods, and usually are within a reasonable drive to a grocery store. But if our hitch fails, we’re stopped. If our trailer’s electrical system stops working, we might be uncomfortable.

Having looked closely at what we carry (and don’t), I’ve decided to eliminate some of the stuff we thought we needed. What’s the worst that happens if you lack the spare? How many years do you carry something before you decide it’s surplus?

This is the list of spare parts we carry on our travels:

Quickbite Coupler and Equalizer hitch parts –
1 pair Equalizer L-pins
1 pair Equalizer socket pins
1 pair Quickbite hitch jaw pins
2 5/16″ hitch ball
hitch head pin and clip

Dometic Fridge –
thermistor (interior temperature sensor)
thermocouple (flame proving sensor)
gas burner jet

Atwood Water heater –
Thermal Cut-Off (TCO) replacement
Drain plugs (plastic, threaded)

Casework –
cabinet door latches

Electrical –
LED 5 watt G4 bipin bulbs
LED 10 watt G4 bipin bulbs
CFL 9-watt bulb for dinette lamp
ATC fuses 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 amp
80 amp class-T fuse (for inverter)
wire, insulated stranded and solid, 22 gauge to 8 gauge
7-way receptacle, complete spare
battery cable tubular lug rings

Plumbing –
bushings 1/4″ IPT, brass
ells, short nipples, plugs 1/4″ IPT, galv
fresh water tank petcock

Radio –
UHF PL-259 connectors
Double UHF female connectors
shrink tubing, various diameters
AGC fuses (0.5 – 30a)

Let’s see what your spare parts lists are, and what you think of mine.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

dreamstreamr odyssey™
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©2007-2015 Jim @ Dreamstreamr.com

Do Full-Timers Spend More Than Home Owners?

home sweet home

they cut the grass and trim trees

Is life on the road more expensive than “staying put?” Our lives changed dramatically when we sold the house, quit the jobs, and moved into full-timing.  We did these all in pretty short order six years ago confident we could live within our means, far more inexpensively than in our big house.

We don’t know what our expenses not working full-time would have been had we not started traveling. Actually, had we not sold the house and moved into the trailer we would still need our incomes — we couldn’t have afforded our house, cars, clothes, the life we had when working.

no utilities, no rent, no cost

no utilities, no rent, no cost

We know we are spending less than when we maintained our 3,000 sf house in an historic neighborhood of Charlotte NC. We didn’t spend carelessly but housing and clothing were then far higher expenses for us than now. Food was less, medical care was less, and we otherwise were frugal.  Still we spent far more than now. Not having space inhibits us from adding stuff into our house. Something we can’t eat or put into a laptop, we can’t much afford to buy it anymore.

also known as THRIFT

also known as THE THRIFT

Our current budget for daily site rental ($20/night) includes electric, water, and sewer. Extra are telephone, XM radio, and heating gas (propane). We couldn’t match this low price for any decent apt or condo — but many could argue our present housing is below their definition of decent space, at least in quantity (188 SF gross interior).  We’re comfortable and our budget provides what we need.

Formerly we maintained a pickup truck and RV trailer, plus two or three cars. We didn’t drive so many miles, even between all three cars and the truck, but the taxes, tags, and insurance for the vehicles were fixed costs. Now we’re down to one truck and trailer, and no cars.

pay now or pay later

pay now or pay later

Debbie does our accounting and together we discuss and agree on budget and adjustments to spending. Debbie keeps a pretty good rein on our finances. We don’t want to go to jail, so let’s not spend what we don’t have.

Our clothing was much more expensive than now. We both worked corporate jobs, had nice collections of wool suits and work shoes. As well, we had clothing for bicycling, backpacking, visiting the beach and hanging out in cold weather too. Now? We have much simpler wardrobes designed around layers. A whole lot less clothing than when in a big house and working.

We wear clothes until they wear out, which likely happens more quickly than “stationary” folks who have larger collections. We are working from a smaller set of choices so we probably wear any given item more frequently in a given span of time. A lot less clothing, and less cost.

A surprising change from a large home to our rolling home is laundry. Have you thought about how convenient it is to wash three loads at once, then move them to two or three large dryers? We’ve been in and out of laundromats in as little as 90 minutes including all sorting, washing, drying, and folding.  We’re not paying capital, repair, or utility costs for washing or drying our clothes. Sometimes we pay as little as $1.25 to wash and $0.50 to dry, or $1.75 a load.  Works well, easily, and quickly too. Cheaper? If you figure it out, tell us.

Our primary health care costs are health care insurance, funding an HSA (which is more like a savings account than an expense), and medical evacuation/relocation insurance (SkyMed). We see our dentist 2X per year and we have annual or bi-annual medical physicals. We pay for most of the visits out-of-pocket (with pre-tax dollars from the HSA), except where health care insurance now picks up costs for preventive care.

We wasted little and thoughtfully considered purchases for goods and food. Our full-size kitchen with large pantry and fridge, six years ago, allowed us to buy wisely. Food costs could be lower for an organized homeowner who effectively economizes through bulk-buying and coupon discounts. Our current meager storage area and axle weight limits restrain us from enjoying much “buying ahead”. We pay more for the foods we buy than we would have when we had more kitchen.

Jim formerly bought tools, hardware, materials, coatings for projects definite and potential. When we sold the house he gave away tools and materials. We no longer have the space or need for so much stuff. His small current stock of project materials includes mostly smaller things like wire terminations, grounding strap, nuts and bolts, solder, shrink tubing, and micro switches. Neat and small, and he’s very likely to use these things on a regular basis.

and they accept cash

and they accept cash

Life in a stationary home need not cost more than our rolling style. And we’ve met full-timers who say they spend as little as half what we do. You choose how you want to live, where you want to be, what you want to do. You might have an inexpensive lifestyle with a low maintenance house and low taxes. We didn’t, so we considered our house too expensive to maintain and moved into this exciting lifestyle.

We’ve not provided a numbered and methodical accounting of costs, but we tried to answer some of the questions raised recently. Your comments are most welcome.

See you down the road!

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2013 Dreamstreamr

The best and worst of full-time RVing?

Mary wrote us to ask, “. . .what are the ins and outs of full-timing, the best and worst, how you actually do it?” She pointed out we have hundreds of posts but how can she get a feel for “how it works?”

Mary, instead of looking at our posts you might peak at our website, http://dreamstreamr.com The FAQ and Home Improvements pages touch directly on practical aspects of living in our airstream. Too, we’ll touch on the answer as best as we can here.

First, the worst: The worst part of living full time in our RV might be dumping and filling tanks? There aren’t any bad parts, really. The advantage of having holding tanks is, we don’t pay sewer fees in a town or pay to have a septic tank pumped or repaired. Dumping and filling tanks lightens up in this comparison, we think.

No, I think this might be the worst of living full-time in an RV: thinking you’re in the path of a major tornado or hailstorm and can’t move the RV to safety. We’ve been fortunate so far on both accounts, but know it can happen sometime unless we avoid the zones.

The best part of full-time RVing for us? This is easy! Hitching up the trailer to the truck, starting down the road on a driving day. The tires singing and the engine humming, we’re on top of the world. We enjoy the diversity of sites we visit, the somewhat tempered weather we enjoy by avoiding deep snow, desert heat, and hurricane seasons, and the continuing education we receive as we study the places we visit.

We love the coziness of our airstream. Many people think it would be too confining, probably far too small for the things we need to have with us. None of our cabinets are overflowing with stuff. The refrigerator does sometimes eject a beer when we first open it after a driving day, just a matter of things rearranging themselves in the fridge. We have storage space to spare (although we lack extra weight capacity so plan not to fill those spaces.

Another thought about what bugs us on the road:
Sometimes we think the worst part is dealing with a resistant problem. This is something that just doesn’t want to be fixed and takes two or three or more attempts to get it right. The solution might be simple but we don’t know what it is. A few years ago our refrigerator only controlled properly on propane and it would relentlessly freeze on shore power. As problems go this is a pretty good one, at least the fridge wants to cool. But we’re tempering it manually, off a while and on a while, to keep things from freezing.

The service place said the control board checked out okay although we were 100% certain it was the problem. A month later another service place identified the same control board as the culprit and ordered a replacement. The replacement was incorrect, they located another and finally we fixed our fridge. You wonder why simple things, upon which we depend so much, should become difficult.

Almost three years later our refrigerator fell to relentless cooling on shore power and propane, either one. We didn’t ask a service garage to diagnose, we went straight to the Dinosaur Electronics folks via BestConverter.com. They promptly sent us a main control board which we installed. At first it didn’t seem to be working and we called the good folks at Dinosaur Electronics.

They worked through the issues with us, had great ideas, never rushed the calls, and sent us a warranty board yesterday. Plugged it in last evening and our refrigerator is automatically controlled again. The fix was easy, it just acted difficult. All we had to do was replace a part. Any service garage could have done it.

Our truck, on the first day out of Phoenix heading back to North Carolina, showed a check-engine light. We found it was intermittent and not fatal. We worried about it all the way across the country, hoping it was as benign as they declared.

After addressing it somewhat as we crossed the country we learned it probably was caused by operator error — when we cleaned and re-oiled our K&N air filter we almost assuredly over-oiled it and had some carryover onto the mass air flow sensor.

The MAF sensor doesn’t like this oil stuff and says, “check engine”. Recleaned, lightly oiled, and we are having no more such issues. For now. We’re 82,000 miles into this truck and, knock on wood, it has been brilliant. The same goes, really, for the trailer.

Living on the road, we hesitate to have work done by someone we might not see again. We don’t suspect they’ll do less than their best. Rather, we won’t be around to check back with them if we continue to have a problem. Which problems we sometimes have had, eh? We have tried to learn, over the past 5 years, everything we can about maintaining and fixing stuff ourselves. Generally works for us, so far.

The best is the freedom from household concerns like roofs, basements, gutters, lawns, bushes and neighborhood changes.

The worst is the potentially trip-crippling mechanical or electronic breakdowns of the truck or the trailer. We haven’t had any show-stoppers yet and hope we don’t.

Life on the road is good for us. We fly home to see our children, siblings, and parents at least once a year. We have fun, sightseeing and playing tennis in as many cities and communities as we can. We enjoy taking it as it comes, seeing the select cuts of North America.

North America, like all the continents, holds so many treasures for us to discover and explore. How else could we approach finding them if we weren’t at it full-time?

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees

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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

One more busy day

Returned yesterday from a unit rally in the NC piedmont near the mountains. Only a week left before we plan to leave for our long trip to Dawson Creek B.C. to meet the airstream caravan to Alaska. So this morning we broke into our final countdown list. We’ve beat the list down over the past couple of weeks but still have plenty to do in just a week.

Full-timing includes maintaining our truck and trailer periodically so they are reliable down the road. We’re fortunate to have a level paved driveway for working on the trailer. Deb’s parents have an area perfect for my maintenance efforts, but we don’t want to use it too much. They like to park in the same space so I want to get my stuff done and get out of the way. I hoped to get it all done in one day, two at most.

Today was to be the big one. We adjusted the trailer’s brakes, wrapped the trailer’s gas lines in 1/2″ insulation, replaced the flange seal between the sewer pipe and the banana panel, caulked several openings at pipes’ entry points, found a couple of bottom pan rivets needing replacement; removed, cleaned, and re-installed the black tank level sensor; and dropped the fresh water tank to the ground.

Four large metal hangers and two long straps support the tank in place against the bottom of the trailer. I hoped to correct a leak at the poly petcock on curb side between the wheels. The leak went on for several months without self-correcting, we gave it every chance.

Not knowing how to get at the petcock attachment and lacking an access panel under the tank, I loosened and carefully lowered the tank with a floor jack. Except it wouldn’t lower on the curb side, it was hung on the fresh water lines for the trailer, the fill tube, and who knows what else.

I returned inside where Debbie was researching several other items: our foam cushions for the sofa seats and dinette seats are due tomorrow to the shop for glueing, cutting, and radiusing. The black tank sensor replacement is over $50 with shipping (what a bunch of crap!). LED lights for the vanity and reading lights are on their way from LED4RV.com (thanks Dan!). The Dinosaur brand replacement refrigerator control board is on its way from BestConverter.

Deb and I researched again replacing the petcock and finally stumbled onto the right thread — mookiedog had done just as I did and I failed to read his warning in time. He’s correct — the only benefit in removing all the bolts supporting the fresh water tank is the physical exercise.

Fortunately I was able to rehang the tank quickly and restart working on the leaky petcock. I cut a two inch by three inch hand hole and replaced both clamps on the small line between the petcock and the tank. No good, the petcock still drips constantly.

Tomorrow I’ll cut a larger access hole, remove the clamps and tubing, and figure out what the leaky part is. And recaulk the stove vent, windows, tail lights, and awnings.

Not all that is busy is good. At least the brake adjustments went well.

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©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

Dreamstreamers drop anchor

Hi there!  We’re in Kannapolis NC parked in Debbie’s parents’ yard.  Trailer is parked behind and a little below the house. This location is out of their way and a little out of sight, a good thing for our extended stay. Extended stay? The Dreamstreamers? Yep, we’re anchoring down for the spring and summer.

Our storage parking at the in-laws

Spring in NC is fantastic once you rinse the pollen from your eyelids and get over hay fever. Oh, and shovel the pollen off the truck EVERY day. Otherwise, there isn’t any prettier place as you can see from these pictures we took yesterday at my mom’s and at Debbie’s parent’s. Anything not blooming is getting ready to — the trees are gorgeous and the bushes and flowers are too.

flowers at Jim's mom's house

Beautiful flowers at Jim's mom's

We arrived in NC last week and had a wonderful homecoming. Our Chapel Hill airstream friends, Bea and Dave hosted us in their driveway a few days for frisbee, tennis, walking through the campus of our alma mater, fun dining, movies and NCAA basketball finals. then we moved a little south to Jordan Lake State Park for a well-attended airstream rally with our home unit, Carolinas Unit of NC.

Vista Point campground at Jordan Lake SP

Why are we settling down for the summer and not traveling? We had a guaranteed spot in a mid-summer caravan to Canada’s Maritime Provinces with our Airstream club. And we might well have bopped around New England afterward, following fall season changes down the continent back to NC. Sounds great, what’s wrong with all that?

We just couldn’t stand to miss all these great family events. Jim’s mom’s birthday, Deb’s niece’s wedding, Deb’s parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, our 10th wedding anniversary, and Jim’s 40th high school reunion all occur between May 14 and August 14. We canceled our caravan and travel plans and are looking forward to everything except summer weather in NC.

Summer is much more than 75 degrees many days in the greater Charlotte area. We’re not chasing 75 degrees for much of the next five months. It just makes sense to hang up the saddle and spurs and stay awhile, no matter what the weather. We like to think we’re fortunate, not stupid. We had the opportunity to make an important choice for family and will have to make the best of the weather.

What will the inveterate nomads do for five months? Other than Jim’s big maintenance plans (check out Thursday’s blog) for truck and trailer we have plenty to do. Not that we’re ever bored anyhow. Our biggest challenge persistently is how do we get to all the things we could do? Cool thing is, we have five months to fill and we’re looking forward to it.

We’ll visit with family and friends, attend a few local unit rallies, take a trip to see friends in Dayton OH (and attend Hamvention), attend WBCCI’s International Rally in DuQuoin, try to go to Helen GA in Georgia’s mountains for a few days, do a little sightseeing in mid-NC, work on our tennis game, and before we know it it’ll be time to hitch up and hit the road again.

Jim and Debbie

locate us here
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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

Effingham, Illinois hospital fire safety

You never know what you’ll find when you turn the next corner. Nor can you guess what will bring you to some findings. Who would expect to find, in our travels, one of the hospitals most significantly contributing to the development our nation’s very excellent fire safety requirements?

We’ve spent the past week in Ramsey, Illinois, visiting with Janet and Mike. Well, mostly we’ve had an enjoyable time house-sitting as Mike spends much of every day visiting the hospital with Janet. She is recovering well from an apparently very successful surgery. St Anthony's Mem Hosp in Effingham, IL

And we’ve driven to Effingham, Illinois, three times to visit with Janet. Each visit to the hospital has impressed me more and more. I spent twenty-five years working in hospital maintenance and safety in four hospitals and one very large multi-hospital system. I’ve never seen as clean or attractive a hospital as Saint Anthony’s Memorial Hospital. If the surgical, recovery, lab, and records departments are as well-run as housekeeping, maintenance, and food service are then this is the hospital for my medical care needs. Best Evac Route sign anywhere

The hospital has an interesting and unfortunate history which almost certainly provides more fire safety for its patients, visitors, and staff. The original hospital, Saint Anthony’s, was built in the late 1800s and was lost to fire. Sixty years ago this April, the hospital suffered a devastating fire in which the hospital was a total loss and seventy four people lost their lives. The community pulled together magnificently and staged a campaign to fund the replacement hospital, named Saint Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in memory of the lives lost in the fire.

The National Fire Protection Agency has fire history lists for many categories including The NFPA’s deadliest hospital fires. The Saint Anthony’s fire is the second deadliest hospital fire on record. The top three are these:
> Cleveland Clinic (Ohio) May 15, 1929, 125 deaths
> St. Anthony Hospital (Illinois) April 4, 1949, 74 deaths
> Mercy Hospital, St. Elizabeth’s Ward (Iowa) January 7, 1950, 41 deaths
Source: NFPA

The cause of fire was never determined. The routes of the fire and smoke, from the basement to the third floor, were clearly defined as the wood-lined linen chutes and the open stairwells connecting all levels of the building. The old building was wood and brick with combustible acoustical upper wall and ceiling panels and with oil cloth on the lower portion of the walls. The building had no compartmentation to restrict the spread of smoke or fire throughout the entire building.

The open stairwells filled early and intensely with smoke and fire and were useless as exits. Three special emergency exits, installed as required by the Illinois Fire Marshall’s Office in 1940, were inaccessible to the building occupants. Smoke and fire raced, unchecked, throughout the corridors, blocking any access to the only available exits.

National hospital requirements for compartmentation, staff fire drills, automatic fire detection, alarm, notification and suppression systems all combine to provide much safer health care institutions. I don’t think there has been a large-loss hospital fire in the United States in many years. The last reported significant American hospital fire was in 1994 with four lives lost (all patients). Improvements to fire safety regulations for hospitals have since reduced or eliminated the contributing factors for three of those deaths.

I suspect Saint Anthony’s Memorial Hospital has been a leader in implementing and demonstrating fire-safe design for hospitals since its construction in 1954. And it appears Saint Anthony’s is providing a safe and clean hospital for the thousands of people it serves every year. My thanks go to the staff, management, and the Hospital Sisters Health Systems.

[NOTE: If you are interested in an exhaustive and well-done analysis and pictures of the Saint Anthony’s fire you can find Hospital fire losses, St Anthony’s here.]

REFERENCES:
https://www.ideals.uiuc.edu/handle/2142/89

http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?categoryID=954&itemID=41552&URL=Research/Fire%20statistics/Deadliest/large-loss%20fires

http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files//PDF/Research/HospitalsStanthony.pdf

revised 6/18/2009, added two pictures — jmc