Faces Of The Boom: Arizona Man And His RV Adapting To Frigid Temps

Bill Ferguson, an Arizona man spending his first winter in North Dakota, removes condensation from the windows of his RV on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Williston, in preparation for frigid temperatures. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – In Arizona, Bill Ferguson used aluminum foil on the windows of his RV to keep out the heat and sun during hunting trips.

Now in his first North Dakota winter living in that RV, the foil is just one layer of insulation keeping out the cold.

“This trailer is not made for the north,” Ferguson said Friday while repairing a frozen septic line on his camper.

Ferguson, an oilfield truck driver who moved to Williston in June, has learned a few lessons about how to survive in an RV in the winter, but he’s managed to keep his home warm and comfortable.

“I’m learning,” said Ferguson, who opted to live in an RV due to the high cost of housing in the area. “I think I’m ahead of the game, but I’m learning.”

Before moving to North Dakota, Ferguson spent 21 years as a paramedic firefighter. He said he got burned out and left his position in February as a captain for the Yarnell Fire Department, which fought a wildfire last summer that claimed the lives of 19 firefighters.

Ferguson then spent a couple of months working as a medic in Afghanistan before deciding to move to North Dakota to seek an oilfield job.

Ferguson drove from Arizona to Williston without a job lined up, arriving in town at midnight. At 7 a.m., he was in front of a computer looking for work and by 9 a.m. he was hired as an oilfield truck driver.

Ferguson had obtained a commercial driver’s license before he left Arizona and had experience driving fire engines.

He works overnight shifts hauling produced water – a waste byproduct of oil development – from oil wells to disposal sites.

Most of the time Ferguson sleeps during the day, but not Friday after he discovered the frozen septic line in his RV. Fortunately, he was working to repair it when the temperature was 30 above zero in Williston, as he prepared for temperatures closer to 30 below zero in the coming days.

Ferguson began preparing his RV for winter in November, installing insulation board underneath the camper and plywood skirting to keep out the wind.

The septic line has been his only major inconvenience, but he’s also come home to find ice in the toilet and has learned that his clothes may freeze to the wall of the closet if they’re not thoroughly dry.

With his propane heater, an electric heater and towels over the windows, the temperature inside his RV was 72 on Friday.

“It hasn’t been too bad,” he said.

Ferguson plans to spend a few years working in North Dakota and would like to return to Arizona and use his RV for a different purpose – guiding hunting trips.