SAFETY: State Fire Marshal’s FYI about furnishings

Received today from the state Fire Marshal’s Office – a potentially life-saving reminder:

The Washington State Fire Marshal’s Office advises residents that home furnishings have changed over the last few decades from natural materials to synthetic materials. Synthetic fabrics, padding, glues, and resins in newer furnishings burn hotter, faster, and produce more toxic gases and smoke than natural materials.

Studies have shown that room fires with older, natural materials get hot enough to reach “flashover” (the point when all of the materials in the room ignite) in about 30-45 minutes. Whereas newer synthetic materials reach flashover much quicker, in about four to eight minutes.

Additionally, when natural materials burn, the smoke includes hydrogen, carbon, and carbon monoxide. When synthetic materials burn, additional toxic gases including benzene, formaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide are created.

This means that it is now more important than ever for families to respond and escape quickly in the event of a fire.

· Residents should be sure that their home has operable smoke alarms installed in every bedroom and in the hallways on each floor of the home.

· Plan and practice a home fire escape plan. Be sure everyone has two ways out of each room.

· Check doors for heat before opening them. If the door is hot, use another way out.

· In a fire emergency get outside immediately, and never go back inside the home.

· Smoke is poisonous. Stay low and get outside immediately. Never go back inside.

· Gather at a designated meeting place and call 911.

Here’s a video with a side-by-side comparison of how natural and synthetic furnishings burn.

5 Replies to "SAFETY: State Fire Marshal's FYI about furnishings"

  • John August 10, 2020 (7:20 pm)

    What’s that old advertising phrase?

    Better living through chemistry?


  • bolo August 10, 2020 (8:07 pm)

    Weren’t the (cancer-causing) PFOE chemicals embedded in the furniture supposed to reduce its flammability? Why have we allowed them to pollute our entire environment so if they don’t work?

  • junctioneer August 10, 2020 (9:05 pm)

    Surprised no mention of the new UL standard. Most legacy alarms are still sold and are either of type ionization or photoelectric. Public info is scarce but sources seem to indicate alarms that contain both types may be even worse, or best case no better since one of the types is usually lessened in sensitivity to not cause false alarms. UL 217 8th edition particularly addresses problems from synthetic materials.Kidde Trusense is the only one in the market I know of that adheres to UL 217 8th edition. I don’t know if it is any good or not, but it’s the only option to the more recent spec I could find, but do your own research and maybe consider updating your alarms or hedging your bets with different types.There is even a 9th edition I believe that no one has been able to adhere to yet.

  • 22blades August 11, 2020 (5:09 am)

    Houses used to be constructed of wood. Today’s construction of plywood, OSB & “engineered” products are mostly GLUE. Tearing down that old house isn’t always the greenest thing to do. There’s a price for 5000 square feet of glue: greenwashing. There is nothing  “sustainable” about our appetite for bigger, more, new & now.

  • WestSeattleParent August 11, 2020 (8:55 am)

    That video is terrifying.  Thank you for sharing.

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