Comforts in our Homes Alter Fire Behavior

April 26, 2007 -- Posted at 9:30 a.m. CST

Jonesboro, AR - Everyday items in your home could cause your home to go up in flames faster.

A study by Underwriters Laboratories and the Fire Protection Research Foundation finds that synthetic materials used in todays homes have altered fire behavior.

What does that mean? Couches, chairs, carpet, blinds, all of these things are synthetic materials, many made with plastic, and are highly flammable.

Marty Hamrick with the Jonesboro Fire Departments Training Division says that this material burns hotter and faster.

" Thsi stuff burns a lot hotter, and when it drips it produces a vapor much like gasoline would act in a fire. Making everything burn quicker, which in turn makes it harder for us to get there on time. Then that black smoke that comes off of it is very toxic, it's actually a floating fuel that once it reaches it's ignition point it becomes a flashover and ignites everything in the room."

Because of the popularity in these materials in our homes, fire fighters have had to adapt to the changes.

"The way things are made have changed over the years, so of course we have to change our gear. Our turnouts are a lot better with thermal protection and flame protection. We use thermal imaging cameras to find the hidden fires. Our airpacks are better so we can be supplied with fresh air, so we don't have to breath in those toxic fumes inside the structure."

But it's not the synthetic material causing the fire, many times it's the carelessness of the homeowner not practicing fire prevention techniques.

"Smoke alarms are the cheapest form of life insurance that you can buy for your family. Not only that, but keep the batteries changed and test them on a regular basis."

Fire Marshall Jason Wills says there are many other things you can do to prevent fires in the home.

  • Keep space heaters at least three feet away from things that can burn, such as curtains or stacks of newspaper. Always turn off heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Douse cigarette and cigar butts with water before dumping them in the trash.
  • Never leave burning candles unattended. Do not allow children to keep candles or incense in their rooms.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Put them inside or near every bedroom. Test them monthly to make sure they work. Put in new batteries once a year.
  • Don't overload outlets.
  • Remember to unplug appliances and things like curling irons. 
  • Always stay in the kitchen while cooking.