South San Francisco, CA October 1, 2020
It’s been a horrific year of California wildfires that seem to burst and explode from one region into the next wiping out complete neighborhoods, communities, cities, forests. We wake up daily to smokey air with ash covering everything, and the sky, while beautiful in one respect, reminds us the orange/red glow is due to the beasts our fire crews and first responders are working hard to get under control. And in recent years we’ve had South City neighbors lose their homes to house fires, even without an out of control event.
October 4-10th is fire prevention week and a good time to review some of the safety tips to ensure we all do what we can to mitigate potential dangers to us, our family, friends, home, and property.
It is also a wonderful time to send appreciation to our own South City firefighters – you can mail notes of thanks to
SSF Fire Admin 480 North Canal St. South San Francisco, CA 94080
This short video is important to watch, it shows how quickly a home fire can flashover and the difference in the use of home furnishings of natural vs synthetic materials, something important to keep in mind. PLEASE WATCH AND SHARE.
About The Experiments:
Two identically sized living rooms were constructed, each measuring 12 ft by 12 ft with eight foot ceilings and an eight foot wide by seven foot tall opening on the front wall. Both rooms contained similar amounts of like furnishings, with the variable being that one living room was outfitted with furnishings made from natural materials, such as cotton and wood, and the other was outfitted with furnishings constructed of synthetic materials such as polyester and polyurethane foam.
The synthetic room transitioned to flashover in 4 minutes and 50 seconds and the natural room took more than 30 minutes.
Both rooms were ignited by a small open flame replicating common causes of furnishing ignition sources such as lit smoking materials or a small battery powered device that was being charged inappropriately.
Synthetic room contents:
The room containing synthetic materials was lined with a layer of 1/2 inch painted gypsum board and the floor was covered with polyolefin carpet and rebound polyurethane padding. The furnishings included a polyester fabric covered polyurethane foam filled sofa and loveseat, engineered wood coffee table, end table and television stand. The sofa had a polyester throw placed on its right side. The end tables each had a ceramic and metal lamp with a linen shade on top of a wire frame. The left end table also held a picture frame made of vinyl laminate over a medium density fiberboard (MDF) frame with glass and cardboard. The right end table also held a glass vase. The television stand held a 35.5-inch flat screen TV. The coffee table held a plastic basket filled with plastic fruit and a plastic TV remote control. To the left of the loveseat sat a wicker basket at floor level made of woven seagrass with two polyester stuffed animals filled with polyester fill and beads. The rear wall had polyester curtains hanging from a metal rod and canvas wall art over a wooden frame.
Natural room contents:
The room containing natural materials was lined with 1/2 inch painted cement board and the floor was covered with hardwood flooring. The furnishings included a cotton covered, cotton padding sofa with a wood frame, a cotton covered, blended material filled loveseat, solid wood coffee table and two end tables, and a wooden TV cabinet. The large cotton sofa had a cotton blanket placed on its right side. Both end tables had a lamp with a linen fabric over a wire frame shade. A wicker basket was located on the floor in front of the right side of the sofa at floor level. The coffee table had two magazines, a plastic TV remote and a ceramic bowl filled with pinecones. The TV cabinet held a CRT glass tube TV with a plastic casing. The rear wall had cotton curtains hanging from a metal rod and two pieces of wall art made of cardboard, glass and wooden frames.
When a fire burns in a house, it consumes oxygen and generates toxic products of combustion (smoke). Oxygen levels decrease as the toxic smoke spreads through the house. Smoke may incapacitate a building occupant near or remote from the fire room before flashover occurs. Flashover is the transition phase in the development of a room fire in which fuel surfaces, exposed to thermal radiation from fire gases in excess of 600 degrees C (approximately 1100 degrees F), reach ignition almost simultaneously and fire spreads rapidly through the space.
UL FSRI conducted these experiments several times utilizing similar furnishings. This table shows the respective consistency of time to flashover between the natural and synthetic furnished rooms.
Natural vs. Synthetic Times to Flashover (min:sec)
|Experiment||Room with Natural Furnishings||Room with Synthetic Furnishings|
SOME FIRE PREVENTION QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
Are your smoke and carbon dioxide alarms in working order? If your smoke alarm went off in the middle of the night – do you have a plan? Have you reviewed it with your family or house mates? If you live in a multi-unit dwelling, what is your plan? Are stairways free of things that could make navigating them difficult due to smoke and the sense of urgency of getting out as fast as possible? Do you have a ‘bug out’ bag that could be easily grabbed if you had to evacuate quickly? Do you keep your devices charged at all times and your vehicle charged/ gas tank full? Do you close your bedroom door before you turn in for the night? These are just a few questions to ask yourself as you go about your home to see if you might spot any potential fire concerns.
Be Prepared! Don’t be Scared!
To learn more from our own South San Francisco Fire Department please check out the City website HERE for our Community Emergency Response Team.
For a list of other informative organizations CLICK HERE.