When Furniture Becomes a Serious Fire Threat
Upholstered furniture such as cushioned chairs, couches, ottomans and mattresses pose some of the most dangerous fire risks in your home. Fire departments respond to an average of 5,630 home structure fires, per year, in which upholstered furniture was the first item ignited according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). These items contain foams and fillers that burn rapidly, release tremendous heat, produce toxic gases and consume oxygen rapidly when set on fire. These items are often placed near heaters, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves where they are easily ignited by a simple spark.
Most consumers don’t understand how easily their mattresses and other furnishings can ignite. Foam manufacturers provide warning labels about the fire hazards of their materials but unfortunately, the consumer buying new furniture doesn’t always notice or heed the warnings.
Before purchasing upholstered furniture, do your research and consider pieces specifically designed for increased fire resistance. Look for products made under the Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC) program, or furnishings that meet the requirements of the California Bureau of Home Furnishings (CAL 117 or 133). While still combustible, upholstered furniture made to meet the UFAC or CAL 117/133 standards is often safer than furniture made with conventional materials.
Smoking and Upholstered Furniture
Careless smoking is a leading cause of fatal fires involving furniture. Improperly discarded smoking materials and ashes can easily ignite upholstered furniture and mattresses. All mattresses manufactured since 1973 are required to be more resistant to ignition by cigarettes however, following these safety tips can still help prevent smoking-related upholstery fires from starting:
- Do not smoke when drowsy, intoxicated or when using medication that can cause drowsiness.
- Be sure to light smoking materials over an ashtray or fireproof surface.
- Use large, deep ashtrays and never place them on sofas, chairs or mattresses.
- Check under cushions and furniture for discarded cigarettes, ashes or matches after smoking.
Fire-Safe Furniture Arrangement
When it comes to fire safety, where you place your furniture is important:
- Always leave at least 3 feet of space between furniture and space heaters, fireplaces or wood stoves.
- Never place furniture close to an element that produces heat or has an open flame. It’s very common for small sparks to jump out of a fireplace. If sparks land on an upholstered chair or couch, they can quickly ignite and grow into a large and dangerous fire.
- Keep electrical cords, lamps and appliances away from upholstered furniture. Do not press upholstered furniture against electrical cords plugged into sockets as this could damage the cord and cause a fire.
- Make sure that open flames such as candles, are kept away from upholstered furniture, draperies and lampshades.