Why the furniture in your home is causing faster fires

Filling those comfortable, cushy sofas in your home is a material being likened to foam gasoline.

A news report is shedding light on why new, synthetic furniture in many of today's homes are leading to fast-burning fires. "They're using petroleum to manufacture the [furniture's] foam," Opelika, Alabama, Fire Department Chief Byron Prather told a local ABC affiliate. "When it burns, it burns rapidly and gives off a black, soot smoke."

This type of synthetic material also melts, leading to the rapid spread of harmful smoke and gases throughout the home. "The majority of people in house fires die not from flame contact itself but from toxic fumes and gases," Prather says.

Research shows that older, legacy furnishings made of leather, wool, and cotton don't burn in the same manner. Studies by UL have confirmed that rooms filled with synthetic furniture that are set on fire reach dangerous temperatures quicker than similar rooms filled with legacy furnishings. In 2013, NFPA reported that fires involving these items accounted for the largest share of fire deaths of any first item ignited in U.S. homes.

In the news report, the Opelika Fire Department demonstrated these concerns by setting modern furniture on fire and watching it burn. To prevent tragic outcomes from these fires, the department stressed the importance of smoke alarms in homes and escape planning. At the end of the segment, the newscasters also suggested the installation of home fire sprinklers, citing NFPA's research on sprinkler effectiveness.

Learn about all of the hazards of the modern home by visiting NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative site.

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