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Foam Filled Furniture


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A few recent fires have got me thinking of how the differences in the type of foam used in foam filled furniture effect the way fires develop and spread. All could be classed as normal bread and butter type jobs and were all accidental due to the careless use or disposal of smoking materials.

First involved which could be best described as the classic cigarette down the back of an armchair / settee. In this particular example it must have been some sort of combustion modified foam as on the seat the fire had only burnt across a third of it, but the back, as it was burning from the bottom had caught well, to such an extent the heat and flames generated had broken the window and burnt through the ceiling. The room was totally destroyed, but the surprising thing was only about a third of the settee was destroyed. I wouldn't have liked to see the damage if it had been fully involved. A case of something that was hard to get going but when it did had an extremely high fire loading.

Second was a bedroom, where the fire had either started in a bin or small bedside locker which was completely destroyed and had then spread to the bed. The mattress seemed to be a memory foam type and again must have been combustion modified as it had hardly caught. The BA team initially had problems finding the fire as there was no flame or heat but lots of thick black smoke.

Third was what we would normally expect, a bedroom going well with the entire bed burnt out and the room destroyed, but contained to the room of origin by the actions of the initial attending crew.:)

Any similar experiences of the changing type of fire caused by the type of furniture or its fire loading?

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well Keith, as you know the variables are almost endless. 

how did the ventilation profile differ in each job? was the seat of fire in the middle or corner of the room? 

no doubt, you're right, modern fires are different. rooms now are filled with plastics and synthetic materials, the they burn hot and quick.

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It was the two bedroom jobs that highlighted the differences. Both fairly typical the one in job 3 slightly smaller. For job 2 there was certainly enough heat initially to get it going but the mattress just seemed to smoulder slowly giving off lots of dense smoke.

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Yes, well all materials have their own specific heat capacity. If there is enough heat, and ventilation, then it will burn. everything is combustable, just needs the heat.

The fire you describe sounds like a typical under ventilated compartment fire. 


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My double fatal New Year 2016 was similar Keith. Double murder, killer decided to set fire to two sofas on which the deceased were reclining to destroy the evidence. One started quite well and took out one seat of a double sofa, the other barely got going before they both got effectively closed down by the PoC, exactly as Dyson sez, under ventilated.

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Agree with what you're saying, may be just trying to highlight that how different types of foam change the dynamics. If we were to set up two identical rooms the only difference is the foam filling, in one it will catch and go well, in the other due to the composition, the PoC given off will effectively smoother itself. 

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I think there are simply too many variables that can make even identical pieces of furniture burn differently.  

As we know, blankets or throws on sofas, the way cushions or pillows are arranged, even small things like whether a tv remote is on the sofa to much more important factors such as ventilation effects (open windows and doors) and indeed where they are sited and how close to the walls and corners sofas and beds are.  

the list is endless! That's why I love my job every fire I go to is diffetent and I learn something new every single time. 

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