Change in makeup of furniture may require a change in fire-fighting methods
Posted by David Brooks | Monday, July 2, 2012
Fascinating story today in the NY Times about how the New York City Fire Department, the nation's largest, is burning down 20 rowhouses stuffed with special furniture to test new methods of fighting house fires. The problem is that plastic material in modern furniture burns differently than old-fashioned cotton. From teh story:
One of the first tasks for firefighters arriving at a blazing home has long been to ventilate the structure — make holes in it — so that hot gases and smoke can escape. It has been this way for generations: a so-called roof man from a ladder company opens a hatch or saws through the ceiling, while other firefighters break windows as they search inside, often before the first drop of water has hit the fire.
Plastic fillings in sofas and mattresses burn much faster than older fillings like cotton, helping to transform the behavior of house fires in the last few decades, firefighters and engineers say.
With more plastic in homes, residential fires are now likely to use up all the oxygen in a room before they consume all flammable materials. The resulting smoky, oxygen-deprived fires appear to be going out. But they are actually waiting for an inrush of fresh air, which can come as firefighters cut through roofs and break windows.