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Influence of Ignition Source on the Flaming Fire Hazard of Upholstered Furniture



Thomas G. Cleary, Thomas J. Ohlemiller, K M. Villa


A set of upholstered chairs constructed from five different fabric/foam combinations was subjected to a variety of ignition sources suggested by fire statistics. The sources included a cigarette, a small match-like flame, an incandescent lamp, a space heater, and a large flame source (CTB 133 equivalent gas burner). The tests were performed in a furniture calorimeter where heat release rate and species production rates were obtained. For any chair type, the time to the peak heat release rate depended on the ignition sequence, but the magnitude of the peak did not, within the scatter of the data for any given chair. HAZARD I, the fire hazard assessment method developed at NIST, was used to quantify the hazard posed by the different ignition scenarios. No deaths were predicted when a working smoke detector was present. When a detector was not present, the results from the limited number of scenarios considered confirm the importance of a low peak heat release rate and a slow rate of rise to lessen the hazard of upholstered furniture fires. No one of the ignition scenarios examined consistently yielded the greatest potential hazard for all chair types tested when ignition and sustained burning was achieved. It is recommended that the hazards of upholstered furniture for residential use be assessed on the basis of resistance to small flame and cigarette ignition combined with peak heat release rate and time to peak subsequent to ignition by a strong source such as the CTB 133 equivalent gas burner.
Fire Safety Journal


upholstered furniture, ignition source, chairs, fabrics, fire statistics, fire hazard, furniture calorimeters, hazard analysis, home fires, incandescent lamps


Cleary, T. , Ohlemiller, T. and Villa, K. (1994), Influence of Ignition Source on the Flaming Fire Hazard of Upholstered Furniture, Fire Safety Journal, [online], (Accessed July 19, 2024)


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Created January 1, 1994, Updated February 19, 2017