Couch Concerns: The Risk of Upholstered Furniture on Porches


As investigations continue into the fire on Saturday that killed four children, officials reveal that while the cause of flames has not yet been determined, the ignition point began on a couch located on the porch of one of the Gesner Street homes.

According to research reported by the United States Fire Association, it takes approximately four minutes for a couch fire to engulf an entire room.

The National Fire Protection Association said in an analysis of recent years that 20% of all home fire deaths occurred when upholstered furniture, like couches, is the site of ignition. They also report that upholstered furniture has led to 8,900 structure fires and $427M in property damage.

The NFPA currently has regulations regarding resistance to ignition of upholstered furniture by cigarettes. They also have proposed a document that would require testing of fire and ignition resistance of upholstered furniture using a flaming ignition source, such as an open flame or active firework.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also “has rulemaking underway on a comprehensive federal mandatory safety standard regarding the flammability of upholstered furniture” says a CPSC representative. There are standards regarding flammability by the Upholstered Furniture Action Council, but those are voluntary for manufacturers. California currently is the only state with regulations regarding flammability of upholstered materials.

The 2010 Philadelphia Fire Code, which is the currently accepted set of regulations, lists that upholstered furniture must resist ignition by cigarettes to the standards set by the NFPA, but no other mention of upholstered furniture or couches is made in the report.

NBC10 has not found any legislation or documentation regulating the use of couches on outdoor porches.

Some cities have put legislation into effect banning couches on porches. Ann Arbor City Council in Michigan banned the use of upholstered furniture in September 2010 after a fire started on a couch on a porch resulted in the death of a 22-year-old college student. Lawrence City Commission also banned couches on front porches in 2013 due to them being a potential fire hazard.

The Licenses and Inspections Department for the City of Philadelphia was contacted regarding any possible inspections done regarding porch furniture, but no response was received. The Commissioner’s Office for the Philadelphia Fire Department was contacted regarding any fire codes dealing with furniture on porches, but no response was received.

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