Fire extinguishers are a common sight in households, but not every home has one. For the homeowners without, many may keep a fire blanket tucked away should a fire occur in their home. If you toss a fire blanket on a burning blaze, can the blanket itself catch fire?
Fire blankets can catch on fire, especially if you use the blanket for an oil or fat (Class F) fire. At that point, the fire will spread, as it will consume the fire blanket. If you must use a fire blanket, it should only be for small house fires not caused by oils or fats.
In today’s informative post, we’ll discuss what fire blankets are, what materials they’re made of, and how they can light on fire. Should you find yourself in a predicament where your fire blanket has ignited, we’ll even talk about what to do, so keep reading!
Table of Contents
What Is a Fire Blanket?
A fire blanket is an alternative to a fire extinguisher that’s used to put out small fires that occur on residential or commercial property.
Unlike the snuggly blankets you cuddle up to at night, a fire blanket is not soft. Most are made of woven fiberglass and feature a fire-retardant coating atop the fiberglass. This coating is usually silicone or silicone-based.
Fire blankets are available in a variety of sizes, which correlates to their uses. When a fire occurs in your home, you’re supposed to throw the fire blanket on top of it. The fire-retardant coating should prevent the blanket from burning.
How does a fire blanket stop the fire? Fire needs oxygen to spread. Smothering the fire with a fire blanket will choke off its oxygen and prevent the blaze from spreading.
That said, a fire blanket only works on the areas of fire in which the blanket is applied. That’s why they’re usually recommended for smaller fires. If the fire is larger, you’d have to throw several fire blankets on it.
That is unfeasible and dangerous as well.
Besides its main use for choking out a fire, you can also use a fire blanket to extinguish a fire if a person’s clothing has ignited. You’d wrap the fire blanket around their body.
Can a Fire Blanket Catch Fire?
Fire blankets are designed to rest atop a fire without themselves igniting. Fiberglass is considered a nonflammable material, after all. The inclusion of a fire-retardant coating is like an added layer of protection for the fire blanket.
Despite all that, fire blankets can indeed catch fire. A study from the Netherlands done between 2013 and 2014 through the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority dug deeper into whether fire blankets could ignite.
According to them, when used for Class F fires, which are fires caused by fats or oils, 16 out of 22 fire blankets they tested ignited when used for the intended purpose. The remaining six blankets did not catch fire, but they also didn’t do their jobs particularly well.
Once the blanket was taken off the Class F fire, within 17 minutes of removal, the fire started again.
The issue is severe enough that the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority recommended its citizens to never use fire blankets for Class F fires. In the future, clear labeling on the Netherlands’ fire blankets will divulge which blankets are appropriate for which types of fires.
Okay, but what if you’re reading this from somewhere in the United States or Canada or anywhere that isn’t the Netherlands?
Your fire blanket can still burn. Need proof? The International Marine Contractors Association or IMCA, which is based in the UK, reported a fire blanket igniting as well.
Maybe it isn’t all that common, but it can happen.
Why Do Fire Blankets Catch Fire?
Based on the information in the last section, we can gather that using a fire blanket on a Class F fire is what causes most instances of the blanket igniting. Is that the only reason a fire blanket can catch fire?
Not at all! Let’s look at some other causes of fire blanket malfunctions now.
Improper Storage of the Blanket
Your fire blanket should remain in its box with its tape sealed until you need it. This will keep it in the best condition to work well. When the time comes to open the box, pull the tape on either side, and unfurl the blanket.
When you throw a fire blanket on fire, you can’t do it all willy-nilly. You’re supposed to use the blanket to create a seal around the fire. Without that seal, you can’t stop oxygen from reaching the flames. The fire blanket will be useless.
Reusing the Blanket
Fire blankets, even if they’re not destroyed after putting out a fire, are not reusable. You must throw yours away even if it didn’t successfully reduce the size of the fire. Reusing it will not ensure its function for a second or third time.
Old or Otherwise Poor Condition
Although fire blankets don’t have an expiration date, their condition can certainly degrade with time. If you pull yours out and it looks worn, thin, discolored, or it has any other signs of wear and tear, do not use it!
What Do You Do If a Fire Blanket Catches on Fire?
It’s easy to feel shock and dismay when your fire blanket goes up in flames. You were relying on the blanket to protect you, as it’s not like you have a fire extinguisher handy.
What should you do?
The fire blanket is a goner. You know now that it’s not reusable, so do not try to get it. Let it burn and quickly evacuate the premises. If you have time, grab a few precious personal possessions, but focus more on getting yourself and your family members out.
Keep moving until you’re a safe distance from the building. Then call 911 or your emergency equivalent and report the fire. Your local fire department will respond as quickly as they can.
Fire blankets are largely regarded for putting out fires, not contributing to the fires themselves. Yet sometimes that’s just what happens, especially when the blankets are used for fat and oil fires, which are known as Class F fires.
If your fire blanket ever catches fire, do not try putting out the fire yourself any further. Instead, evacuate immediately!