Technical Bulletin — December 2010

The California State Fire Marshal (CSFM) is updating its textile flammability document, Title 19, for the first time since 1993. A change to the pass/fail for the small scale test was drafted in 1993 and used by the industry ever since, but had not been vetted through the CSFM's official process.

A revision draft has already been prepared by a working group comprised of CSFM staff and industry members in 2008/09. The CSFM has created a Flame Retardant Advisory Committee to analyze this draft and make any changes before it is submitted for public comment. It was emphasized that this Flame Retardant Advisory Committee serves in an advisory capacity only; the CSFM has authority over final changes.

Results of October and November CSFM Advisory Committee activity:

  • Graphics’ Affect on Flammability
    The question was raised in the September Committee call by one of the committee members about whether graphics applied to a fabric negate the fabrics CSFM certification and/or contribute to its flammability. The CSFM is considering the topic and asked for information on incidents where graphics were known to contribute to a fire. Word on this issue is still pending.
  • Article 4: Registration of Flame-Retardant Fabric or Material
    An ‘alternate’ test method, detailed in section 1273.3, that has been in Title 19, but has not been enforced, may be required for unsupported film, synthetic fabrics and coated fabrics. This is of concern because it would require two test methods on any applicable fabrics, not one, and the test has an ignition time of five minutes. This issue has been discussed at length and is currently pending CSFM staff review.
  • Article 7- Field Testing for Fire Resistance
    The ignition source of the field test has been changed from a wooden kitchen match to a butane lighter and the sample size has been changed to 3 inches x 4 inches. IFAI voted against the ignition source change, but was unsuccessful. Other committee members felt that the butane lighter was already widely used for field testing and also that it more accurately recreated lab conditions. IFAI next raised concerns about significant changes being made to the field test without knowing if it would result in more fabrics failing. The CSFM will be doing testing of the new procedure prior to the next meeting on January 20.
  • Article 8 – Flameproofing Certification, Labeling and Installation
    The CSFM currently has their certificate available on their website, which has led to concern about the authenticity of certificates being shown to fire authorities. The CSFM wants to develop a system that definitively traces a fabric back to its manufacturer and be able to identify that it in facts meets CSFM requirements. The current draft of Title 19 requires CSFM certificates to have affixed to them a validation sticker with an identification number. The CSFM staff has tabled this discussion until January, pending more research.

    During this discussion, the CSFM staff mentioned a requirement in the current Title 19 that is not being followed or enforced. They indicated that when a company sells a roll of fabric with the claim that it meets CSFM, that a copy of the certificate is supposed to be submitted to the CSFM, along with a small fee. The CSFM staff has tabled this discussion until January, pending more research.

Previously discussed changes that will result from the revision:

  • The CSFM will no longer test all fabrics that are submitted for certification, they will only do random checks. Companies submitting a fabric for certification will still be required to have it tested at an independent lab on the CSFM’s approved list.
  • The testing for certification of individuals that do aftermarket applications of flame retardant chemicals will only be able to done onsite in California. New tests are being written and there will also be a different fee structure.
  • Title 19 will likely maintain the pass/fail requirements that have been in place since 1993 for the small scale test.
  • Inherently flame retardant fabrics may need to be re-tested every four years to maintain CSFM certification.

The CSFM Flame Retardant Advisory Committee roster, meeting announcements and minutes are available here.