Oregon wildfires: What to know about flame-retardant wool, denim and other clothing options

It’s important to have an emergency “go bag” packed with essentials and ready to be grabbed quickly if you have to flee your home because of a wildfire or other disaster.

Most emergency preparedness checklists say to have hard-soled shoes to wear to protect your feet from embers or glass shattered by heat.

Fire experts also suggest wearing flame-resistant garments, from head to toe, if possible.

But don’t spend time during an emergency looking for the right clothing, said Stacey Todd, an emergency management specialist for Klamath County, Oregon. It’s more important that you leave your home quickly.

If you want to assemble a set of low-flammable clothes in advance of an emergency, here is information about fabrics that are less combustible than others.

No fabric is fireproof, but some are more resilient to heat. People who work in fire service, research labs, electrical utilities and oil and gas industries wear specially engineered flame-resistant clothing made of materials such as Nomex, Kevlar and modacrylic.

Materials that are naturally flame resistant such as wool and those that are treated with specialty chemicals won’t keep burning when the source of combustion is removed, won’t ignite easily and won’t melt, according to Nick Warrick, the sales manager at All Seasons Uniforms, who wrote an article published in Power magazine, which covers the global energy industry.

Check the label on your clothes: Underwear, T-shirts and other items made of flammable synthetic materials can melt and cause serious injury, even if the outer layers you are wearing are flame resistant.

Recommended clothing for minimum flammability are sturdy jeans, blouses without frills, jersey pajamas (no ruffled nightgowns) and garments made from flame-retardant fabrics, according to fire experts with the City of Phoenix, Arizona.

Wrangler has a men’s line of flame-resistant (FR) clothing:

Women’s flame-resistant (FR) Wrangler clothing include utility pants, bootcut work jeans, long-sleeve shirts and pullovers.

Carhartt's iconic A18 hat is now made flame-resistant stretchy rib knit that keeps out the cold.

Carhartt’s iconic A18 hat is now made flame-resistant stretchy rib knit that keeps out the cold.Carhartt

Carhartt also has flame-resistant clothing.

For men

There are also flame-resistant knit hats, face covering-hat combinations and balaclavas.

Amazon sells flame-resistant, 100% cotton lightweight, long-sleeve men’s shirts, washed work jeans and other items from brands such as Bulwark, Carhartt, Konreco and Titicaca for men.

Amazon’s flame-resistant clothing for women includes Ariat’s long-sleeve base-layer shirts, Carhartt’s flex jeans and Wrangler’s Riggs mid-rise boot-cut jeans.

Sleepwear for children above size 9 months and up to size 14 must be flame resistant and self-extinguishing, or tight fitting as defined by specified dimensions, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Here are more fabric facts posted on Phoenix.gov/fire:

  • Wool is difficult to ignite and if ignited, usually has a low burning rate and may self-extinguish.
  • Avoid silk that has a high burning rate that may be increased by dyes and other additives to provide color.
  • Cotton, linen, acetate and triacetate also have a high burning rate but this can be alleviated by the application of flame-retardant chemical additives.
  • Applying a flame-retardant treatment after manufacturing is not recommended for clothing but can be used on curtains and other home textiles.
  • Glass fibers and modacrylic are synthetic fibers designed and manufactured to possess flame-retardant properties.
  • Flame-retardant treated garments require special laundering to maintain effectiveness (read the clothing label).
  • Heavy, tight weave fabrics will burn more slowly than loose weave, light fabrics of the same material.
  • The surface texture of the fabric also affects flammability. Fabrics with long, loose, fluffy pile or “brushed” nap will ignite more readily than fabrics with a hard, tight surface, and in some cases will result in flames flashing across the fabric surface.
  • Most synthetic fabrics such as nylon, acrylic or polyester tend to be slow to ignite but once ignited, the fabrics melt. This hot, sticky, melted substance causes localized and extremely severe burns.
  • When natural and synthetic fibers are blended, the hazard may increase because of one’s high rate of burning and the other melting.

Other tips to be ready if you ever have to evacuate:

  • Keep your car’s gas tank at least half full in case you have to quickly evacuate. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages, says Ready.gov. Take one car per family to reduce congestion on roads.
  • Keep a whistle in each bedroom to wake up your family members in the night if there’s a fire or other emergency.
  • Know how to locate and shut off the gas.
  • Consider purchasing a smart water shut-off valve, which will automatically stop your water supply if a pipe bursts.
  • Better yet, consider investing in smart home technology for real-time updates on everything from water leaks to abnormally humid conditions in your home. Insurance companies often offer discounts when smart home devices are installed.
  • Test your smoke detectors and other safety equipment frequently. House fire preparedness checklist

Portland Fire & Rescue has a safety checklist that includes making sure electrical and heating equipment are in good working condition and not overheating.

Here’s what you should do to make sure your family and your home are prepared for fires:

  • Place ABC-type fire extinguishers on every level of your home.
  • Install smart smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on each level of your home and in each bedroom.
  • Purchase collapsible ladders for each upstairs bedroom. Typical ladders measure 15 feet and cover two stories of your home.
  • Remove clothes, rags and other materials around furnaces, stoves and other heat-producing equipment.
  • Clear the lint buildup in your dryer after every use and the area behind your dryer every few months.
  • Close the fireplace screen to stop embers from popping onto the floor or carpet.
  • Clean your chimney every year. Soot can harden on chimney walls as flammable creosote.
  • Make sure your electrical cords are in covers and don’t run under carpets or against your walls.
  • Space heaters and heat-producing appliances like toasters and hair dryers should be at least three feet away from anything flammable such as curtains, beds and other linens.
  • Lighted candles should always be contained and monitored.
  • Know how to feel the temperature of the bottom of doors and avoid opening doors if they are too hot.
  • Practice family fire drills twice per year.
  • Learn more by reading emergency guides

— Janet Eastman | 503-294-4072

[email protected] | @janeteastman

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More wildfire prevention tips:

· 5 steps you can take right now to be ready for Oregon wildfire season

· Update your emergency ‘go bag’ with these essentials before a wildfire or disaster strikes

· What you need to know about home inventory and insurance after a fire or other disaster

· Wildfire risk when buying an Oregon home: How to evaluate fire safety, or prepare your current property

· Fire-resistant siding, windows, more house materials become popular as Northwest home builders adapt to persistent wildfires

· Fire prevention starts in the yard: ‘I don’t know which precaution will save my house so I do as much as I can’

· Fire experts prefer these high-moisture plants

· Prepare your yard for wildfire season by creating a low-flammable landscaping plan, finding fire-resistant plants with new database

More information on fire prevention can be found at the Oregon Department of Forestry YouTube channel and website:

· Your Home Can Survive a Wildfire

· How to Make Your Home and Property Fire Safe

· Oregon Wildfire Risk Explorer digital library

· How to Become a Fire-wise Community

· Community Wildfire Protection Plans

· Fire-wise landscaping checklist

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