InTents October/November 2019 - 54

business | safety

Tent vinyl and flame retardancy
Do you know how your tent fabric performed on a flammability test
-and can you explain the results to your fire marshal?

ne of the most tragic days in tent
history occurred 75 years ago:
The Hartford circus ire.
Some 7,000 spectators were enjoying
a circus performance on July 6, 1944,
in Hartford, Conn., when a ire spread
rapidly through the tent. About 167
people died (the exact number is
unknown) from burns, asphyxiation,
trampling and other causes, and more
than 700 people were injured. The cause
of the ire was never determined, but
investigators focused on the possibility
of a carelessly tossed cigarette.
The contributing factors to the
disaster would horrify tent professionals
today. According to a 2014 article from
the Hartford Courant:

O
The Hartford circus fire
The Hartford circus fire is
remembered as one the worst
fire disasters in U.S. history. In
addition to raw footage posted on
YouTube and other websites, the
story of the fire has been told in
several nonfiction books, as well
as at least one novel and a legal
book that reviews the settlement
between the victims and the
circus. History buffs may enjoy:
* The Circus Fire: A True Story
of an American Tragedy by
Steward O'Nan
* The Hartford Circus Fire:
Tragedy Under the Big Top by
Michael Skidgell
* A Matter of Degree: The Hartford
Circus Fire and the Mystery of
Little Miss 1565 by Dan Massey
and Rick Davey
* Masters of Illusions: A Novel of
the Connecticut Circus Fire by
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
* The Great Hartford Circus Fire:
Creative Settlement of Mass
Disasters by Henry S. Cohn
and David Bollier

54 intents

oct-nov 2019

"The tent had been waterproofed with
a mixture of paraf in wax and gasoline.
The circus had dozens of ire extinguishers, but most weren't located in
the tent-they were near generators-
and some were inoperable. There were
no "No Smoking" signs. There were far
too few exits, and some were blocked by
animal runways. There was no Hartford
ire engine on site. Few of the hoses on
the circus water trucks it city hydrants."
As often happens in the wake of manmade disasters, the ire spurred local
of icials to develop new regulations
for temporary shows that were the
toughest in the nation at that time,
according to the Courant.

Flame retardancy today
Today's ire codes and tent fabrics would
likely prevent such a catastrophe. But
misinformation about ire retardancy
and tent fabrics still exists, even among
those who are charged with regulating
tented events.
Jeff Sparks, sales director for fabric
manufacturer Herculite Products Inc.,
Emigsville, Pa., says that some ire
marshals misunderstand modern tent
vinyl, which is inherently ire retardant
and does not require retreatment.
"They will associate the PVC fabrics
of the tent industry with camping tents
or nylons that have treatments," he
says. "We get this all the time, where the
ire marshal comes back and says the
tent fabric needs to be retreated. Some
ire marshals are really up to date on
their knowledge of various fabric, but
some are not, and there is still a lot of
disconnect out there."
Another issue for the industry, Sparks
says, is the various tests and standards for
lammability. There is no federal regulatory
body for ire retardancy; however, the
National Fire Protection Association
(NFPA) developed NFPA 701 Test Method
2, a voluntary industry speci ication for tent
vinyl and other outdoor fabric products.
This is the lammability speci ication
quoted in the International Fire Code.
However, the NFPA does not do the testing
and certi ication of the fabric. Rather, tests
are performed by independent labs that
are quali ied to conduct the test.



InTents October/November 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of InTents October/November 2019

InTents October/November 2019 - Cover1
InTents October/November 2019 - Cover2
InTents October/November 2019 - 1
InTents October/November 2019 - 2
InTents October/November 2019 - 3
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