The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

Fire Retardant Potpourri...

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by gafftaper, Nov 16, 2007.

  1. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,672
    Likes Received:
    2,698
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    So another thread someone posted that they used plastic sheeting which was labeled as fire retardant on a show and the fire marshall threatened to shut them down. Not only did they have to remove the sheeting but also paint fire retardant on the flats and floor.

    This got me thinking that we need a good discussion on the topic.

    Fire Retardant Muslin or not for flats? Does Latex paint make it more or less fire retardant? What about the Rosco stuff?

    What about painting fire retardant on wood set pieces, flats, floors, etc? When do you ALWAYS use fire retardant? When do you not worry about it much?
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2007
  2. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,672
    Likes Received:
    2,698
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    Answering my question:

    When it comes to muslin, I've been told the paint itself becomes a fire retardant. I've also been told the paint destroys the fire retardant in the muslin. I don't know if either is true so I buy fire retardant muslin just to be extra sure... but I'm always suspicious that I'm wasting money.

    The only time I've worried about flame retarding hard flats or other wooden elements of the set is the two shows I've done that used a flash pot. Other than that I've never worried about it that much. Is that a bad thing?
     
  3. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    99
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Launceston Tasmania
    I guess our rules are probably different (they usually are) but we can buy what is called "class A fire retardent timber". Now if you believe that I have a great bridge to sell you over in Sidney. It used to belong to my Grandma who only used it on Sundays.
    I once demonstrated to a Fire Marshall that it burnt with the application of a cigarette lighter for a few minutes and then cntinued to smoulder he said "It's Fire Retardent, it says so." and wandered off.
    I always belived that acrylic paint increased the fire resistance of timber without any additional chemicals but that canvas and so on needed extra.
     
  4. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

    Messages:
    4,468
    Likes Received:
    2,870
    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    Two things I've learned:

    1) In fabrics, IFR is always better, and the extra expense, if any, is easily offset by the labor&materials cost to DIY.

    2) I was always told that the pesticides used to treat erosion cloth, (you know the jute/hemp product woven into about 1" holes, probably replaced by a plastic product these days), made it flame retardant. Totally untrue, as I discovered in the worst way possible when a flashpot caught the witch's well on fire during Hansel & Gretel, before a live audience full of kids, in a 200-seat black box theatre. Mind you, this was 26 years ago and I'm much wiser now, to the extent I won't go near pyro without a licensed pyrotechnician present.

    3) Okay, three. The Dept. Chair of my college theatre used to sneak up behind every new Stage Manager backstage during a quiet part of the show and say "Don't move, don't turn around. Tell me exactly where every fire extinguisher within 50' is, and what type it is." Those who failed got a long lecture after the show. Even today, when I take someone new up to our catwalks, I point out the alternate exits and fire extinguishers.
     
  5. David Ashton

    David Ashton Active Member

    Messages:
    829
    Likes Received:
    89
    Occupation:
    truck driver
    Location:
    perth W Australia
    I have a standard test for flame retardants, which is the test in the relevant standard.Apply a lighter to the cloth/scenery for 15 seconds, if it catches fire it fails, if it smoulders and smokes a bit but does not catch alight it passes.While a flame retardation label is mandatory there are domestic levels which are lower than theatre ones.We once had a Council who brought in some cloth to make some curtains and were certified fire retarded but the cloth burnt quite well, so a flame test is the only real way to test stuff.
     
  6. Drmafreek

    Drmafreek Active Member

    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    New Wilmington, PA
    Everything I've learned tells me that what you had is Fire Retardant material. Fire Retardant material is not fire proof. If a flame is held to it, it should burn. But once the active flame is removed, then the fire will stop, you might get a little smoke and a bit of charring, but it will not flame up.

    Now, moving on to Flame Retardant Muslin. It is better to purchase Non-Flame Retardant Muslin, paint it, then Flame Retard it with chemicals you can buy from most theatrical supply places. When you paint over the retardant, two things can happen. It can affect the color of your paint, and if you're using a sufficient watered down version of paint, you may start to remove the retardant as well.

    Paint helps a little bit, but it's not a true retardant. Now, as far as use, whenever pyro is in use around set pieces, then retardant should be used, proven many years ago by my undergrad professor when we were doing a version of Cyrano de Bergerac. We had flash pots go off in the scene and several borrowed pieces decided to catch fire. Next thing you see is the crew running on stage with fire extinguishers. Because they were borrowed, the TD chose not to retard them, and it was proven to be the wrong choice.

    But you learn a little bit each year ya get older. That man is now the head of a department and continues to do well. Hope I helped a bit.
     
  7. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,077
    Likes Received:
    683
    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
    Location:
    Lititz, PA
    The simple way to ease worries is to use Rosco FlameX P50. It comes in little bottles that you mix directly into your paint, it is not supposed to affect any colors you may have mixed, and you use one bottle of flamex to one gallon of paint. This creates a fire retardant coating when you paint. There are three other flamex types that you can use for treating raw materials, you can read about them [​IMG].

    As for pyro type situations, flame retardant generally isn't enough to pass the fire marshal's inspection. Most of the time if you are using open flame, even a candle you need to have some form for flame-proof flashing like a sheet of metal
     
  8. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,672
    Likes Received:
    2,698
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    So you have your non flame retardant muslin covered flats. How about if you use the rosco flamex in the paint you use for the initial sizing of the drop... sounds like a good idea to me. The show is done and the flat goes back to storage. Next time you get it out for a show and repaint do you use a new layer of Rosco flamex treated paint? What about those flats that have been used in a dozen shows? Anyone ever been threatened by the fire marshall for not treating the back side of a hard flat?
     
  9. Drmafreek

    Drmafreek Active Member

    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    New Wilmington, PA
    Gaff, both good questions, and ones I don't know about. Something I'm gonna have to look into though. As far as not treating the back side of hard flats I know that when I was in a grad school we back painted everything for fear of the almighty marshall. And never had a problem when he came and looked at things.
     
  10. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,672
    Likes Received:
    2,698
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    I'll take it a step further. I like to build hard flats which I cover with muslin to have a nice smooth even surface on the front that dutches well.

    So... paint the back with fire retardant paint, use fire retardant muslin. What about the front? Fire retardant paint every show? Just the first coat of sizing? Fire retardant paint every couple of shows?

    This is an area I think a lot of us want to do the right thing... as much as we can afford. But there isn't a lot of information out there on what is right. Furthermore, you don't want to ask the fire marshall for fear you will draw attention to yourself. I want to do it right. But how much is enough. Isn't dried latex paint pretty non-flammable anyway?
     
  11. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,672
    Likes Received:
    2,698
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    Charc, when your parents own the school (after the lawsuit) they'll make sure there are safeties on everything.
     
  12. Drmafreek

    Drmafreek Active Member

    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    New Wilmington, PA
    Gaff

    Gonna go and test that theory right now, let you know in about an hour.
     
  13. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,077
    Likes Received:
    683
    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
    Location:
    Lititz, PA
    I would ask Rosco what they recommend. They know the product, and they know how it is designed to last. In answer to your first question, I believe you can size the drop with flamex and then paint it. As for subsequent paintings though, I am not sure.
     
  14. Drmafreek

    Drmafreek Active Member

    Messages:
    124
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    New Wilmington, PA
    Just a note on the flammable test on Rosco Off Broadway. ***This is in no way a professional test, just information learned from a field test that I have taken in.*** I coated a piece of 3/4" ply with Rosco Off-Broadway Yellow Ochre. Now, when I've had the fire marshall do a fire test, he holds a flame for 30 seconds to a piece, and if that piece can then carry a flame by itself, it is not sufficiently fire retarded. I then held a flame to the painted wood for a full minute. There was charring and some smoke, but it could not hold a flame.

    Again, to be on the safe side, speak with your personal fire marshall. But, using the test that has been used on my sets in the past, the Rosco paint seems to protect the material at least a bit.

    And still, if you are using any type of pyro or open flame, use some sort of professional retardant, such as the Rosco Flamex over top of your painting.
     
  15. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,672
    Likes Received:
    2,698
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    Thanks Terry Great info. We did a bunch of testing this summer of old curtain scraps. The results were fascinating. The most important thing learned was if your curtains ever get wet they are no longer fire retardant. However the scrap soaked in dry cleaning fluid had more resistance than the 20 year old scrap we didn't touch.
     
  16. miriam

    miriam Active Member

    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Up the wall
    We are talking about backdrops and set peices and the stage itself, correct? All of which need to be painted and fire retarded? or whatever the word is. What about costumes?

    And we are afraid of fire because of the lights? Or what?
     
  17. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

    Messages:
    4,077
    Likes Received:
    683
    Occupation:
    Controls Technician - TAIT Towers
    Location:
    Lititz, PA
    I am not sure about the rules on costumes.

    We are afraid of fire in general. There are many things in a theatre that could cause a fire. Also, theatre fires are often very lethal on account of the fact that there are so many people in a small enclosed space.
     
  18. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,090
    Likes Received:
    99
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Launceston Tasmania
    We are afraid of fire largely in my opinion because every country I know of has had a major fire in a theatre causing much death. The US one has been mentioned on this site, I don't know enough about it to talk about it. Here in Australia in Sydney late in the 19th Century a theatre burned to the ground causing several hundred deaths. That was caused by smoking in the audience and is the reason that we banned smoking in theatres and cinemas in Australia before anyone else in the world. In the eighties we nearly lost the Theatre Royal in Hobart one of the oldest theatres in the southern hemisphere but the fire curtain saved the auditorium and the fly tower has been rebuilt.
    In the UK a large cinema in Manchester burnt down before the Second World war. Once again I don't know all the details but a lot of people died.
    We are now rightfully paranoid about fire. We work with a lot of things that get hot and we similarly work with a lot of materials that can best be described as fuel. We do this in a situation where we have a great many people in a quite small space without all that many doors.
    We are very afraid of fire.
     
  19. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    12,672
    Likes Received:
    2,698
    Occupation:
    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    In the U.S. we are all very familiar with the fire at The Station in 2003. But the Iroquois Theater Fire from 1903 was the big one killing nearly 600 people.

    Costumes. Ahh now that is an interesting question. I've never dealt with that but it sure makes you think doesn't it. Certainly anyone in a large puffy costume working around candles or anyone near pyro should be fire proofed.
     
  20. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

    Messages:
    5,948
    Likes Received:
    225
    Occupation:
    Stageline Operator/Staging Supervisor
    Location:
    Howell, NJ
    Most of you probably know it as the "Great White Fire".
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice