Can a tarp catch on fire? The answer depends on the type of tarp. Some tarps can catch fire. Being too close to lighting or heat source is a common way for a tarp to catch. A tent that’s too close to a campfire can catch on fire if you’re not using the right type of tarp. Bringing certain types of heaters into a tent is another way a tarp fire can occur.
Recently, an Illinois homeowner discovered a fire in his garage. It turned out a tarp was near an extension cord that was powering a fan. The extension cord became hot and ignited the tarp. Back in 2018, a tarp caught fire when welding sparks hit it. The section of the hospital that was under renovations had to be evacuated until the fire was put out. Those are two examples of recent tarp fires that could have been prevented with a few safety precautions and the use of fire retardant tarp.
How common is a tarp fire? It’s hard to tell exactly, but between 2010 and 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported eight tent fires. That’s just tents. Tarps used as wind blocks on patios, decks, construction sites, or protective covers are all at risk of catching fire. With the right choice of tarp material, you eliminate the risk.
Understanding the Difference Between Flame/Fire Retardant vs. Fire Resistant Tarps
Tarps sold at Chicago Canvas are flame retardant. Some tarps are only fire-resistant, however, and you need to understand the difference. Fire-resistant tarps are tarps that resist catching fire. They may not catch fire quickly or well, but there is the chance they will burn. Flame or fire retardant tarps are chemically treated to keep a fire from igniting or to extinguish flames. As the chemicals extinguish flames, the risk of a burn from hot material is lessened.
If you are going for the best protection, look for flame or fire retardant tarps. These are our best fire retardant tarps:
- 13-Ounce Heavy-Duty Vinyl Laminated Polyester Tarps – Come in a variety of colors that are all flame retardant with sizes up to 20 by 30′.
- 16-Ounce Fire Retardant Canvas Tarps – Comes in sizes as small as 5 by 7′ or as large as 30 by 30′.
- 18-Ounce Treated Canvas – Comes in 4, 5, or 6′ widths and in two colors (gold or olive drab).
Make Sure You Follow Recommendations and General Safety Rules
Even with a fire retardant tarp, you must follow general safety rules. If you’re using your tarp for an outdoor patio cover, make sure space heaters are a safe distance from the tarp covering. If you have a patio heater that is six-feet high, the general rule is there needs to be at least three feet of clearance. You’d want to make sure your tarp roof is fire resistant and at least nine feet high.
If you’re using a tarp as a tent, never bring a heater inside unless you’ve specifically purchased a heater designed for use in a tent. These heaters will have safety shut-offs that cut the power if oxygen levels reduce too much, if the temperature becomes too high, or if the unit tips over. Go for the smallest heater you need.
Keep tents a safe distance from campfires. Sparks and hot ashes can travel if there’s a gust of wind. Keep the tent well away from the fire for safety’s sake. Don’t smoke in your tent. Even if the canvas tarp is flame retardant, your sleeping bag may catch fire and put you at risk.
Keep your unused tarp away from items that may heat up and cause a fire. You shouldn’t have a tarp laying on or near things that heat up. If you have frayed wiring anywhere, have it fixed or replace it. Don’t place extension cords on or under a tarp. Even if the tarp is fire retardant common sense keeps you safe.
If you’re using the tarp on a construction site, set it up so that there is a distance between heaters, welding equipment, and anything else that may cause a flame. Again, fire retardant tarps are a must. By taking extra precautions you reduce the risk of the tarp catching fire.
Talk to a specialist at Chicago Canvas and Supply to match a fire retardant tarp with your intended use. We can help you find the right material, size, and color to ensure you’re protected against an unexpected fire. It’s our goal to make sure you have the right tarp and reduce the risk of damaging fire. Give us a call today at 1-866-389-2218 to discuss your project with us.