Prune Hill Elementary School written up for fire violation

Flammable fabric on walls to be treated with retardant

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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A Camas elementary school received a written violation this month from the Camas-Washougal Fire Department for having "highly flammable" fabric covering walls inside the school.

Prune Hill Elementary received the violation on Feb. 6, when a fire marshal noticed fabric panels draped throughout the school. The fire marshal took a swatch of the fabric outside and lit it on fire and discovered it quickly burned and didn't immediately go out.

School officials say they plan to treat the fabric with a flame retardant they specially ordered on the recommendation of the fire department.

Ron Schumacher, the fire marshal for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department, said the school district had gone "above and beyond" in resolving the problem. The fire department gave the school district a couple of options, Schumacher said, including tossing out the flammable fabric entirely.

District officials say they're confident the flame retardant they'll use is safe.

"The use of a fire resistant spray on fabric was one of the recommendations made by the fire marshal," Camas Superintendent Mike Nerland said. "The spray being utilized is (National Fire Protection Association) approved and is nontoxic and noncombustible."

Flame retardants used to treat fabrics, car interiors and home furniture have sparked debate in recent years over their safety.

Studies on the chemical compounds commonly found in flame-diminishing treatments show that many pose risks to humans and the environment because they're nonbinding, meaning they can easily leach off treated materials.

Companies that manufacture certain types of flame retardants plan to voluntarily phase them out by the end of the year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, a bill introduced in the Washington Legislature this session seeks to ban two other forms of flame retardants -- TCEP and chlorinated Tris, or TDCPP -- by July 2014.

Prune Hill's violation notice came only a few days after an early-morning fire destroyed Crestline Elementary in Vancouver.

Fire inspections had been ongoing at the Camas School District for months before the Crestline disaster, Nerland said.

He said the district is making the corrections the fire marshal recommended during his inspection to boost fire preparedness at the elementary school.

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities;tyler.graf@columbian.com.