Fire Chief Bruce Wade issues warning
Changes in the way we live have also made changes to the way house fires burn. The time it takes to go from survivable to devastating during a house fire has become a lot shorter due to the materials all around.
Fire Chief Bruce Wade said, “People nowadays have only a two to four and a half minute time period to get out before things can get really ugly.”
Chief Wade explained to The Mail that the amount of time to get to flashover has changed significantly because of architecture, engineering and synthetic materials. Flashover occurs at the stage of a fire when all the objects in a space or room have been heated to their ignition temperature. This results in flame breaking out almost all at once over all the objects and surfaces in the space.
The National Institute of Standards and Testing (NIST) conducted studies to compare the danger of “modern” fires versus home fires that would have taken place 40 years ago. Both rooms in the test were the same size and had the same air flow. One room was finished with furniture from the late 70s made mainly of natural materials such as wood, cotton, wool, etc. The second room was made of modern materials made mainly of synthetic materials like those found in most modern couches and window coverings. These rooms were then put under the same fire starting conditions that were timed to see how long it took the spaces to reach flashover. According to the studies, the modern room took only three minutes and 40 seconds to reach flashover, whereas the vintage room took over 20 minutes to reach the same state and the whole room was engulfed in flames. It took no time for the synthetic materials to heat to the point of flames. Synthetic materials are petroleum based products and when heated can make a survivable house fire into a lethal house fire very quickly.
Chief Wade said, “I can’t stress it enough when we say smoke detectors along with escape plans are important. It can be a matter of life and death.”
Chief Wade also explained new engineered lumber is made to be lighter which makes it feasible to make rooms bigger.
“Rooms can be much bigger now because with lighter lumber for the ceiling they can span more space without needing supports. Buildings are already collapsing when we are arriving on scene.” Chief Wade said.
Chief Wade told The Mail that normal response time is six or seven minutes and that is all the time it takes for most buildings to start to collapse with modern design and materials. This coupled with modern furnishing makes a person’s escape time much smaller than it used to be.
Drumheller Fire Department Chief