Saving lives is becoming harder as research says home fires are burning hotter, faster

Antionette Lee
August 24, 2019 - 1:31 pm

Michael Blann / Getty Images

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New research says firefighters are struggling more these days to get people out of burning buildings safely, and the reason why may just surprise you.

It’s called flashover, when everything inside of a room gets heated during a fire and bursts into flames.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said flashover used to take about nine minutes, but now it generally only takes four.

“Fires are burning hotter and faster now than ever before,” he said.

The main culprit, officials say, is that furniture used to be made with organic products like cotton, wood and leather. However, that isn’t the case with most new home decor.

“They have foam inside, poly urethane, even polystyrene. You know, those are petroleum products,” Thiel explained.

So what may seem like a harmless appliances, he said, could actually be fire fuel. Not to mention building materials are also less fire resistant these days.

“Now we're not necessarily using as much brick and saw and dimensional lumber,” he said.

So what can you do? Thiel said to consider how many furnishings are in a room, stacks of paper, anything that can feed a flame and make smoke more toxic.

As always, he said to make sure to have a working smoke detector. And, since Philadelphia is so dense, don't forget to make sure your neighbors are also fire-safe.