House fires are more deadly in 2018 than in 1980

Oct 10, 2018, 4:54 PM
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A hotspot reignites at the UFA training facility

MAGNA — New numbers show while house fires are less likely to occur in 2018 than they were in the past, the average house fire is more deadly than it used to be.

Unified Fire Authority crews provided a demonstration for Fire Prevention Week, which happens annually in October. Using a simulator, they demonstrated how quickly house fires can turn into a blazing inferno from which no one could escape.

Spokesman Ryan Love says big open floor plans coupled with synthetic building materials and furniture are a deadly combination.

“Materials we are buying nowadays are more synthetic and man-made, and they are more explosive than the legacy fuels like cotton and wools that we used to furnish our homes with a few decades ago,” he says.

As to the open floor plans, Love says it’s just harder to starve a fire of the oxygen it needs.

“Imagine a fire starting in a room and you shut the door, it will snuff itself out,” Love explains. “But if it has space to grow, the intensity goes up and the heat goes up, and the fire is unstoppable.”

In addition, homes tend to be larger than they used to be. The National Fire Protection Association says the size of the average home has increased 56% since the 1970s.

Love says fires reach a flash point, where they get so hot the whole room explodes in flames. He says people have only about two minutes to get outside. In the 1970s, when homes were smaller and did not tend to have open floor plans and synthetic materials, families typically had about 17 minutes to escape.

He advises homeowners and renters alike test smoke detectors often, and teach everyone in the family to find at least two ways out of every room.

According to the NFPA, two-thirds of all fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke detectors.

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House fires are more deadly in 2018 than in 1980