Modern Homes Burn Faster

Modern homes face a serious fire hazard due to more flammable building materials.

Kathleen Esfahany

Each winter, in an attempt to combat the icy weather, people get creative in heating their homes. The incorrect use of heating systems creates house fires, making the coldest parts of winter some of the busiest times for fire rescue teams. Technological innovation has provided our homes with heating systems, but it also has produced homes that are more flammable than ever before.

Modern homebuilders use lightweight manufactured wood because it is stronger, lighter, and less expensive than solid wood. Unfortunately, lightweight manufactured wood burns and falls apart at a much faster rate than solid wood. Furthermore, modern homes are filled with synthetic materials, such as polyester, that enable fires to spread faster and burn hotter. Research by Underwriters Laboratories has demonstrated that these new materials in modern homes make them burn eight times faster than older homes.

In fact, modern homes burn so fast that families may have only a few minutes to evacuate before all exposed combustible material ignites. This is known as a flashover. While older homes could take close to an hour to undergo a flashover, modern homes can flashover in less than ten minutes.

Firefighters encourage families to establish and practice an emergency evacuation plan. This plan should include a designated meeting spot, instructions on how to open and exit a window, and the possible routes to close exits in various parts of the house. For two-story houses, homeowners may want to consider purchasing a fire escape ladder. People should check their smoke detectors each month. The best protection comes in the form of an automatic sprinkler system, which can prevent the spread of the fire or even put it out entirely.

Technology has improved society in countless ways, but in the modern home, it has created a serious hazard: fire. This winter, be sure not to overload electrical outlets, and keep flammable items away from heaters.