House fires injure or kill thousands of Americans every year and now they are more likely to burn faster than ever. A new report foundfires spread more quickly in newer homes and homes with newer products and materials – giving people less time to escape.
“We live in homes that are filled with things that burn fast, burn hot, and put out very deadly gas,” said Jason Rhodes, Overland Park Fire Department Media Manager. “We use more products in our home that are synthetic that are made out of petroleum based products - plastics and synthetic fibers - so those things burn quick and hot.”
Just a few decades ago, home furnishings were made mostly of wood, natural fabrics, and metal. Those tend to take longer to catch fire than plastics and synthetic materials that are now in carpets, couches, and even cell phones.
“There's a chance that it's very air tight and it's also filled with perhaps some light weight construction materials that may not last as long when exposed to fire,” Rhodes said.
Home builders also use less construction materials in new homes.
“They're lighter in weight, they can span longer distances and they're very strong. But in a fire they can collapse much more quickly than conventional wood and that often happens very unexpectedly,” said Ron Hazelton, a home safety expert .
Hazelton is pushing for sprinklers in homes because the report found fires in new homes can become deadly in less than three minutes – much sooner than in older homes.
“Considering what I'm getting in return which is safety for myself and my kids and my wife, I think (a sprinkler system) is a good investment,” Hazelton told 41 Action News via satellite interview.
Each sprinkler head is set to operate at a certain temperature. A sprinkler system can cost thousands of dollars to install in an average sized home being built.
“What we see in the Midwest is normally about $1.50 to $3 a square foot depending on finishes, customizations,” Robbins said, who points out that costs go up to retrofit an existing home with sprinklers.
"We rarely go to a fire that has working smoke alarms and find any kind of victims,” said Rhodes. While most homes don’t have sprinklers, firefighters say it’s usually the homes without working smoke alarms where they see tragedies.