Saving lives is becoming harder as home fires burn hotter

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New research says firefighters are struggling more these days to get people out of burning building 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 says 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 décor.

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

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

“You know now were not necessarily using as much brick and saw and dimensional lumber,” he said.

So what can you do? Thiel says 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 says, make sure to have a working smoke detector. And, since Philadelphia is so dense, he says don’t forget to make sure your neighbors are also fire safe.

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