What Makes House Fires Travel Fast

Within seconds a small flame can become a major house fire – one that leaves nothing behind apart from ashes, devastation and loss. Fires take away lives and leave smoke and soot, which also kill. So, the aftermath is not good either, safety-wise. No wonder the fire damage restoration companies focus on removing smoke and cleaning up the space.

The timeframe within it all happens is so narrow one wonders with the speed of fire. But if you consider that fires are fueled by a variety of flammables around the house, it’s no wonder it all happens so quickly.

fire damageHow quickly house fires grow?

Very quickly. In minutes, truly. Let’s see.

Fires get bigger when there’s heat. And the temperatures within the house during even a small (still) fire are truly high to the extent that they fuel the fire to grow. Now, if you add to that the variety of flammable materials we keep in the house, it’s easy to realize the plethora of fuels found around.

We keep many synthetic materials around the house. And that’s bad news when the house is burning. It burns fast. We only have 2-3 minutes to evacuate whereas the evacuation timeframe was extended to a quarter of an hour – give or take, about three decades ago.

Let’s consider an example of a fire starting in the kitchen. After all, nearly half cases are cooking fires. A small pot flame quickly spreads due to the greasy substances laying around and combustibles, like fabrics, paper-towels, oil residue, wooden countertops and cabinets, curtains – you get the picture. All this occurs in just seconds, while the fire generates smoke and all these combustibles together generate gases which are poisonous. The extent of fire and smoke damage goes beyond the kitchen in just a few minutes. The fire has absorbed the oxygen, produces dangerous smoke, and now travels to the rest of the house, where more flammables await to add more fuel to the flame. Literally.

House fires take 3 minutes to spread due to synthetics

Residential fire damage restoration experts and firefighters all give a very reasonable answer to the quick spread of fires in houses. Today, most items in the home are synthetic, containing hydrocarbons and thus, igniting much faster and producing toxic gases.

Remember, at this point, the harm coming from the smoke, which often kills more people than the actual fire. With that said, let’s get back to our main focus.

It’s not just the furniture which is synthetic; it is also the clothing. There’s also plenty of plastic around the house – from plates to toys. Homes are nowadays constructed with cheaper materials, which are easy to burn. Yes, sure, there’s fire resistant drywall these days. But it’s more expensive than the standard sheetrock. And then, who will go ahead and replace the old, standard drywall without a good reason, like water damage?

Fire damage in minutes due to oxygen, heat, combustibles

So, what happens? Fires, which are fueled by oxygen, heat, and combustibles find all that in their way. Due to the lightweight, much cheaper structures, construction materials do not only burn, but also burn faster. Yes, solid wood burns too. But initially, it burns outside while its interior structural integrity remains intact for quite a while. Today, many structures are made of pieces of wood glued together. They burn faster and glue fails instantly.

And don’t forget that fires have force. Also, as they spread, the burning ceiling beams may fall or the flames may jump, creating new spots of fire. As it usually happens in most homes, the doors remain open, giving the chance to fire to spread even faster.

Fires become uncontrollable within minutes. But having 17 minutes ahead of you to exit the house is much better than having to get the whole family out of the house in 3 minutes. We need to consider that while unwillingly, of course, we fuel our fires. So, maybe we can start from there to slow the spread of fire a little bit and gain these extra, so precious – and possibly, life-saving, evacuation minutes we so need.