Homes Today Burn Faster than Ever

It may sound like a cliche to talk about fire safety tips in the central Jacksonville area during the holiday season, but if there’s one statistic that bears repeating, it’s this: Even with adequate smoke alarms, a house fire today can become uncontrollable in less than(3) three minutes.

That’s down from an average 17 minutes in 1975 — a whopping 82 percent difference. And the reason for the drastic change, according to a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, isn’t just the type of house you live in, but what you put inside. “It’s not how old the home is, but it’s the furnishings,” Jack, Director of the Fire Safety Institute, told AOL Real Estate.

A spokesperson for the National Association of State Fire Marshals told AOL Real Estate that the worst culprit in home fires is upholstered furniture, because it often contains highly flammable polyurethane foam. These all-too-common materials provide the fuel for what fire experts call the flashover — the point at which everything in the room simultaneously bursts into flames. It doesn’t help that many of today’s homes are built with more open floor plans and modern building materials like wallboard that can lead to faster fires, according to the Wichita Eagle.

The numbers show an alarming trend. In 1977, the first year when data was available, there were 750,000 residential fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

In 2010, there were roughly half that many, thanks in large part to widespread use of smoke detectors. But the incredible speed with which home fires can spread in today’s homes represents a major step backward in fire safety.

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