Angie's List: Modern homes burn faster in fires - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Angie's List: Modern homes burn faster in fires

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MADISON (WKOW) -- New information has shown that contemporary houses can burn much quicker in a fire than older ones.

"The fire department gets notified by the dispatcher and they get to the scene. All too often, it takes three minutes to get the fire department notified,” said fire safety expert Mark Riffey. “They arrive in three minutes, and unfortunately, they're one minute too late."

Less than five minutes... that's all the time you have to get out of your home safely once a fire starts. That's down significantly from the 17 minutes you used to have before engineered lumber, synthetic furnishings and open floor plans started turning small fires into a flashover very quickly.

"When we talk about flashover, that's when everything in the room is totally consumed by the fire,” said Riffey.

The demonstration in the video above shows you just how quickly a small trash fire can spread. It's also the reason many fire safety experts and insurance companies are now recommending home sprinkler systems, which can cut your chance of dying in a fire by about 80 percent.

"Residential sprinklers are going to end up catching that fire in the incipient phase before it moves on to fully developed, and then you get flashovers,” said Dale Saucier, the Safety Chief of a fire department.

"Sprinkler systems are proven to save lives and we're seeing more and more of them being installed in homes and they're becoming more affordable,” said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks. ”In fact, a handful of states even require sprinkler systems under certain conditions in homes."

More than 3,200 lives were lost and more than $14 billion was done in property damage in fires across the country last year. A controlled burn of a modernly-furnished eight-by-eight-foot room flashed over in just about two minutes. A similar room with a working sprinkler system never reached flashover, preventing more extensive damage and, more importantly, the formation of toxic smoke that is the primary cause of death for victims of indoor fires.

"The sprinklers activate in such a fast time frame that they don't allow the fire the ability to come up with these lethal concentrations,” said Riffey.

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