LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Addressing the media from the scene of a condo fire in Fern Creek, Fire Chief Mike Schmidt said this:
“Today’s construction burns much faster than older homes. Newer construction is going to burn much quicker and easier due to the light weight of it.”
He’s right. Here’s why.
The UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute did an in-depth research and simulation project, where they created mock-ups of a modern living room and a legacy living room, with corresponding furniture in each. They then set each on fire. The modern living room was completely in flames in about 4 minutes, whereas it took the legacy living room about a half hour to be engulfed.
A big reason for this is the furniture inside, and what it’s made out of. There are more synthetic materials used in homes today, and synthetic materials tend to burn a lot faster than organic ones (There are also concerns they release more carcinogens in the process).
However, it’s not all bad news for 21st-century homes; even though they burn faster, they’re actually less likely to burn in the first place. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were about twice as many structure fires in 1977 than there were in 2015. Things like stricter fire codes, better wiring, increased public awareness, and lower smoking rates are helping to make structure fires less common.
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