Angie's List: Modern homes burn faster; how to stay safe - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Angie's List: Modern homes burn faster; how to stay safe

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(WKOW) -- There’s startling new information you need to know about contemporary living that’s had a dramatic and dangerous effect on just how quickly modern homes burn.

“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. They arrive in three minutes, and unfortunately, they’re one minute too late,” says Mark Riffey of Ryan Fireprotection Inc.

Less than five minutes – that’s all the time you have to get out of your home safely once a fire starts … 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 quick flashover.

“When we talk about flashover, that’s when everything in the room is totally consumed by the fire,” Riffey says.

Many fire safety experts and insurance companies now recommend 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,” says White River Fire Dept. Safety Chief Dale Saucier.

Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks adds, “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. In fact, a handful of states even require sprinkler systems under certain conditions in homes.” 

More than 3,200 lives were lost and over $14 billion in property damage occurred in fires across the country last year. A controlled burn of a modernly furnished 8-by-8-foot room flashed over in just about two minutes. A similar room with a working sprinkler system never reached flashover, prevented more extensive damage, and more importantly, the formation of toxic smoke that’s 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,” Riffey says.

Angie says a typical single-family home can have adequate sprinkler coverage for $5,000 to $10,000. She recommends getting at least three estimates from experienced fire security companies along with details of their system. Working fire extinguishers and alarms are key, too. If fire breaks out, get yourself and your family out to safety before calling 9-1-1.

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