What Happens During a House Fire

  • By Jeremy Thompson
  • 03 Mar, 2014
The temperatures drop and the amount of home fires increase. Home fires occur more during the winter than any other season. Approximately 905 people die each year in winter home fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. The administration also reports that $2,091,000,000 in property loss occurs during winter home fires. About 67% of winter […] The post What Happens During a House Fire appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
The folks at This Old House (TOH) offer a great explanation of what happens in a typical kitchen fire. Since cooking fires are the cause behind about half of all fires, they use a stovetop fire to describe what happens from beginning to end.
Ignition:The fire ignites. In the TOH example the fire occurs when a pot or pan boils over, causing oil to spill directly onto the stovetop flame or burner. It only takes a few hundredths of a second for fatty substances to ignite.
First 30 Seconds:It only takes a few seconds after a flame-up for the fire to spread. Flames will travel across the stove. The oily residue on cooking utensils can ignite, and any other combustible materials around the stove, including paper towels or dish towels, will begin to burn. This is a critical point to extinguish the fires. Remember never move the pot/pan, or use water to attempt to extinguish the flames. Instead cover the pot/pan with a lid.
30 Seconds to 1 Minute:The fire spreads igniting more objects including wooden cabinets, wallpaper and curtains. A dense plume of hot, smoky air develops, which can burn your breathing passages. The fire generates poisonous gases like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, and it only takes a few breaths of it to cause someone to pass out.
1 to 2 Minutes:The flames intensify, spreading heat to other parts of the kitchen. Cyanide and carbon monoxide levels increase. In an enclosed fire room, the typical level of these gases is 3,400 parts-per-million, which cuts survival time to less than one minute. The poisonous smoke begins to travel, and once it reaches a vent or the top of a doorway it can begin to travel through halls and up stairwells.
2 to 3 Minutes:The fire continues to burn cabinets, countertops and shelves and anything within them including dry goods, containers and cardboard boxes. This generates more heat, making the upper level of gases rise up to 400 degrees F, which is hot enough to kill someone. The smoke may now include other toxic components from the items being burned including arsenic (a wood preservative), lead (from paint) and other toxins such as ammonia and hydrogen chloride. The fire is now hot enough to spread not only by direct flame contact but also by auto-ignition. Objects spontaneously begin to burn without even touching the flames.
3.5 Minutes:The heat reaches as high as 1100 degrees F and flashover occurs. Everything in the room can burst into flames. Oxygen is sucked out of the room. Windows shatter and balls of fires shoot out of them. Upper level rooms fill with thick, hot smoke, and because of the high flashover temperatures, all of the rooms throughout the house are at risk.
3.5-4 Minutes:Flames begin pouring through the doorway into neighboring rooms setting carpet and furniture on fire. In the kitchen the fire penetrates the walls and ceiling, sending flames to the second floor.
4-5 minutes:Flames can be seen from outside the home as they travel through doors and broken windows. At this point, it’s much more difficult to rescue anyone on the second floor. Rooms neighboring the kitchen flashover. The materials used in construction impact the damage. Synthetics including polystyrene and PVC auto-ignite at temperatures between 850 and 1075 degrees. Steel plates used in roof trusses start to buckle at 1000 degrees F. The roof may begin to collapse as the blaze burns uncontrollably.
Firefighters Arrive:Firefighters take immediate aggressive action if flames are visible from the outside when they arrive. They’ll use as much as 3,000 gallons of water to extinguish the flames. They may also use dry chemicals to extinguish flames, and they may break open windows or cut open the roof to vent off smoke and gases.
After the Fire:Extensive property damage is incurred. Even if flames did not touch a room, the high heat softens glass and melts plastics. Most appliances are ruined as their interior parts are likely melted. The burned or melted plastics and other synthetic materials will off-gas toxins. There are unseen weaknesses in the structure. It is unsafe for anyone to be in the home.
Returning Home:You’ll need permission from the Fire Marshall to enter the home. Smoke damage is severe and permeates everything, leaving an odor that is difficult to remove. Water damage can cause mold to grow rapidly. It will likely take weeks or months to sufficiently cleanup and repair the home to a state that makes it safe and comfortable enough to live in again.
Next Steps
Photo Credit,  State Farm

J. Thompson Builders Blog

By Jeremy Thompson 01 Aug, 2017
Your home should work for you, your family and the way you live. Sometimes a new custom home isn’t the answer yet. When you need to maximize the space in your current home, find clever ways to make your space more usable by maximizing storage in unique ways. Platforms add additional space and a new […] The post Clever Remodeling Ideas to Maximize Storage Space appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
By Jeremy Thompson 15 Jul, 2017
The internet puts an incredible amount of information at your fingertips. Why would you not take advantage of it to get home remodeling advice? Often it isn’t created by experts in the field. Here are 3 remodeling myths you may have read or heard about and the truth you need to know to understand how […] The post 3 Remodeling Myths and Tips appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
By Jeremy Thompson 01 Jul, 2017
With more and more people working from home or taking at least the occasional “work from home” day, the home office has become an essential part of a home plan. Even if you don’t work from home ever, the home office is still a great area to work on creative projects, store important files, or […] The post Designing a Home Office: Increasing Productivity, Inspiring Creativity appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
By Jeremy Thompson 15 Jun, 2017
We’ve offered you lots of advice over the years about building a custom home. Here is a condensed version of some of the most important tips to follow. Get on the fast track to planning your new custom home! 7 Tips for Building a Custom Home Pay attention to your subdivision covenants. Yes, these are […] The post Building a Custom Home: 7 Quick Tips appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
By Jeremy Thompson 01 Jun, 2017
Whether building a house or undertaking a remodel you have the opportunity to design your house to suit your tastes and needs. There are many flooring options available, each with unique characteristics and design. Since flooring is a long-lasting part of the house it is important to choose the right floor for each room that […] The post 5 High-Quality Flooring Options Available for Your Home appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
By Jeremy Thompson 15 May, 2017
Building a new home is an exciting time, filled with anticipation and satisfaction as you watch your vision come to life. However, it can also be a little overwhelming when you’re unfamiliar with some of the technical terms. To help remedy this we’ve defined a few of the custom home building terms you may hear […] The post 5 Key Terms to Understand in Custom Home Building appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
By Jeremy Thompson 01 May, 2017
Whether you’ve just unpacked your first box or you’ve been living in your house for years, chances are there’s something about your home you’ve desired improving. However, before beginning a project there are a few key home remodeling terms you should become familiar with. Understanding these terms will help you navigate conversations with your remodeling […] The post 6 Key Home Remodeling Terms to Understand Before Beginning a Project appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
By Jeremy Thompson 15 Apr, 2017
When it comes to home improvements, most of us are always looking for new, innovative ways to make changes to our homes. Whether you want to remodel your kitchen or just put shelves in your garage to store your tools, there are a wealth of home remodeling ideas to explore. Thankfully, there is a range […] The post 5 Home Remodeling Blogs That Will Inspire You appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
By Jeremy Thompson 01 Apr, 2017
Few understand the custom home building process until they’ve experienced it themselves, and even those who have often don’t understand the aspects they haven’t experienced (e.g. if you haven’t built a custom home in a subdivision you may not understand how lot covenants work). Six key facts are important to understand when building a custom […] The post 6 Key Facts to Understand About Building a Custom Home appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
By Jeremy Thompson 15 Mar, 2017
One of the more frustrating and confusing tasks when financing the building of your custom home or the remodel of an existing home is finding the right lender. Do you go with a broker, or a credit union, or a small hometown bank, or a large banking institution? How do you know they will give […] The post Home Building and Remodeling: Finding the Right Lender appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
More Posts
Share by: