Fiery demonstration shows new home items burn faster, deadlier
Bend firefighters put on a dramatic demonstration Tuesday that showed how quickly modern home furnishings can reach a fierce burn emit toxic smoke, compared to the materials used 30 or so years ago -- giving you far less time to escape alive or without serious injury.
In a grant-funded demonstration, similar to one done on Today's Rossen Reports in January, Bend Fire and Rescue set up two similar mock living rooms, one with a sofa and other furnishings you can buy today and the other with 1980s-vintage items. Both rooms' furnishings were donated by Bend Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore..
The modern-style room took less than four minutes after igniting to "flash over" and emit thick, toxic smoke from the synthetic materials such as polyester.
"The fuel we are putting in houses now is a lot more flammable. It burns faster. It burns easier and it burns hotter," said Bend Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Dave Howe. "The smoke is more toxic, and it gives you a lot less time to get out of the house."
Deputy Fire Marshall Cindy Kettering explained how the heavier-weight, natural fibers, cotton and wool in the "legacy furnishings" burned a more slowly, and did not put out the toxic chemicals from the modern furnishings, which took six minutes to be fully consumed, that's actually longer than the time you might face if fire breaks out in your home or apartment.
"Typically, the average family has only three minutes to get out of their house," Kettering said. "That's why smoke alarms are so important."
"In the old days, you probably had enough time to grab a bucket of water and throw it on a fire and knock it down," Howe said. "You don't have that time now. You have to get out within 3 to 5 minutes, and the house is going to be well-involved, with that kind of fuel -- and it just burns so much hotter."
The best way to survive, firefighters say, is to have working fire alarms and make and practice an escape plan with your family, just in case a fire or other disaster does strike.