A fire that started in a single family home spread to two neighboring houses causing extensive damage to all three as reported in FirefighterCloseCalls.com. According to sources these homes were built in 2006 and were not protected by fire sprinklers.
"You never think it's going to happen to you"; the homeowner was quoted as saying in the article. Homeowners mistakenly believe that because they live in a new home they are immune to the ravages of fire. The "new homes are safer homes" mantra is so often repeated by those opposed to home fire sprinkler requirements. However, NFPA statistics reveal that the age of the home is not a valid predictor of fire death, injury, or property loss.
I covered the issue of new homes in a previous blog posting about a fire in a new home that coincidentally also ocurred in VA. Lightweight construction may pose a greater hazard to occupants and firefighters because it has a tendency to catastrophically collapse when exposed to fire. The furnishings that are in homes today that also increase the risk.
According to Steve Kerber, Fire Protection Engineer at Underwriter Laboratories (UL) todays' residential fire environment poses a greater risk. Twenty years ago most materials used in home furnishings came from natural fibers. People had up to 17 minutes to escape a fire, todays' furnishings and possessions made of synthetics and plastics will provide fast fuel and highly toxic smoke and gases. Steve says that one upholstered chair today creates enough energy to bring a room to flashover in 4-5 minutes.
Home fire sprinkler advocates need to arm themselves with this kind of information and educate the community and policy makers if we are ever going to put an end to the fallacy of "new homes are safer homes" argument.