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Modern Materials Make Houses Burn More Quickly

What used to take half an hour now lasts mere minues

Fire is changing, it’s getting bigger, stronger, faster. And this time, it’s not climate changeit’s us.

In the past 50 years, says the CBC, changes in the materials used to build our couches, the paint we put on our walls, and the electronics we now have laying everywhere are making fires faster and more dangerous.

The CBC:

oday’s house fires burn eight items faster and produce 200 times the amount of smoke that a fire would have 50 years ago… n average-sized room furnished with modern products is fully engulfed in flames in three minutes. The same room, furnished with items 50 years of age took 30 minutes to do the same.

Here’s a room filled with old furniture, the “legacy room,” up against a modern set-up. Both fires start slow, but the modern room is much quicker to pick up the pace. By the time the legacy fire leapt to the curtains, the modern room was already completely engulfed.

The more aggressive modern fires mean that where before you had time to get organized and get out the door, now, you have mere minutes from the time the smoke alarm goes to escape your burning home.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The New York Fire Department Is Burning 20 Houses Down — On Purpose
Fires Are Escaping Our Ability to Predict Their Behavior

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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