Why are new homes, furniture burning faster than decades ago?

The way newer homes and furniture are constructed, makes them burn faster, thus impacting how fast firefighters need to work when putting out a fire.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Here at the Fire Academy of the South in Jacksonville, the next generation of firefighters are gearing up for any kind of emergency they may arrive at after getting their firefighting certificate.

While their training may look traditional, according to Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Captain Eric Prosswimmer, putting out house fires now is much different than decades ago.

“It heats up faster and the materials that it’s heating, are made up of different materials that they used to be made of and they will heat up faster,” Prosswimmer said.

Nowadays, lightweight materials are used to build new homes and furniture.

If you live in a home built in the 2000s or have newer furniture that you assembled yourself, chances are it’s made primarily of synthetic materials.

“It’s for cost,” Prosswimmer said. “Structurally, it’s just as sound as before, but this way they can construct it faster and lighter.”

Duval County firefighters are seeing fires in modern homes igniting everything in a room faster.

The Fire Safety Research Institute says modern homes burn eight times faster than 50 years ago and produce 200 times more smoke.

“The smoke that’s emitted from these new materials is much more dangerous than it used to be,” Prosswimmer told First Coast News.

From the synthetic boards that make up the structure of a home, to the adhesive that’s gluing new furniture together, not only are these materials more flammable, but they allow more chemicals to see into the smoke.

“We then have to pull firefighters out a lot sooner than we used to because of the construction,” said Prosswimmer.

You can see in this fire experiment from the Underwriters Laboratories, how rooms full of synthetic, made furniture burn faster than furniture made of natural materials.

Families 30 years ago had 17 minutes to escape before the entire house was engulfed in flames, now it’s down to four, thus encouraging fire chiefs to study new housing developments coming to Jacksonville.

“They’ll go through neighborhoods with a bunch of houses going up or a large building going up and they’ll walk through and they’re always looking,” Prosswimmer explained.

Prosswimmer adds it’s still safe to live in a new house and have new furniture, it’s just crucial for you and your family to have an escape plan if you find yourself in a fire.

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