Fire! Are new homes actually safer than older constructed homes?

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Fire

New Homes are burning faster than ever.  In fact, if your newly constructed home is on fire, you only have minutes to get out before it is too late in a fire.  You might ask, what has changed?  According to local firefighters, it has to do with how the home is constructed.  “It used to be solid 2-by-4 or 2-by-10 solid lumber or pine. Now they’re actually pressing wood together with glue and making beams to support columns and they just burn through so much quicker,” said Randy Wyse, President of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters.

Oriented strand board, commonly referred to as OSB, is made of wood pieces that are compressed together and then glued. They are being used as support beams. Underwriters laboratories, UL, an independent testing company, says it has discovered that these OSB beams burn 800 percent or eight times faster than solid wood beams, which were used to build older homes.

According to Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Fireman Davis, who was interviewed by News4Jax earlier this year, the fire melts the glue holding the compressed wood together, causing it to collapse sooner than the solid wood beams.  “The old-fashioned lumber (referring to the solid wood beams), they will start to sag. The new engineered lumber (OSB beams), doesn’t fail until it’s gone. It doesn’t give you any warning. It doesn’t start to sag; it’s just gone,” he explained.

Mr. Wyse told First Coast News that in just three to four minutes, a structure can be fully engulfed in flames. Things that can contribute to the flames can be the polyester cushions common in home furniture which have foam inside it that can be flammable.  It is also necessary that firefighters now use breathing protection.  According to Wyse, there are actually poisons that are produced by some burning materials.

What can you do to protect yourself?  Have an escape plan.  Show the entire family where they should meet once they are outside of the home if there is a fire.  Ultimately, just make sure everyone gets out of the house immediately.

Wyse told News4Jax other ways to survive a fire:

  1. Wyse said to teach your children if they hear the smoke alarm to touch the doorknob to their room before they open a door. “If it’s hot, don’t open it,” he said.
  2. Use a bed sheet or clothes to stuff under the door to prevent smoke from getting into the room, if you are trapped.
  3. Open a window or get out on a balcony if you cannot get out of the front door of your home. And yell for firefighters so they know where you are in the home.
  4. Make sure there is a smoke alarm outside every bedroom.
  5. For homes with more than one story, make sure you have a portable fire ladder.  It can be used to escape through a window or balcony. They are about $57 and are sold at most large hardware stores.
  6. A big misconception is that you can douse a comforter in water and use it to protect yourself from fire, if you are trapped. Wyse said that is not a good idea. Anything wet will turn into steam and will burn you.
  7. You should have a fire extinguisher in your home, especially in your kitchen, since kitchen fires are common. Not all extinguishers are the same. Read the label to see where you should place it in your home. For example, extinguishers for kitchens are designed to put out grease fires and do not contain water, which can make it worse.
  8. Teach young children not to be afraid of firefighters. “Their gear can sound like Darth Vadar, and they can look scary,” said Wyse. “Many children run and hide under a bed. Tell them not to do that. Teach them that firefighters are their friend, go toward them, not away.”

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