Believing these home fire myths puts your family at risk

(BPT) - Does being new make a home safe from fire? Absolutely not. In fact, all unprotected home fires burn hotter than ever today and become deadly in just two minutes or less. Buying into this common myth puts you and your family at great risk.

Homes burn fast for many reasons, from open design to building materials to their contents. On top of that, much of today’s home furnishings are made from synthetic, polyurethane-based materials, which cause fires to spread more quickly and produce toxic smoke.

You can see for yourself how quickly a home fire becomes deadly by watching a new virtual reality video developed by the nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC). Shot live during actual home fires, the new videos provide user-controlled, 360-degree room views of fires without and with an installed fire sprinkler. You’ll be able to look all around you to experience the fires and the sprinkler activation in real time, as if you were inside. The free videos are available at HomeFireSprinkler.org/VR.

In the video without a sprinkler, the flames and smoke spread fast, reaching flashover at about 2 minutes. Flashover is when every combustible surface catches on fire, consuming the space. No one is able to survive flashover. Thanks to virtual reality, the video of the flashover provides powerful, first-person perspective on how little time people actually have to escape a home fire.

The video with an installed sprinkler tells a very different story. Although the smoke alarm signals at about the same time as the unsprinklered room, (26 seconds into the fire), the heat from the fire activates the sprinkler at the 37-second mark, dramatically changing the outcome. This fast action prevents the growth of the flames and spread of the smoke, stopping the fire from becoming deadly.

A third video provides a comparison of damage in the two fires, illustrating another benefit of installed fire sprinklers: property protection.

There are many myths and misconceptions about home fire sprinklers. Here are the most common misbeliefs and the facts from the experts at HFSC.

Myth: Smoke activates a home fire sprinkler

Fact: Home fire sprinklers are not designed to detect smoke. Home fire sprinklers activate when high heat from the fire is detected. They cannot be activated by smoke alarms, nor from smoke when you burn something cooking.

Myth: Every sprinkler turns on when there's a fire

Fact: If a fire occurs, the sprinkler closest to it activates automatically, in response to the high heat from a fire. That controls and often extinguishes the flames, reduces the spread of toxic and damaging smoke, and provides time for residents to escape. When sprinklers are present, fire is kept to the room of origin 96% of the time, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Myth: Fire sprinklers cause extensive damage

Fact: Fire sprinklers automatically flow water to control or extinguish a fire. The damage from an activating sprinkler will be far less than damage from flames, smoke and fire suppression in a home without fire sprinklers. When firefighters respond, the typical fire hose produces roughly 250 gallons of water per minute, under high pressure. A home fire sprinkler flows at 15 gallons per minute.

Myth: Fire sprinklers just protect home residents

Fact: Installing home fire sprinklers protects residents, property and the firefighters who respond to fires in these structures. According to the NFPA, the 2021 civilian fire death rate was 89% lower in structures with installed fire sprinklers. The rate of firefighter injuries was 60% lower in fires with sprinklers than in fires without sprinklers. If you’re planning to build or buy a new home, ask for home fire sprinklers.