LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - More than 3,200 lives were lost and more than $14 billion in property damage occurred in fires across the country last year. October is Fire Prevention Month and as the temperatures fall, millions will turn to space heaters to stay warm. The result can be deadly.
New data collected by Angie's List reveals modern homes burn significantly faster than older homes. Fire safety experts say homeowners have five minutes to get out of your home safely once a fire starts. That number is down significantly from the 17 minutes homeowners used to have before engineered lumber, synthetic furnishings and open floor plans started turning small fires into a flashover.
Mark Riffey is a fire safety expert and says a "flashover" is when everything in the room is completely consumed by the fire. Modern and newer homes, Riffey said, tend to see fires spread much faster compared to older homes.
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During a controlled burn, a modernly furnished eight-by-eight-foot room flashed over in just about two minutes. A similar room with a working sprinkler system never reached flashover, preventing more extensive damage and, more importantly, the formation of toxic smoke that is the primary cause of death for victims of indoor fires. For this reason, safety experts and insurance companies are now recommending home sprinkler systems, which can cut your chance of dying in a fire by about 80 percent.
Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List, says sprinkler systems are proven to save lives and are more affordable than in years past. Hicks says a typical single-family home can be equipped with adequate sprinkler coverage for $5,000 to $10,000.
Hicks also recommends getting at least three estimates from experienced fire security companies along with details of their system.
If you're unable to afford a sprinkler system, a working fire extinguisher and an alarm is key.