Newer buildings can burn hotter and faster, warns fire department

The Charlottetown Fire Department wants to people to take extra caution with fire safety in new homes, because they say they can burn "faster than ever."

Fires in newer homes can also be more toxic

The Charlottetown Fire Department says modern homes burn faster and hotter than ever. (Pat Martel/CBC)

The Charlottetown Fire Department wants to people to take extra caution with fire safety in new homes, because they burn "faster than ever."

The department took to social media to warn about the potential damage to modern buildings in case of fire.

"Fires in newer homes move and burn a lot faster and hotter than the older construction type homes," said Charlottetown fire inspector Winston Bryan. 

He said that's because of a change in materials used to modern build homes.

Older buildings are usually made of solid wood, so fires would burn from the outside in, making them "slower to collapse," he said.

Materials now 'lighter and cheaper'

"Modern construction today, these materials are lighter and cheaper," said Bryan, noting that includes materials such as laminate beams and base boards, and glues and wood chips.

Charlottetown fire inspector Winston Bryan says every home should have working smoke alarms and that residents should develop and escape plan in case of fire. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

"It's a cheaper way and a lighter way to build your home," Bryan said. But these materials burn a lot quicker and "basically make a building a lot less safe for the residents in a fire situation and for firefighters."

The department doesn't keep track of how many home fires in recent years are newer builds.

Bryan said a fire can occur any time in any place but in a newer home, "the fire itself will double every three seconds."

"When you look at that, that's a fire that grows quickly," he said.

Fires more toxic now

Household items can also burn quicker, Bryan noted — furnishings used to be made of more natural, slower-burning materials, but a shift to synthetic materials means a fire inside your home may burn quicker and hotter. 

This has changed the way firefighters do their job, he said. Smoke from synthetic materials is toxic and at the rate newer buildings burn, firefighters have to respond to fires more quickly. 

Bryan assures that newer buildings in Charlottetown are still safe, and comply with the National Building Code. He simply wants to remind people to take extra precautions, including working smoke alarms — Bryan recommends having one in every room. He also recommends a residential sprinkler system.

He'd like to see people should practice fire safety drills and have a plan of escape in case of fire. Rooms should have two points of escape: a door and a window, he said.

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