NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — As Middle Tennessee continues to grow, more homes continue to be built.
But fire officials are sounding the alarm on new construction saying the components in modern home building are causing many houses to burst into flames faster than before.
Fire crews say for more than a decade they’ve seen these newer models become a fire hazard.
"From a construction standpoint, these components are typically lighter, straighter, stronger. They do a better job in building homes they’re easier materials to work with than legacy components," said Deputy fire chief Brian Collins of Brentwood. "Unfortunately, when those components are exposed to fire they don’t hold up very long. They tend to fail much faster, burn faster, than the legacy components that you may have seen in homes that were built the 60s and 70s."
Every year, Collins says the department puts on a demonstration showing homeowners how quickly these homes go up in flames.
"The number of fires, we really haven’t seen an increase in but we do have fires in newer constructed homes, they tend to burn faster. Not just because of the construction component but the contents that we put in our home these days. They’re all synthetic; the carpet we walk on, the couch that you sit on they’re all made of synthetic fibers and synthetic components."
The State Fire Marshal’s office says 40 years ago, residents had more than 17 minutes to escape a home fire with their lives - that number is now under three minutes. And because of that, these house fires put many lives at a greater risk.
"They’re several cases where firefighters have lost their lives by falling through floors that have given weight, roof systems that fallen in and trapped people. It’s a risk to both the citizens and the firefighters," said Collins.
Underwriters Laboratories cites changing home construction trends, like open floor plans and new construction materials, as one reason for the reduction in time that occupants have to escape during a home fire.
Another contributing factor is the toxicity of synthetic fibers often found in modern furniture. When burned, the chemicals given off by synthetic fibers are much more toxic than those of natural fibers like cotton. This can limit the amount of smoke you can take in before being incapacitated.
To help reduce the risk of home fire fatalities, the State Fire Marshal is urging Tennesseans to sleep with their bedroom doors closed at night to stop the spread of toxic smoke, always use working smoke alarms in every level of their homes (and inside and outside every sleeping area) and create and practice a home fire escape plan.
To help save lives, the Fire Marshal's Office's "Get Alarmed, Tennessee!" smoke alarm program has distributed 247,591 free working smoke alarms to Tennessee fire departments and partners. So far, 314 people have been alerted to the dangers of a fire by an alarm installed through the program.
This link will provide the most recent fire fatality statistics [tn.gov]that we have compiled from Tennessee fire departments.