30 years ago you had 15-17 minutes to escape a house fire. Nowadays you only have 3-5 minutes (due to more plastics & petroleum-based products in the house as well as more open floor plans, bigger rooms, & higher ceilings).

How Much Time Do You Have To Escape a House Fire? It’s Much Less Than You Think.

The amount of time you have to escape a house fire has greatly decreased in the past few decades:

30 years ago you had about 15 to 17 minutes to escape a house fire.

Today, you have about 3 to 5 minutes to escape a house fire.

The reason the time to escape a home fire has decreased so much relates to changes in the types of furniture and other contents in today’s homes, including more plastics and petroleum based products. Changes in how homes are designed (open floor plans, larger rooms and higher ceilings) have also changed the chemical composition of the fire and greatly increased the speed at which it grows.

Most homeowners have a false sense of security

With so many homes now having smoke alarms and carbon monoxide … Continue Reading (10 minute read)

11 thoughts on “30 years ago you had 15-17 minutes to escape a house fire. Nowadays you only have 3-5 minutes (due to more plastics & petroleum-based products in the house as well as more open floor plans, bigger rooms, & higher ceilings).”

  1. tsavorite4

    IIRC though even though modern materials burn faster, it’s more difficult for them to catch fire in the first place

  2. BigSurSage

    I had a house fire (gas explosion inside the firebox wall- the fireplace wasn’t even on) and I had 4 very fast trips in and out. It goes really fast. Also- my smoke alarms didn’t go off until after I came back from the first trip of putting the animals in the car and moving it away from the house. I also became very clear about my priorities.

  3. WardenWolf

    Another major factor is the deletion of asbestos. Asbestos may have been a major risk factor during construction and renovation, but none can deny that it worked well at slowing fire spread.

  4. thecorncat

    Always sleep with your bedroom door shut!

  5. lldumbcloudsll

    As a firefighter I will say this. Not alot of “clean house” catch fire and the ones that do normally have strange layouts and an abundance of shit. When the new houses do catch get the fuck out. Change your batteries don’t play with candles or heat your home with car batteries and a portable floor heaters. Thank you. Edit:
    Clean house is a house that is cleaned and not similar to hoarding conditions. Change the batteries in you’re smoke detectors or purchase a new canary. Jk don’t use birds.

  6. weirdfish42

    One year ago I was asleep in the basement when the house caught fire. The phone ringing didn’t do more than stir me, a knock at the door annoyed me. It wasn’t till the power went out that I figured I should get up.

    I sleepily walked up the stairs and opened the door on an inferno. The heat, sound, and sight of rolling flame just a foot or so in front of me snapped me to attention.

    Closed the door, rushed back into the basement, and ran through “What to do when you are in a fire”. I quickly put on shoes, a shirt, grabbed my cat, and headed to the basement stairwell which had always been the safety exit.

    When I opened the door, which leads to just 6 concrete steps up to the yard, the inferno was worse than the kitchen. The back deck which covers the stairs was fully engulfed, and paint cans under the deck were exploding at about eye level.

    The glass storm door shattered and I slammed the wood door closed. The cat wanting none of it, shredded my arm and took off back into the house.

    I stood, in the middle of the basement, thinking to myself that what I did in the next 30 seconds was going to determine if I live or die.

    Both main exits blocked, so I went to the small painted and stuccoed windows to try and open one. Didn’t budge. Went to the other side of the room, grabbing, of all things, a wooden yardstick, meaning smash the windows, laughed at how absurd it was to try and break a double window with a flimsy stick.

    That’s when I noticed the boots of a uniformed officer. I banged on the window and yelled till I knew he saw me, rushing off to get a fireman.

    I backed away from the window just as the axe came through. The fire had broken through the kitchen door, and fire and smoke started pouring down the stairwell filling the basement.

    I covered my face best I could and scrambled out the window as fast as only an adrenaline fueled monkey chased by fire can. The firemen tried helping me out, but I was so crazy I pushed their hands away and didn’t even feel the broken glass as I crawled out.

    From waking up, to sitting in the ambulance being treated by the paramedics, was less than 3 minutes.

    Had a passing uber driver not called the fire department, had they not already been on the scene banging on the door to alert me, I likely wouldn’t have even woken up.

    Going back into the basement an hour later to find the cat, I realised I had been standing in arms reach of a 10 lbs sledge hammer, and a dozen other things I could have broken the windows with. The panic and narrow focus was unlike anything I’d ever imagined. I’d grown up in that basement, we were a saftey minded family, and we’d done fire drills. None of that mattered.

    The speed and power of the fire, combined with the utter disorienting feeling of watching my childhood home turning into a nightmare, was almost enough to shut me down.

    I like to think I would have sorted it out on my own, but I truly believe I owe my life to the efforts of complete strangers.

    Everyone is safe, my mother wasn’t home, and the cat had holed up in a closet. She’s safe and sound and getting attention from my girlfriend.

  7. megalithicman

    And thats one of the reasons I bought a new house with a fire sprinkler system!

  8. ComeOnCharleee

    Never thought I’d feel lucky to live in a house with 8″ ceilings, small rooms and the opposite of open floor planning design

  9. IgnoreThisName72

    laughs in my 1986 home with crappy insulation

  10. tbone-not-tbag

    It took about 4 minutes once my wife smelled smoke, grabbed our kid and called 911 to get out before flames tore apart our house. My house was totaled in 25 minutes from that 911 call, it took me 2.5 years of fighting my insurance company before we finally settled. For the love of God take photos of all your possessions, if we hadn’t have someone document my contents of my possessions of what was left of my house I would have lost 50,000 towards my new house. Insurance hates to pay out.

  11. beard_lover

    I’d like to know how building code requirements that are intended to reduce fire risk impact this. In California, all new residential construction needs sprinklers and walls have to be built such that it takes several minutes (supposedly) for a fire to break through. In a wildfire-prone state where large houses are the norm in new construction, this is a super horrific and interesting TIL.

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