VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – How quickly can a house go up in flames? This is a question, and answer, the Virginia Beach Fire Department sought to demonstrate Wednesday morning.
“It does not take long, it’s seconds,” said Battalion Chief Michael Brashear.
Officials say you have less than three minutes to escape a burning house alive. The reason fires can spread so quickly through houses these days is partially due to furnishings being made of synthetic materials.
Officials say an average of seven people die in house fires across the U.S. each day. Fire departments across the country responded to an estimated 365,500 house fires in 2015 — more than 2,500 of which resulted in deaths.
Between January 1, 2016 through October 10, 2017, the city had 774 residential fires. Over half of those fires became structural fires, where the building itself caught on fire.
Firefighters use live training, like the one today, to make sure they’re skilled to help all residents in the city.
“Firefighters in Virginia Beach are highly trained and that’s because of the training we do. That’s what we recommend you do at home with your families,” Brashear said.
Brashear says fires today burn faster and hotter than fires 20 years ago because of synthetic and plastic furniture in homes.
It’s why every second counts, and that’s the theme for this year’s National Fire Prevention Week.
To save time and lives, Brashear says families should have multiple escape routes. If you have children, he recommends drawing out a map with those routes and practicing them.
“At 3 a.m., it’s not the time you want to practice that plan for the first time,” he said.
Brashear also recommends keeping doors closed at night because closed doors slow smoke and flames.
“If you check the door with the back of your hand, if you feel the heat, you don’t want to open it,” Brashear said.
Officials also recommend having working smoke detectors. They say it reduces your risk of dying in a home fire by 50 percent.
You should also check your batteries twice a year and replace your smoke alarm every 10 years.