Today, flashover – also known as rapid fire progress (RFP) – is one of the leading causes of firefighter deaths in the United States1. According to the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA Journal, the second leading cause of fatal injury to firefighters in 2013 was being caught or trapped by rapid fire progress, including flashover, and explosions.2 Current building materials and furnishings are producing fires that burn faster and hotter and are more deadly than ever before. In fact, the rate of flashover in a modern home is 8 times faster than a home of 50 years ago.3
In the past, flashover was less common because construction was primarily wood-based and the contents of homes were made of natural materials, such as wool, cotton and paper. Today, construction materials are much lighter and contents of homes such as carpets and furniture are often made of synthetic materials that are highly flammable. According to studies by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the rate of flashover for modern homes is 8 times faster than it was 50 years ago. The average time it took a home fire to transition to flashover was around 29 minutes 5o years ago. Today’s homes transition to flashover in less than 5 minutes.4
Today’s larger homes, open floor spaces, increased fuel loads and new construction materials have resulted in faster fire spread, shorter time to flashover, rapid changes in fire dynamics, and shorter escape times.4 Given the increased speed of flashover and higher fire temperatures, it’s no surprise that flashover is one of the leading causes of firefighter deaths in the U.S. Between 2003 and 2012, 63 firefighters died in the line of duty as a result of being caught or trapped (including flashover).1
Here at Restoration Authority, we believe in keeping people safe. Whether you’re a fire fighter or your home is on fire, be safe and leave the building as quickly as you can. Smoke detectors can help you get out before the fire reaches this point.