Fire chief explains house fire facts v. fictional | News

Local fire experts say facts, fictions and myths can become intertwined when it comes to structure fires.

Tahlequah Assistant Fire Chief Mark Whittmore the most common myth about structure fires is that older homes are more susceptible to flames than new houses.

“To a degree that is true, but the newer houses are built out of more synthetics, so even though the wiring is updated, in the older houses, the wiring is always the danger,” said Whittmore.

According to Restoration Services, new homes are built with lightweight wood and engineered lumber, which increases the fuel load, and therefore they burn more easily.

“The code requires them to have hard-wired smoke detectors, so there’s earlier detection, and that’s the benefit of having a new home,” said Whittmore. “The fires are hotter in the new homes because of the materials.”

Another misconception about house fires is that smoke detectors provide sufficient protection. While those devices should be in every house and business, they only warn occupants of a fire.

“One myth is that you will smell smoke and wake up, and that is not true. Some people might smell it, but most likely, people won’t smell it, and that’s what so important about smoke detectors,” said Whittmore.

Smoke poses a greater danger than the actual flames, and Whittmore said a person or animal would most likely die due to smoke inhalation than from the fire itself. A house can fill with smoke in less than three minutes, and it’s best for people to stay low to the floor where there is less smoke.

TFD and other fire departments urge homeowners to close all bedroom doors to help prevent a fire from spreading, as that will cut off the oxygen supply.

“That does help contain fires. We had a fire at a duplex the other day and the doors were still intact. It burned one side off but the other side resisted the fire, so it has a good effect on fires,” said Whittmore.

Something Whittmore said is misrepresented in movies is that pulling a fire alarm will make the sprinkler system go off.

“The fire alarm system and the sprinkler system are two different things. The alarm system is the notification, and if you’re in a commercial business and you see the ‘pull station,’ that’s just allows everyone to know there’s a fire alarm in there. The sprinkler is activated off temperature, and those have a temperature head in them that’s set at 155,” he said.

Once the temperature reaches 155 degrees, the head is melted and the water begins to flow.

“Hollywood has put that myth in our head that if we pull that alarm, we flood the building, and that’s not the way it works,” said Whittmore.


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