Hotter Houses: House materials inside and out have changed dramatically over the last three decades -- most are now made from synthetic materials rather than wood or metal. So today's blazes produce two to three times as much energy as a typical fire did in 1980, and most of that energy is released as flammable gases. The invisible gases produced in a fire can be much more dangerous than the flames, especially in enclosed spaces. Newer buildings are well insulated and tightly sealed. That means gases in newer buildings can become superheated, flammable and highly mobile. The result is extreme fire behavior, marked by life-threatening backdrafts, flashovers and gas explosions. Scores of firefighters die each year because they use old outdated methods against this volatile mix of physics and fire gases.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.