News 6 investigates why new furniture burns faster

ORLANDO, Fla – If you live in a home with new furniture, you have less time to get out if your house catches fire. 

Years ago experts estimated you had over 15 minutes to escape from a house fire, but today tests show people have about 3 minutes to get out alive.

"We are in a much more dangerous environment today than we ever have been," says Orange County Fire & Rescue Chief Otto Drozd.

Drozd says that's because fires are burning faster and more intensely.

Why?  Because of new construction materials being used and the furniture in your home.

"With the newer materials, they burn so quickly you may have in the back of my mind. "Well, maybe I can put it out myself or I could save some pictures,' but that's just not the case. Things progress so rapidly, the fires burn so much hotter, so much faster that the time just isn't there, “said Drozd.

In fact, WKMG showed the chief a fire experiment comparing old versus new.

One room was filled with old furniture built 30 years ago made from natural materials like wool, cotton and real wood.

The other was filled with new furnishings, like brand-new microfiber couch made with foam, plastic and synthetic chemicals.

A firefighter started a small fire in a trash can next to each couch, and WKMG timed, watched and waited as each fire grew and spread.

In the first room, filled with older furniture, the fire in the trash can smoldered for several minutes. After about five minutes, it spread to the side of the older couch.

Within six minutes, thick, gray smoke billowed out from the structure.

As time progressed, the flames spread across the living room and the smoke got thicker.

Within 13 minutes, most of the room was on fire.

Now for the room with new furniture. A fire is lit in the trash can and, after just two minutes and forty seconds, WKMG noticed the cloth chair was on fire. Within four minutes, black smoke took over the room.

After six minutes, the flames took over the microfiber couch.

After seven minutes, fire swallowed the whole room. Every piece of furniture was in flames. Firefighters call this "flashover."

In this experiment, the room with newer furniture burned twice as fast. That means less time to escape.

"The differences in these two rooms have really shortened the time frame, and people don't realize that minutes count even more today than they did 10, 15 years ago because the materials that are in their homes; the way that their homes are constructed.  They have less time to survive a fire than they did several years ago," explained Drozd.

"Chief, how has newer construction impacted the way you fight fires?" asked News 6 reporter Eryka Washington.

"We are retraining our folks and doing it the last year on how to tactically attack the new homes," said Chief Drozd.

Because time is of the essence, the chief recommends having an escape plan in place with two ways to exit each room.

He says practice it with your family because seconds count.

Also make sure your home has smoke detectors and change the batteries once a year.