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, What Happens During a House Fire?

We Buy Fire Damaged Houses:What Happens During a House Fire?


A little flame can grow into a large fire that destroys a house and endangers the lives of the occupants in as little as 30 seconds.

That’s a big reason why experts say that more Americans each year are killed in fires than in all other natural disasters combined.

Even if no one is hurt, a fire can cause tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage, with the cost of rebuilding a burning kitchen reaching $50,000 alone.

What’s most concerning is that recent home fires have increased in danger and devastation due to the flammability of the home and the items inside it.

Experts say that as recently as 30 years ago residents had an average of 14 to 17 minutes to escape a house fire.

Now due to materials that are commonly in modern homes, tenants only have 2 to 3 minutes to leave – that’s just 120 to 180 seconds.

In fact, a house filled with largely synthetic-based furnishings can burn down in less than 240 seconds.

So let’s take a look at what happens during those four devastating minutes. For our example, we will use a kitchen fire, which is the most common type of house fire.

So what does happen during a house fire?

As cooking fires make up nearly half (44%) of all home fires, our house fire scenario begins on the cooktop.

A pot or skillet can boil over the rim in only a few seconds, spilling its combustible oil-filled contents right onto the cooking flame or a scorching electric burner.

Grease or other fatty materials catch fire in a matter of hundredths of a second. Many common cooking oils have a flashpoint around 600 degrees Fahrenheit, but when gas or electric burners are turned up high, temperatures can reach 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.

First 30 seconds

Fire spreads quickly after igniting and within seconds spilled grease or oil residue on an unclean stovetop will catch fire and spread across the range.

Cooking oil residue can potentially catch fire, igniting surrounding combustibles such paper towels, cardboard or paper packaging, and dry dish cloths.

With the heated air, smoke, containing a potential lethal mix of dangerous gasses, rises up from the flames.

It’s imperative to put out the fire right away: You run the danger of getting burned and starting another fire if you try to move the pot or pan.

Additionally, never add water to a cooking fire because doing so would only spread the oily flames. Instead, put a lid on the pan or cover it with a baking sheet to suffocate the fire and put out the flames.

30-60 seconds

More flammable items and furniture, such as wood countertops, wallpaper, hanging baskets, and curtains, will catch fire as the fire spreads higher and hotter.

Hot air and smoke rise to the ceiling as the fire expands beyond the stovetop and starts to burn in other places.

This heated, smoke-filled air can rapidly burn the inside of your airways if you’re still in the room.

Additionally, house fires produce very toxic chemicals. You could lose consciousness after just two or three breaths of it.

60-120 seconds

The smoke and hot air rising from the fire are over 190 degrees F as the flames get hotter. Cookbooks, shelves, tables, and chairs in the rest of the kitchen become warm as a result of the fire’s heat radiation.

Below the ceiling, the hot cloud of smoke grows deeper and thicker. The survival duration is reduced to less than a minute due to the fire producing 3,400 parts per million (average levels in enclosed room fires) of cyanide and carbon monoxide.

More people die in fires than from any other harmful byproduct of combustion thanks to carbon monoxide poisoning.

The smoky layer swiftly leaves the space as it descends to the top of a doorway, an open window, or a vent. The heated air and deadly fumes then ascend to the second story via stairwells and hallways.

120-180 seconds

Kitchen cupboards, wooden counters, and shelves filled with plastic storage containers and dry items like cereal, cracker, and cookie boxes in cardboard boxes are all destroyed by the fire.

Heat is produced at an increasing pace. The heated gases’ upper layer reaches a temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lethal for humans.

An extremely thick smoke cloud that is floating just a few feet above the ground adds to the heat. Remember, smoke also contains dangerous gases and harmful substances like arsenic (used as a wood preservative) and lead (from old paint).

Direct flame contact or auto-ignition, or the temperature at which items spontaneously catch fire without being touched by flames, are the two ways that the fire can now spread.

Hard and soft wood used to make furniture and homes have auto-ignition temperatures ranging from 595 degrees Fahrenheit to 739 degrees Fahrenheit.

210 seconds

A room fire’s heat can reach 1100 degrees F in just 3 and one-half minutes (210 seconds). Flashover happens as a result of this.

The wooden dining table, wood and upholstered chairs, cookbooks, curtains, and wall decor all catch fire in the space.

Glass windows break and the oxygen in the room is almost completely consumed by the quick combustion. Flames and fireballs burst out of windows and doors. The stairwell becomes impassable as the upstairs fills with a dense, hot, toxic smoke.

Temperatures in a room during a flashover can reach up to 1,400 degrees F, putting all other rooms in the house at grave danger.

180-240 seconds

The adjacent living room is filled with flames that ignite the carpet and upholstered furnishings. In sofas, pillows, and carpets, synthetic materials like polyurethane and polyester foam emit a lot of heat.

The temperature immediately increases to 500 degrees F above the sofa. Back in the kitchen, the fire has already reached the wall and ceiling, and it is now spreading swiftly through inner walls’ structural vertical shafts and the spaces between floors’ horizontal shafts.

The second floor is affected by the fire.

300-420 seconds

From the street, it is possible to see flames as they enter open second story windows and exit the home through the door and broken windows. It might not be possible to free anyone who is still trapped on the second floor.

The living room flashes over as the fire grows more intense. The degree of damage will depend on the construction materials utilized to build your property.

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Photo by Chris Karidis on Unsplash



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