In a previous blog post, the chemical makeup of fire was discussed. This included the fact that fire needs an oxidizer. This allows fire to thrive and spread. With the proper conditions, fire can spread quite rapidly. But, how fast does fire actually spread? How much time would you have to escape if a fire broke out in your home?

With regards to the second question, each situation is different, so answering that one would be tricky. With regards to the first question, the following is a timeline from an actual 2-story house fire courtesy of the Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department:

 0:30 Fire Ignites and Grows Rapidly

1:04 Fire Spreads from the First Flame, and Smoke Begins to Fill the Room.

1:35 Temperature Exceeds 190 Fahrenheit (87.7 Celsius) as the Smoke Layer Descends Rapidly.

1:50 At the Foot of the Stairs, the Smoke Detector Goes Off. There is Still Time to Get Out.

2:30 About the Couch, the Temperature Rises to Over 400 Fahrenheit (204.4 Celsius).

2:48 Smoke Pours into the Other Rooms.

3:03 The Temperature in the Room of Origin, Three Feet Above the Floor is Over 500 Fahrenheit (260 Celsius). Nothing Can Survive That Kind of Heat.

3:20 Escape Becomes More Difficult, as the Upstairs Hall Fills With Smoke.

3:41 There is a Flashover. Everything in the Room of Origin Ignites. The Temperature is Over 1400 Fahrenheit (760 Celsius).

3:50 The Smoke Detector Went Off Two Minutes Ago, and Now the Second Exit is the Only Way Out.

4:33 The Flames Are Now Visible From the House’s Exterior. Rescue May Not Be Possible.

 Less than five minutes is all it took. This leaves you very little time to sit around and think about what you are going to do. Fire does not sit around and wait for you to decide. When a fire breaks out in your home, have a plan of action. Know what you are going to do, because the hesitation you may have if you are unprepared can mean the difference between life and death. Own fire safety equipment and be well versed in its use. Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, SkySavers, etc. These items will help save your life. From the fire igniting until flashover took a little more than 3 minutes. In 3 minutes, you can be safely and securely on the ground with the help of your SkySaver.

To end with another example, watch how quickly this fire spreads in this small building: