House Fires in Modern vs Older Homes


Almost everyone who lives in and around Raleigh heard about the massive 5-alarm fire that completely demolished a 6-story apartment complex under construction in downtown Raleigh last month.  It was reported that the fire spread so quickly because of the stage of construction the building was in.  It had passed numerous inspections but had not been outfitted with a sprinkler system which could have saved at least part of the structure.  Fire codes are in place to protect occupants in case a fire breaks out especially in apartment and commercial buildings, but how about your home?  Codes are in place there too, but have they helped reduce fire damage?

I recently read a couple of articles comparing fire damage in modern versus older homes.  Lauren Rohr in her article “Why today’s house fires burn faster, hotter in burbs” listed these reasons as to why house fires today spread faster:

  • open floor plans eliminate compartmentalization
  • large homes leave more void space and air between walls and floors
  • synthetic materials are used more frequently in modern household items (drapes, carpeting, cushions)
  • furniture is created with more synthetic blends instead of pure wood, cotton and wool
  • lightweight construction collapses quicker without much warning
  • engineered lumber, made from wood chips, sawdust and glue, is used in 65% of new construction and burns faster than regular lumber

She stated that the number of house fires nationally has been on a slow decline however the amount of time a person has to get out of a burning home has also declined.  In 1970, a person had on average 17 minutes to escape after a smoke alarm went off, now the number has dropped to three to four minutes.  Flashovers dropped from on average of 29 minutes to 5 minutes in modern homes.  NFPA reports that deaths resulting from house fires has drastically dropped which can be contributed to more smoke detectors and better wiring found in modern homes.

Carla Williams’ article “Smoked Out:  Are Firefighters in More Danger than Ever Before” echoed some of the information from Rohr’s article.  She also noted that while walls once were thicker and lined with heavy-duty construction or insulation material, today’s thinner wall linings are easier for fire to penetrate.  According to UL tests, windows in modern homes fail twice as quickly, while doors are failing after only 5 minutes of fire exposure.

This blog isn’t meant to scare anyone who has a newer home, it is meant to educate and remind everyone that newer doesn’t always mean better.  It is important to have an escape route planned in your home and make sure everyone knows what to do in case of a fire.  Most fires in the kitchen result from distractions, so let’s all be aware and prepared just in case a fire damages your home.  If you do find yourself with a home or business damaged by fire, give PHC Restoration a call.

You can find the full articles online at and


Office (7:30am-5pm): (919) 834-6523 (Raleigh)

(910) 814-2502 (Lillington)

What our clients are saying...

The word you use as a company motto is “compassion”.  Every one of you certainly live up to that motto every single day!  We felt it the first day we met Josh and every single day thereafter.  Thank you for a wonderful journey as you helped us put our lives and our home back together.  We are eternally grateful!

T. Robinson, Pittsboro

This letter is to let you all know what a fantastic job you all did on rebuilding and restoring our home.  Me, my son and wife congratulate you all for a perfect job.  Each and every employee who had anything to do with our house was so professional, polite and did everything we asked them to.  Job well done.  Thanks to you all, we can enjoy our new home for the rest of our lives.

Robbie L., Raleigh

PHC has demonstrated the skill, good judgement, and polite service.  Through their employees who are all trained to do their jobs very well with full dedication to customer satisfaction.  Thanks to all!

J. Oborne, Sanford

My assistant project manager was very helpful with decisions and kept us informed on the progress of repairs and changes.  Everyone that worked at our house was always courteous and helpful and did a superior job.  You have a great staff and we would recommend you to anyone.  We are enjoying our home.

G. Godwin, Benson

This is the second job PHC has done for us.  We are extremely pleased with all components of their work.  We are recommending PHC to ALL of our friends.

S. McFadyen, Vass

Given the situation we were dealing with, PHC came right in that evening and started clean-up.  PHC walked us through every aspect of our repairs/replacement.  They were amazing and made the entire process seamless.  Overall, we are thrilled with the final results.  I never imagined it would have turned out this beautiful.  PHC made this initial terrible experience and experience we will never forget.

S. Jones, Raleigh

Everyone was so friendly, courteous and knowledgeable.  Quality of work exceeded our expectations.  We have already highly recommended you guys to people we know.  Thanks for everything!

K. Vorbeck, Raleigh

I’m in the building trades and feel qualified to say that your crew was better than excellent in all phases.  By the end it felt more like a labor of love than a job contract.

J. Byrum, Chapel Hill

I could not ask for a better crew.  Everyone was professional and courteous.  My home even looks better than before!  I will recommend you to everyone I meet.

P. Smith, Sanford

Many thanks for the super fine job your crew did on my flood damage. You evaluated the damage and reacted quickly. Keep up the good work!

D. Lane, Fuquay-Varina

Thank you for taking care of our home repair in a timely manner. You were a pleasure to work with.

Mary, Fuquay Varina

Your company came to our rescue so rapidly when the accident occurred, which was a great relief. Your work has added value and pride to our home!

Judi and Geoffrey, Cary

Thank you for everything that you have done. I never imagined it would turn out so beautiful! Your crews are very courteous and kind. They’ve done an outstanding job.

Debbie, Spring Lake

We gratefully applaud your crews. Their work was top notch. They were polite, eager to answer questions, clean in their work and showed respect for our home. They work well together as a team.

R. Arcus, Durham

Just a note to thank you so very much for the great job you did in cleaning our church after it had been vandalized recently. Thank you so much for the prompt attention to our Church also! It meant a great deal to our Church Family to be able to have our regular Sunday services in the Sanctuary that day.

Christian Chapel Church

Your crew demonstrated professionalism throughout the restoration, were experienced and did a wonderful job in every aspect. The renovation turned out more beautiful than I could have imagined and I know we will enjoy it for many years to come.

F. Hinkson, Goldsboro

I am very happy to be back in my house. Thank you for making it possible within a reasonable amount of time. You certainly are to be commended for your professionalism.

Jo Anne, Kenly

On a scale of 1 to 10 your company is an 11! Everyone at our church is satisfied – not one complaint – all cheers! Everything was done as requested, on time, and above our expectations.

R. Strother, Franklinton

We are very pleased with the work done by Professional Home Care. Your thoroughness and consideration relieved us of many concerns and returned our home to its original state with a minimal amount of time and confusion.

J. Erdman, Pinehurst

Share This