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Three Reasons NOT to Re-enter a Burning Building

June 22, 2012

We’ve all seen the heart-breaking news stories.  Someone got out of a house fire and then re-entered the burning building to rescue someone or something.  They didn’t get back out.  People often do not realize how lucky they were just to get out alive the first time.  That luck is often thrown away as they challenge their good fortune by plunging back into what they just escaped.  Let me give you some reasons to consider staying out once you’ve escaped.

1.  What was safe enough for you to get out then, may be fatal now.  First of all, structure fires develop quickly.  Tests filmed by National Fire Protection Association show room temperatures reaching 1200° F in under four minutes.  Sometimes it even surprises us how fast fire can grow.  You’re impression of how safe the conditions are in the building is based on when you were last in the house.  Chances are you got out because the fire was smaller and conditions were much cooler than they are now.  By the time you decide to act and start back inside, the fire conditions will probably be overwhelming.

2.  You need oxygen to survive and there isn’t enough in a structure fire.  Fire occurs when oxygen combines rapidly with fuel.  Fire uses up large quantities of oxygen and does so very quickly.  Often, news footage of structure fires shows nothing but smoke.  That’s because the fire has consumed all of the oxygen inside the structure.  If there was enough oxygen you would see more flames.  You need oxygen to breath.  Walking into a building where oxygen is being rapidly depleted is just setting you up for asphyxiation.  That’s why we wear self-contained breathing apparatus.

3.  Your decision to re-enter is probably a poor one, and you don’t realize it.  Carbon monoxide is a major product of combustion.  Carbon monoxide (or CO) combines with your red blood cells, reduces oxygen to your brain and attacks your central nervous system.  Effects of CO poisoning include impaired judgment and deterioration of motor skills (especially your ability to walk).  So your thoughts of re-entering the building may follow the same reasoning used by many drunks.  Your ability to make sound decisions may be diminished by the CO you inhaled exiting the building.  Furthermore your coordination may be so impaired by CO that you won’t be able to perform whatever you plan to do back inside the fire.

The science and the statistics do not favor your survival if you re-enter a burning building.  Realize the amount of luck you’ve enjoyed by getting out once, and don’t risk exposure to that hazard a second time.  The old fire safety motto, “Get out! Stay out!” is a good one.

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One Comment
  1. This is one great post – very informative especially when it comes to fire safety.

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