Originally Published: May 19, 2018 6:02 a.m.
If you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably seen the photo: The interior of a home gutted by fire, and, in the background, a bedroom, relatively untouched by the blaze.
The door to that room was shut when the fire ripped through the rest of the home.
The photo illustrates what fire officials have been saying for some time: close your bedroom door when you go to bed.
“The image is typically what we see after a house fire in rooms to which the door was closed,” Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority Chief Scott Freitag said. “Even hollow core doors will keep the fire out and give extra time to escape alive — sometimes up to 15 minutes.”
He added that the objective is not to provide a safe place to stay during a fire, but to allow the sleeping occupants to hear a smoke alarm and get out of the house.
“Not only does it give time for you to escape, it does a good job protecting some of your belongings,” Freitag said. “This is also why the code today requires interconnected smoke detectors in every bedroom.”
Prescott Fire Division Chief Don Devendorf said the closed door also increases a person’s chance of surviving.
“The picture shows a relatively untouched room, which is great from a damage standpoint. But the more important fact is that no smoke in the room would allow persons in that room to live through the event,” he said.
“Since it is mostly smoke that kills, if the smoke stays out, and the longer the smoke stays out, the greater the survivability chances are for those in that room.”
But, Devendorf warned, opening a window before you’re ready to make your escape can undo that move.
“Lots of fires will run out of oxygen until it finds a new supply, burning through a window, wall, or ceiling … opening a window for any reason other than to escape or get oxygen to survive, would not be recommended,” he said.
Tests have showed that a closed door can make a life-saving difference in case of a fire, according to information from Underwriters Laboratories, an independent safety science company based in Illinois.
“A room with an open door showed temperatures over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while a room with a closed door had temperatures at only 100 degrees. Research also showed that a closed door kept room conditions survivable longer than an open door,” the company said in a statement that kicked off its “Close Before You Doze” campaign.
But, if possible, its best to get out of the structure, said Steve Kerber, research director for Underwriter Laboratories Firefighter Safety Research Institute.
“If you can’t, put a closed door between you and the fire to buy yourself valuable time,” he said.