The normal occupation of buildings pose fire risks even in the best designed fire safe buildings. However, conversely, the less fire safety designed into the structure, the more risks result. Each occupant will bring a fuel load into the building in the form of furniture, clothing, paper, cleaning fluids, cooking appliances, hobbies, and other combustibles. The behavior and life style of the occupant may also, in themselves, pose fire risk. The use of candles, charcoal grills and laundry equipment cause numerous fires annually.

The number one cause of fires is carelessness as a result of a lack of education in fire safety. The number one defense against fire is good housekeeping. To create as fire safe environment as possible, one needs to start with the construction of the building. This will begin the reduction of the fuel load offered by each component building material. By reducing the surface flame spread of each component the amount of heat release and the rate of char-through has been reduced, thus slowing the fire growth to give the fire fighters more time to arrive at the scene. In addition to giving the fire fighters more time, slowing of the fire growth also gives the occupants more time to escape.



Each building design poses varying degrees of fire safety. For example, houses in the northern or more frigid climates designed for energy conservation pose a problem with smoldering fires that consume oxygen and cause carbon monoxide and other problems of toxic gases due to the lack of air exchange. Houses designed for security in metropolitan or high crime areas cause a problem in rapid evacuation or escape. High rise buildings are another type of building that presents some very unique fire safety considerations. Homes in remote areas, houses in densely forested areas and homes in canyons with low dry brush each present different fire risk and safety problems. Consequently, there is no single or simple solution or cure all. The following are illustrations and a detailed discussion of each home design and type of location:

Home with a fireplace. Cedar shake roof. Home in a forest setting.

  • Reduce heat release rate
  • Reduce smoke generation rate
  • Prevent unusual toxic hazard relative to quantity of smoke generated

Add fire retardant to materials

  • Slow growth of heat release rate

Use fire-resistive barriers

  • Slow spread of fire to large secondary items

Restrict total fuel load

  • Limit contents based on total fuel potential

Restrict linings of rooms to prevent rapid flame spread

  • Restrict wall coverings
  • Restrict ceiling coverings
  • Restrict floor coverings

Restrict materials in concealed spaces

  • Restrict concealed combustibles
  • Restrict concealed space linings

Require safe handling of large quantities of potential fuel