Hot Stat: Today's Homes Burn Faster Than Ever

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NIST fire roomIt may sound like a cliche to trot out fire safety tips before the holiday season, but if there's one statistic that bears repeating, it's this: Even with adequate smoke alarms, a house fire today can become uncontrollable in less than three minutes.

That's down from an average 17 minutes in 1975 -- a whopping 82 percent difference.

And the reason for the drastic change, according to a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, isn't just the type of house you live in, but what you put inside.

"It's not how old the home is, it's the furnishings," Jack Watts, Director of the Fire Safety Institute, told AOL Real Estate.



A spokesperson for the National Association of State Fire Marshals told AOL Real Estate that the worst culprit in home fires is upholstered furniture, because it often contains highly flammable polyurethane foam. These all-too-common materials provide the fuel for what fire experts call the flashover -- the point at which everything in the room simultaneously bursts into flames. It doesn't help that many of today's homes are built with more open floor plans and modern building materials like wallboard that can lead to faster fires, according to the Wichita Eagle.

The numbers show an alarming trend. In 1977, the first year when data was available, there were 750,000 residential fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In 2010, there were roughly half that many, thanks in large part to widespread use of smoke detectors. But the incredible speed with which home fires can spread in today's homes represents a major step backward in fire safety.

The Hot Topic of Sprinklers

The next step in home fire safety, a spokesperson for the NASFM said, is to require fire sprinklers in new residential properties. Homebuilders bristle at the idea due to the high cost of installation. The national average cost to install sprinklers is $1.60 per square foot, according to the Wichita Eagle. In a 2,000-square-foot home, that comes out to about $3,200.

Another barrier is public opinion. As we reported last year, when given the choice between granite countertops and fire sprinklers, respondents overwhelmingly chose the countertops, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

(To find out if your state requires fire sprinklers in new construction, check out the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website.)

Worse still, there are only voluntary flammability regulations for upholstered furniture. Implementing a nationwide standard would go a long way in protecting consumers from purchasing dangerously flammable furnishings, the NASFM spokesperson said.

Regardless of what state legislators decide, though, it all comes down to vigilance, says Fire Safety Institute Director Watts.

If you'll be using a live Christmas tree this holiday season, make sure to water it regularly and keep an eye on any decorative lighting and candles. And, as always, make sure your house is equipped with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. For a terrifying glimpse at a Christmas tree "flashover," watch the video above.

Also see:
Home Allegedly Set Afire in Neighbors' Facebook Feud

Mortgage Rates Stay Low, But Homebuyers Aren't Budging


26 PHOTOS
Mouth-Watering Kitchens
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Hot Stat: Today's Homes Burn Faster Than Ever

Aspiring chefs, gourmets and gourmands -- feast your eyes on these delectable kitchens, plucked from some of the finest homes on the market today. If the kitchen truly is the heart of the home, get ready to fall in love with some of the best-kept, cutting-edge and well-equipped tickers this side of Lyon. Bon appétit!   

Location: Brookline, Mass. 
Price: $6.95 million
Beds/Baths: 6/14
Sq. Ft.: 9,838

Newly renovated, this Gambrel-style mansion boasts a sweeping English garden that encloses its one acre. The home's amenities include a home theater, wine cellar, three-car garage and... 

See more images of this stunner.

....a  stone pizza oven! 

See what else this home has to offer.

Location: Rome, Ga. 
Price: $2.5 million
Beds/Baths: 5/6
Sq. Ft.: N/A (9 acres)

Touted as "your own resort on almost nine acres," this property offers pastures and stables along with a pool, spa, tennis court, putting green, 20-seat theater, billiards room and wine cellar. 

See more images of this Southern manse

Pictured here is the residence's lavish gourmet kitchen, which boasts top-of-the-line restaurant-grade appliances. 

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Atlanta, Ga.
Price: $12.5 million
Beds/Baths: 7/13
Sq. Ft.: N/A

This stately Georgian mansion, labeled a "smart home," has pretty nifty tech features that include computerized lighting, audio and security. Amenities include a screening room, gym, sauna and pool.

See the listing for more details. 

The slick, sconce-lit kitchen is nearly cavernous in size and includes a wet bar and sprawling kitchen island. 

See a slideshow of this beauty. 

Location: Atlanta, Ga. 
Price: $12.5 million
Beds/Baths: 5/10
Sq. Ft.: N/A

This home is outfitted for large-scale entertaining and has the amenities to show for it: There's a paneled library, butler's pantry, office, pool, guest suite, massage room, spa, home theater -- phew! -- golf room, gymnasium, gift-wrapping room and living room. 

See the listing for more details. 

And what would a grown-up party house be without an over-the-top kitchen? Crammed with state-of-the-art appliances, this expansive culinary laboratory has two kitchen islands and encompasses a breakfast area with a fireplace. 

See 25 photos of this home

Location: Nashville, Tenn. 
Price: $3.2 million
Beds/Baths: 4/6
Sq. Ft.: 5,598 

Sitting on nearly three acres, this four-story mansion offers plenty of space and a pool. And guess what else? 

See the listing for more details. 

A futuristic, eat-in kitchen with ample cabinetry. 

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Beverly Hills, Calif. 
Price: $40 million
Beds/Baths: 9/13
Sq. Ft.: 13,885

They don't get much more expensive than this giant (though, believe it or not, there do happen to be quite a few houses that dwarf it). This gated mansion offers a swimming pool, tennis courts and, clearly -- at this price -- a whole lot more.

Get a taste of its other features by viewing the listing. 

Armed with a lavish pantry and cherry-stained cabinetry, the home's kitchen is a dream come true for a gourmet chef -- let alone, a movie star's spouse. 

See a slide show of this one-of-a-kind mansion. (There's a pretty thrilling arial shot thrown in.)

Location: Beverly Hills, Calif. 
Price: $27.5 million
Beds/Baths: 5/10
Sq. Ft.: 13,227

This Beverly Hills manse boasts a four-car garage, solar-heated pool and guesthouse. It also offers easy access to community features like tennis, paddle and basketball courts. 

See the listing for more details. 

Gleaming with fine finishes, the kitchen offers a sizable island and pantry, and is stocked with a wide array of appliances. 

See what else this home has to offer

Location: Los Angeles, Calif.
Price: $34.95 million
Beds/Baths: 6/10
Sq. Ft.: 15,000 Sq Ft

You can’t buy happiness, but this stunning architectural home is about as close to a Zen investment as you’re likely to find this side of Nirvana. With six bedrooms and 10 baths, you could start your own religious commune in this sprawling contemporary home. And speaking of food for the soul …

See what we're talking about

Get a load of this divinely feng shui kitchen, complete with dazzling views of the Pacific. Feed your friends (trust us, you’ll have plenty) and entertain in this multifaceted, high-tech kitchen.

See the listing for more details. 

Location: Colleyville, Texas
Price: $7.4 million
Beds/Baths: 7/12
Sq. Ft.: 12,194

Oh, would that we were real Disney princesses! Well, there’s also the princely sum this property costs, but we can dream, can’t we? This palatial estate -- in the Lone Star State, no less -- has everything an aspiring royal could ever want, including a grandiose gourmet kitchen.

Get regal

This Tuscan-style palace is just what fairy tales are made of -- rustic stone walls, golden chandeliers, and a kitchen island to die for. We may be highlighting killer kitchens this week, but the rest of this modern palace has to be seen to be believed. Swoon!

Location: Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.
Price: $7,500,000
Beds/Baths: 3/5
Sq Ft: 4,141 Sq Ft

Sitting on a small fortune but aren’t much into mowing the lawn? Then try this tropical fantasy condo on for size. With cerulean blue around every corner of this luxurious beachside home, sit back and enjoy a Mai Tai in your spacious and airy dining room.

View the listing for more details. 

If you’re so inclined, walk over to your state-of-the-art kitchen and whip up something to snack on before the evening’s stunning sunset.  

See some of the other wild rooms in this mansion

Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Price: $19.995 million
Beds/Baths: 5/6
Sq. Ft.: 13,875

The listing touts this single-story home as a “redefining structure within modernism.” Called the Glass Pavilion, its rambling 14,000 square feet sit on 3 1/2 oak-dotted acres in Montecito.

See the listing for more details. 

The glass-box kitchen is a chef’s dream -- provided the chef is obsessively neat. We're willing to bet it’s tough to keep really tidy where there’s a thousand-bottle “wine room”  only steps away.

See the gorgeous features of this home

Location : Newtown, Pa.
Price: $5.9 million
Beds/Baths: 6/8
Sq. Ft.:  13,000

This sprawling brick manor started life as circa-1789 farmhouse, but you have to squint hard to see it. Inside, it’s old meets new, with an expanded and updated interior that spares no modern amenity.

See the over-the-top details here.

The kitchen has every top-of-the-line convenience, including a six-burner range, a built-in grill, a butler’s pantry and acres of storage space.

See a slideshow of the home

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