Why House Fires Spread So Quickly

More than 2,700 Americans were killed in house fires in 2013 and ABC News' Matt Gutman finds out why.
6:29 | 08/01/15

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Transcript for Why House Fires Spread So Quickly
You're about to see for yourself what it's like to be in a raging inferno. Tonight finding out what you need to know to escape the flames. Do you see flames or smoke? A womanysterical as she's trapped, flames ripping through her home at an apartment complex in Nashville, Tennessee. The thing is burning down! Get out of the building! The fireman helped rescue the woman and pull her to safety. She froze just standing there looking at it. Listen to me, you need to go. At that point I just pushed her along and explained to her if she hurries up, she'll be safe. Oh, my god! This time a construction worker trapped in Houston, Texas, taking this leap of faith. Oh, no, oh, no! Seconds later the construction site up in flames. I said I'm going to die right here. I said, god, you got to help me out here. Reporter: More than 2,700 Americans killed in house fires in 2013, more than 360,000 homes consumed. Ground zero for most of these fires, the kitchen. You used to have as much as 17 minutes to get out of your home. Now we're looking at three minutes or less. Reporter: The reason could be your furniture. Our homes are filled now with plastic synthetic materials. Reporter: Watch as laboratory tests show how quickly a fire can spread in an open floor plan house. In just nine minutes, temperatures spike to 1,400 degrees. Taking notes, dozens of firefighters across the world, giving them important data and a vital message. The critical component is oxygen. As soon as you close that door, you shut off the source of oxen. Reporter: To understand the dynamics of a fire, I joined the pros at the training field in College Station, Texas. How hot is it going to be? Anywhere from 400 to 6 ho00 degrees. We're not here to kill you or to melt you. We're here to teach you something. Reporter: It's hot all right. Look at our thermoheater at 900 degrees. Now stand up. It's a lot different, isn't it? We're going to take the available oxygen in the room and replace it with whatever is burning. Reporter: Experts say if you're ever in a fire, get low, crawl on your hands and knees. The ground will be cooler, visibility better and more oxygen, something firefighters do. You crawl in and you see and you feel. When you can't see, you have to rely on your field and your hearing. You have to feel for that heat. If you don't feel the heat, you're not in the right spot. Reporter: We crawled towards the kitchen where so many fires start. The heat and the weight of the hose nearly debilitating. Sparks shooting everywhere. If you're a victim of a fire, you're in that house, waiting for you guys to come in, what's the most important thing you can tell one of those people. Stay calm and get as far away from the fire as possible. Reporter: A few miles away and a couple of hours later, our cameras are rolling as the Bryan fire department is dispatched. This is no ordinary call. They're working with us to simulate a house fire. Structure fire. Reporter: This time I'm the one caught in the fire trying to figure my way out, going through doors, windows and avoiding the red tape that means fire. The smoke suddenly fills the room. I can't see past my hands as I try to reach my kids, simulated by these pillars. Go right. Reporter: I make it out but not without mistakes. When you got to the door, did you feel it? Reporter: I did not. I just opened it right away. Also, never take anything with you. Whatever think you want to grab, that's a mistake. Reporter: We did it and the team reset. This time the crews made it a little bit more difficult. I'm going to try to apply the lessons that John just told me. Fire, fire, fire! Reporter: It's really thick right here. I quickly make it around a few obstacles, check the door handles and grab the kids. Susie. Jake. Jake, I got you, buddy. Come on, kids. Oh, man. All right, there's another fire. Reporter: Remember, the red tape means fire. That's blocked off. I have to find another way out. Maybe the way I came. All the exits are blocked. The smoke drives me to my hands and knees. I feel trapped and freeze. Right now I'd be dead. Normal exit points are closed. These windows here in the living room have been blocked off by fire. Other bedroom has two points of exits but there are other exits that we need to consider. Reporter: Come on, kids. Ah, the windows in the kids' rooms. I panicked. Even knowing this wasn't real. I was thinking about doors but the window was really the way out. And that was the closest to where you were at the time. Right. It's a common mistake. People want to get out the door they use the most, whether they come in the garage or the front door. The closest exit is the one you want to take. Reporter: The biggest lesson is know your exit drill. It will save you time and safe your life. Up next, an American trip lining prodigy takes on the

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