Fire and smoke are a deadly duo. Most indoor fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. The spread of smoke and fire throughout a building can lead to devastating consequences.

The dangers of fire

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Fire reduces oxygen levels dramatically, which is deadly for anyone in the room. The air outside is normally around 21% oxygen. If the oxygen level goes down to 17% people can experience impaired judgement. Less than this has more serious effects: down to 9% causes unconsciousness and at 6% death.

When air is hot enough, one breath can kill. Superheated gases burn the respiratory tract.

The dangers of smoke

For a fire to grow inside a building there needs to be oxygen. The more the fire burns, the more oxygen is removed from the air, making it difficult to breathe. Fire will often consume most of the available oxygen, and so the burning process will slow down. However, this ‘incomplete combustion’ will release carbon monoxide into the air, which is deadly. Toxic gases are also created by fire burning different objects. For example, burning plastic can produce hydrogen cyanide.

Smoke leads to disorientation and clouds your vision, making escape difficult. Smoke inhalation is even compared to the feeling of drowning.

It is important that buildings have appropriate safety measures for preventing the spread of smoke and fire. Fire doors should never be wedged open. There are many alternatives for holding open a fire door that complies with fire safety regulations.

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