As if this video were not dramatic enough on its own, there are several points that are not obvious to the average person, and which made what we are seeing there far more scary as I began to learn about fire science.
As fast as that room goes up, somehow I still imagined that I would make it out alive if that happened in my own home. In my mind, I figured a smoke detector would warn me, that I would stay low so as to not breathe the smoke, that I would know my emergency exits, and so forth.
But seeing it on film is really too one-dimensional to really appreciate the full gravity of the violence that is occurring there. We often hear that "smoke inhalation" is the most deadly part of a fire in the home. And the threat of toxic smoke in an oxygen deprived environment is certainly not to be overlooked. However, in this example, it is all too easy to overlook the obvious, or to fully grasp what we are actually witnessing.
We see the fire, but we really don't see the heat. I didn't realize, and had very little comprehension of just how hellishly hot a room can get. As you watch the video, it is all too easy to be captivated by the tree becoming an inferno, the smoke rolling across the ceiling. Yet somehow I imagined that so long as I stayed clear of the flame itself, and didn't pop my head up for a deep lung-full of smoke, I would be okay and could make it out.
What I didn't understand was that my window of opportunity to make it out of that room alive was really only a few short seconds. (And that entering that room to save someone else would be near instant death.)
As you watch the video, perhaps for a second time, take note of the television stand on the right, where the lamp is set. At 25-26 seconds, you will see that cabinet of furniture burst into flames. But did you notice that the primary flame did not actually touch that entertainment center? There was no direct contact between the raging fire in one side of the room, with the television and lamp on the other, before it burst into flame. Magic? Jumping fire? A spark? No. What you just witnessed it called FLASHOVER.
Which means that means that the ambient temperature in the room has now become so high, that the contents of the room will now begin to combust on their own, without direct contact to flame. You just saw a comfy cozy living room go from maybe 70-degrees or so (Fahrenheit) to an incinerating 1100 degrees, give or take a little. Folks, that is about DOUBLE the highest temperature inside your average household oven. In 25 seconds!!!
Staying low to the floor is not only important to keep your head out of the smoke, but important to to keep your head out of the heat. But even with that, you have precious few seconds to make it out of a burning room alive as that heat crushes down on you like a ton of bricks. Don't let the fire start in the first place. And if it does happen, do not hesitate for even a second, maybe thinking about saving some object or contemplating trying to douse the inferno. GET OUT! And as sad as it is to say, you should never go back into a burning building to save pets or even loved ones. Even a fully equipped firefighter is unlikely to survive a flashover environment.