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Home builders deny modern materials burn faster

A flash over happened at a house fire in Transcona on Monday.
A flash over happened at a house fire in Transcona on Monday. Global News

WINNIPEG – Manitoba homebuilders reject claims by firefighters that newer homes include materials more likely to burn faster and endanger the lives of firefighters.

“I’ve seen no evidence of that I haven’t seen a scientific study,” Manitoba Home Builders Association president Mike Moore told Global News on Tuesday.

But Winnipeg’s firefighters union is sticking to its claim the modern materials are creating potential fire traps.

“In the last 10 to 15 years, … houses went from wood construction to plastic-based. There’s very little wood that goes into new houses,” said Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg.

Forrest said that’s what caused a near-disaster Monday at a two-year-old home in Transcona. Fire began in the basement of the house on Ed Golding Bay at about 1:30 and the whole two-storey home was engulfed in flames within minutes; firefighters almost didn’t get out before a “flash over” engulfed the home.

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Winnipeg’s acting fire chief agreed that newer homes burn faster.

“When we arrive, the fire tends to be much more advanced,” said Bill Clark.

A “flash over” happens when temperatures get so hot the smoke ignites. In a newer house, it can happen in about half the time it takes in an older home, the Clark said.

A flash over killed two Winnipeg firefighters in a house fire in St. Boniface in 2007.

The Manitoba Home Builders’ Association said 30,000 new, single-detached homes have been built in Manitoba in the last seven years, and they have a sound safety record.

“We’ve made tremendous strides in the area of fire detection,” Moore said.

There are alternatives: the developers of “Pinkwood” showed their product off at a new home in Sage Creek in 2012. The specially coated wood takes longer to burn.

The material is proven to slow the burn of a house but isn’t being used in every new build.

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In the last few years there have been changes to the fire code, including firewalls in homes with attached garages and a new requirement for heat detectors.

Building codes are reviewed every five years, a provincial spokesperson said.

The cause of Monday’s fire still isn’t known. The provincial fire commissioner, who oversees fire investigations, was not available for an interview.

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