Whether or not you should open a window during a house fire really depends on a number of variables, including the conditions inside of your home, and the behavior of the fire. We’ll approach this question from more than one angle.


What May Happen if You Open a Window?


The way a fire reacts to a window that’s been opened depends on whether it’s influenced by fuel—the amount of material available to burn inside of your home, or by the volume of oxygen that’s available. This is known as a fire that is either fuel-controlled or ventilation-controlled.


So, you might open a window, allow a breeze to enter, and make your escape without intensifying the fire. This may indicate that the fire in your home is more controlled by fuel than by ventilation. However, there’s no guarantee that this will be the case in your home.


On the other hand, if you open a window and establish a path where air can travel in and out, and the fire intensifies, it is likely to be ventilation-controlled. The increased airflow can also attract smoke, and the room you’re in can quickly fill with it. Even if the door to the room is closed, the new air path you created can suck smoke under and around the door and into the space.


So, ideally, it’s best to keep your windows shut until the fire department gets to your home.


When You Should Open a Window


If smoke and flames are intensifying and flames are growing closer, and you have no way to escape from your home except through a window, then you should open it. First, be sure to close all doors into the room. This can help slow down smoke that may rush inside when you open the window.

A window that’s on the ground floor can be an ideal escape route. Windows on higher floors, however, are obviously more dangerous—unless there’s a fire escape ladder or balcony where you can stand for safety as you await the fire department.


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