Local firefighters say closing your bedroom door at night can make the difference between life and death in case of a fire.

“A door can make a huge difference,” said Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services spokesman Jonathan Gormick.

“With that closed door, it gives you time to hear the smoke alarm, wake up, figure out what’s going on and find a safe way out.”

A closed bedroom door buys residents valuable time by helping keep out toxic fumes that cause poisoning and suffocation, the lead causes of death during a house fire.

“Having a compartmentalized environment where you can hear the smoke alarm and have time to escape is the difference between life and death,” Gormick said.

If you don’t close the door, you could wake up to smoke-filled room where the only way to avoid smoke inhalation is to lie flat on the floor. In such a case, Gormick said, you only have seconds to get out.

That’s why the BC Building Code now requires smoke alarms to be installed in areas where people sleep. Gormick also recommends installing at least one on each floor of a residence.

Modern materials make fires burn faster

In a house fire, Gormick said, every second counts and residents have far less time to evacuate burning homes than they did a generation ago.

Man-made building supplies used in modern homes and the large amounts of synthetic materials inside them make fires spread faster and produce more toxic gases than ever before.

“With all the plastics and the polymers and the petroleum-based products in a house, now the fumes that come off a fire are even more deadly and people have less time to escape,” he said.

In 2009, safety science company Underwriters Laboratories conducted a side-by-side comparison of two simulated living room fires. One room was furnished with older, legacy items made mainly of wood and cotton. The other room contained modern furnishings composed of synthetic materials.

The room with the legacy furnishings burned for more than 29 minutes until flashover--the point where combustible materials around the fire source begin to simultaneously ignite.

The same process took just 3 minutes and 40 seconds in the other room.

With files from CTV Vancouver’s Shannon Paterson