Do You Know What Will Not Burn In A House Fire?

by admin on October 7, 2010

The following originally appeared on Fire Science College.

Suffering a house fire is a devastating experience. Each year, $8.6 billion in property loss is estimated due to fires, according to FEMA. When the damage is severe, countless precious belongings are lost, depriving the owners of a portion of their lives. However in many cases, there are a select few items that withstand the inferno. The average house fire burns at a temperature of about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t hot enough to destroy most metals and earthly-made substances. And if an item is well-placed and small in size, its chances of survival increase drastically. Below is a list of things that are often found intact underneath the rubble during the aftermath of a house fire.

Jewelry

Although they may endure superficial damage when they’re engulfed by flames, most items of jewelry maintain their compositions amid high heat. Diamonds, which are formed below earth’s surface under intense heat and pressure, melt at about 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Gold melts at a much cooler temperature – about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit – but that’s enough to survive most house fires. Platinum jewelry is the priciest, so it’s a good thing that the metal’s melting point is just higher than 3,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Sapphire and Ruby also possess extremely high melting points.

Silver Coins

Coin collectors who own myriads of silver coins – like the quarter prior to 1965 – might find them to be their most durable possessions. The melting point of silver is just below 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. So that valuable 1804 Silver Dollar from Queller’s Collection just might live to see an additional 200 years.

Filing Cabinets

Steel filing cabinets are built to last so that businesses won’t have to deal with the loss of important files after building fires. Many people keep personal documents in filing cabinets, which are often kept in home offices. Their steel composition and usual placement within a home – often away from the kitchen or fireplace – give them a high survival rate.

Tools

Do-it-yourselfers might not have to repurchase the tools they’ll need to rebuild their homes after a fire. Steel tools are extremely durable – the melting point of carbon steel is between 2,600 and 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit, and the melting point of stainless steel is roughly 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit.

Silverware

Most forks, knives and spoons are composed of stainless steel. So even if the fire started in the kitchen, it’s possible that not every item in the room perished. Their small size and placement also allows them to take the heat.

Cookware

Cookware is built to endure extremely high temperatures. Most pots and pans are made of steel and iron; the latter of which melts at just below 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Like silverware, their placement within confined spaces helps them survive the not-so-severe fires.

Barbecue Grill

Go figure that an item made for fireside cooking could outlast a fire. Most grills are composed of steel or iron, which allows them to last for decades. Of course, most are kept in the backyard – away from the worst of the inferno. But they still may have to endure falling debris.

Some Appliances

When sifting through the ruins after a house fire, it’s common to find an appliance or two that remains intact amid the chaos that surrounds it. Many appliances these days are made of stainless steel, which gives them a sleek design and durability.

Stone Table

The oldest rocks on this plant have survived billions of years of wear and tear, so it’s no surprise that a stone table could outlast a simple house fire. It took thousands of degrees of heat to make the rocks, and it’ll take thousand of degrees of heat to melt them.

Firesafe

The steel composition of a firesafe allows it endure 1,700 degree infernos. Imagine if the entire house was made from the same material as a firesafe? House fire problem solved.

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