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Fast Flames: How closing a door could save your family

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - When you go to bed tonight, will you close your bedroom door?

If you have kids, what about their bedroom door?

If the answer is no, firefighters say you are making what could be a deadly mistake.

Newschannel 3 is taking you inside a house fire as it burns, to explain why closing a door can open a path to saving a family's life.

When a fire started last month at a Kalamazoo Township apartment complex, Mariah Lange was trapped inside.

"I did not know what was going on until I saw all the smoke," said Lange.

Days later, Lange was still hobbling while she walked, but also knows that she is lucky to have escaped with only a bad ankle.

"When we saw that we could not get out the front door and just run out into the woods, we closed the door, ran to the balcony and had to jump off the balcony," said Lange.

That jump to safety may only have been possible because of a closed door protecting Lange and her roommate from smoke and flames.

Newschannel 3 worked with fire departments in Oshtemo and Comstock Township to conduct a test using a vacant home.

Firefighters started a fire upstairs to show what would happen in a bedroom where the door is left open and in another where the door was closed.

Newschannel 3 set up four cameras covered in glass and water that we hoped would get our footage out safely.

Outside the home, the first visual evidence of the flames was smoke coming out of the bedroom window. That smoke eventually became flames, but what did it look like inside the house?

Inside our cameras picked up the sound of smoke alarms. In the bedroom where the door was left open smoke filled the room very quickly, to the point where the picture went dark. That fire became so intense that the glass holding our camera broke.

Down the hall there was a much different scene in a room with the door shut. Some smoke is seen coming in, but not enough to block the view of our camera. The room remains easily recognizable.

Firefighters say the difference between the open and shut door can be the difference between life and death.

"The data we got from this burn shows the room that had the closed door was much more survivable than the room that had the open bedroom door," said Oshtemo Township Captain Chip Everett.

In the room with the open bedroom door, the temperature topped 1100 degrees. In the room with the closed door the maximum temperature reached 150 degrees. In the closed bedroom the maximum temperature on the floor was 115.

"As the temperature rises in the room that has the door open, you'd only have a minute or two to get out," said Comstock Fire Chief Ed Switalski.

Switalski says in the room with the closed door, someone might have been able to survive inside for the entire 26 minutes that the fire burned. Children could have waited by a window behind that closed door for firefighters to arrive with a ladder and make a rescue.

Firefighters say your family needs to talk about this issue now so you know what to do if a fire does happen.

Firefighters say every family needs an escape plan. Remember that it is very important to stay low to the ground. Smoke, not flames, is often what kills people.

Some parents say that they want to leave bedroom doors open so they can peek in on their kids, but firefighter after firefighter told Newschannel 3 that is a mistake and to keep those doors shut.

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