In an area with extensive urban sprawl, homes are being constructed at a blinding pace to keep up with the increasing number of people moving into the D.C. region.

And while the efficiency and speed in which an empty lot is turned into a home is a marvel of modern technology, the materials used to make such homes may also pose a major safety hazard.

There is a price to be paid for the lightweight materials used to construct modern dwellings: Flammability.

A debate is raging between the contractors who build the homes and firefighters who say they are akin to living in a matchbox.

Nearly Fatal Fire in Leesburg

Critics cite a massive 2008 fire on Meadowood Court in Leesburg as a prime example of the dangers lurking behind the walls of these homes.

On that day “it went from businesses as usual to a really really bad day real quick.”

Three minutes after firefighters arrived, Capt. Micah Kiger led his men into the burning home and up the stairs to the fire.

Just three minutes later, a flashover occurred. The instantaneous ignition of the room below them sent temperatures soaring above 1,000 degrees. It was a scene that would forever change their lives.

“(It) actually trapped us,” said Kiger. “It was basically your worst nightmare hearing the other people scream that were burning up.”

Panicked and trapped, one firefighter was forced to throw himself through a window in the master bedroom to escape. Kiger and two other firefighters would make their exodus by climbing down a ladder.

“That’s the reason I’m able to sit in front of you today,” Kiger said.

The captain and his three men were seriously injured in the blaze. One will never return to work.

Firefight Series

Part 1: Dangerous Battle Raging Between Contractors, Firefighters

Part 2: Lightweight Construction Posing Deadly Risk to Firefighters

Part 3: High Cost of Safety At Heart of Battle Between Firefighters, Contractors

WNEW’s Kevin Patrick contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.


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