How Fast Does a Building Fire Spread?

Fire is something that should never be underestimated, especially when it relates to buildings and structures. It is crucial to understand just how fast fire spreads in a building, regardless of the size.

Knowing how a fire spreads from one floor to another and how to prevent the spread can help save lives, minimize damage and save money.

How Fast Does Fire Spread?

30 seconds. It takes all of 30 seconds for a manageable fire to turn into something that is dangerous and fast-moving. Synthetic materials, wood, wall hangings and countless other factors can accelerate the spread, giving even less time to stop the fire before it spreads.

After about a minute, smoke — the largest cause of fire-related deaths — begins to fill the room, spreading as rapidly as the flames.

It takes, on average, about five minutes for an entire home to become completely engulfed. Commercial buildings, however, can take a little longer, due to their size.

How Does a Fire Spread from One Floor to Another?


Commercial buildings are typically multi-story structures with stairways and elevators to get from floor to floor. The biggest difference in how fires spread in commercial buildings compared to residential homes has to do with elevators.

During a fire, an elevator acts as a chimney. As the smoke and flames spread on one floor, it reaches the elevators that then funnel it upwards or downwards, where it quickly reaches the other floors, destroying property as it goes.

Considering how fast fire spreads, protecting buildings against fire is essential. Not only will providing protection prevent catastrophic physical damage, but it will give people extra safety as they make their way out of the building.

Protecting Buildings From Fires

M1000 Vertical Window Curtain

Naturally, the best thing you can do to protect a building from fires is to prevent them in the first place. Unfortunately, taking preventative measures isn't guaranteed to prevent fires from ever occurring.

Aside from trying to prevent fires, you also need to safeguard your building if they do occur. Fire and smoke curtains are critical to creating a fire-safe building.

Smoke Guard is a company that knows how fast fire spreads and is dedicated to creating high-quality protective smoke and fire curtains. All of Smoke Guard's products are subtle and out-of-sight. Unless a fire or smoke is detected, they remain unseen.

There is no one size fits all for commercial buildings, that’s why Smoke Guard has a wide range of products that work to protect key spaces such as elevators and atria.

Elevator Smoke Curtains

Smoke Guard's standard elevator curtains come in two models, the M200 and M400, which work for different size elevator openings. These curtains remain hidden until smoke is detected, and they self-deploy to prevent the smoke from infiltrating the elevator shaft.

They also offer the M600 Smoke Curtain, which features fully customizable dimensions.

Vertical Curtains

M2100 Vertical Curtain

There are also different vertical curtain choices available. The most economical option is the M2100 Fire + Smoke curtain, which has a 2-hour fire endurance. The M2100 Curtain is a great option for atrium separation, openings in walls,and even specialty enclosures.

Smoke Guard's M2500 Fire + Smoke curtain is essentially the same, but offers larger dimension possibilities and can have manual egress capabilities.

For windows, there is the M1000 fire curtain, which is deployed by a fusible link.

Horizontal Curtains

A horizontal curtain, like the M3000 Fire curtain, can deploy to divide floors and compartmentalize large spaces, like atriums. Having a horizontal curtain in place can drastically reduce or eliminate mechanical smoke evacuation systems.

Perimeter Curtains

M4000 Perimeter Curtain

Smoke Guard's M4000 fire-rated perimeter curtain doesn't require corner support posts, unlike other systems. It is ideal for protecting various building areas, like staircases, escalators and other open spaces.

Draft Curtains

The SG Draft Fire + Smoke Curtain is a cost-effective, static curtain. It is made with commercial properties (like warehouses and manufacturing facilities) in mind, but can also work in other areas like aircraft hangers. It is an option that works in buildings with and without sprinklers installed. Draft curtains channel the ceiling jet away from the fire and out of the building via roof vents either to automatically remove the smoke or to delay sprinkler activation.

Keeping Fire Safety a Top Priority

You never want to underestimate how fast fire spreads. It takes 30 seconds or less for a fire to become a serious issue. Prevention is always the first course of action, but sometimes that just isn't enough. For a commercial building, you want to cut off the spread of fire as quickly as possible, should a fire occur.

The best way is to invest in the right fire and smoke curtains, like those produced by Smoke Guard. Their fire-and-smoke rated curtains are high-quality, sleek and subtle. Nobody will know that there are safety measures in place unless they are deployed, which only happens in the case of smoke or fire.

Including Smoke Guard curtains in your fire and smoke protection plans mean you can rest assured that your commercial building has the utmost fire protection and that the fire and smoke will not spread and damage the entire building.

Contact us today to learn more about how Smoke Guard can help protect your building.