Residential fires are among the most feared dangers of everyday life. Luckily, we can take precautions: in many countries, homeowners are required to cover financial risks with fire insurance and experts recommend having a fire extinguisher ready at hand. Most of these measures only deal with the most obvious feature of a fire, though: the flames. For a long time, the most dangerous aspect went unnoticed. Most of the fire-related deaths are caused by smoke. It was not until about a decade ago that authorities in many countries took this into account and made smoke detectors mandatory for all homes.
In 2019, approximately 90% of the fire related deaths and injuries in the U.S. occurred in homes or apartments . There are no official statistics for the EU but estimates of the European Fire Safety Alliance show similar rates at approximately 80%. In those cases, most people do not die from the flames, but from the smoke. Depending on the burning materials and on the amount of heat generated by the fire, smoke consists of different gases. All of them are dangerous, but in different ways.