The danger lurking under your tile roof

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- Tile roofs are in most modern Phoenix neighborhoods, but they present a real danger for firefighters.

“We have lab evidence, it’s just been proven time and time and time again that it’s dangerous for our firefighters,” said Phoenix Fire Captain Tony Mure.

The problem, Mure says, is in the weight of the tiles, coupled with building materials that are common in homes built from the 1970’s on.

“Some of the materials that we build houses out of today are not solid lumber. They’re made out of wood chips or pieces of wood glued together and they react differently in a fire and they break down quicker that the old-fashioned lumber,” Mure said.

That material quickly burns in a fire, causing a tile roof to collapse.

“It’s like throwing a carpet over a hole on the floor. It looks perfectly level and I can walk over it, but once I reach that hole, I’ll fall right through,” said Mure.

It is so dangerous, that the Phoenix Fire Department has a policy in place about tile roofs.

“We do not stand on top of a tile roof,” said Mure.

On Thursday night, Phoenix Fire battled a house fire on Spur Drive in North Phoenix. Everyone inside the home made it out safely, but the house was destroyed. The house had a tile roof, and the roof collapsed in the fire.

“The weight of the tiles is far more heavy than the traditional asphalt shingles and that is a dead load coming down and you’ll have a structural collapse,” said Mure.

Mure says that homes with tile roofs are perfectly safe for everyday living, and they are not necessarily more dangerous in a fire than homes with asphalt shingles.

“Homes with different kinds of roofs have different challenges in a fire,” he said.