Whether it’s a
tiny flame flickering on the end of a birthday cake candle, a wall of
flame 200 feet tall and a mile ride roaring through a forest or a
romantic candlelight dinner that is set on a dining table, all fire is
essentially the same. In simplest terms, a fire is a chemical
Fire is the naturally occurring
companion of energy release in the form of heat and light when oxygen
combines with a combustible, or burnable, material at a suitably high
temperature (about 617 degrees F, 325 degrees C for wood to burn).
Fuel, heat and
oxygen are all needed in the right combination to produce fire.
Combined, they’re called the “fire triangle.” By nature, a
triangle needs three sides. Take away one of the sides and the
triangle collapses. The same is true of fire. Take away any
of the three components of fire-fuel, heat or oxygen- the fire
collapses, meaning that it can’t burn. Fire fighters try to do
just that-remove one of the three essential components of fire.
For example, when they dig a line around a fire, fuel is removed, when
water is dropped on a fire, it reduces the heat. Retardant, a
thick, soupy substance, coats fuels, blocking them from oxygen.
With a steady
supply of oxygen (a fire needs air that contains at least 16% oxygen;
the earth’s atmosphere is 21%), fuel and temperature become critical to
sustaining a fire once it’s ignited by lightning; in a typical day, the
earth receives about 8 million lightning strikes!). The general
relationship between fuel and temperature is simple: the more fuel, the
higher the heat. The more heat, the faster the fire spreads. When there
is plenty of heat and fuel, fires are pretty much take on a life of
their own. In the words of one fire behavior expert, “Large fires
live to feed themselves.” Large fire can create their own winds and
weather, increasing their flow of oxygen. A really large fire can
generate hurricane-force winds, up to 120 miles an hour. The high
temperatures “preheat” fuels in the fire’s path, preparing them
to burn more readily. When fires reach the stage, there is little
that fire fighters can do. Nature is in charge.
About fuel, as
you’ve seen on photos, televisions and or in books showing trees or
shrubs burning. Technically, the trees and shrubs aren’t really on
fire. It’s not the fuel that is burning. The fuel is actually being
converted to gas. What you’re seeing burning is the gas produced by a
fuel when heat is applied. Take a closer look at your fireplace the next
time you have a log burning in it. If you watch closely and observed,
you can actually see a space between the surface of the log and the
flame. What is burning is gas being given off from fuel. There is very
little oxygen on the immediate surface of the log. The gases produced by
the chemical reaction when heat is applied to the fuel need to rise a
little to mix with oxygen in order for them to burn. That also explains
why “fire balls” of flame can explode tens of feet above a tree.
Again, it’s not really the tree that is burning. It’s the rising gases
being produced as a result of a chemical process that are on fire.
this intriguing chemical reaction that produces fire breaks down. The
wick of a birthday candle burns away, removing the fuel. A large wild
land fire finally in circled by a line, taking away access to fuel, of
the weather changes and rain of snow begins to fall, reducing the heat.
The key to fire is understanding its nature-what it takes to create
fire, and more importantly, during the difficult fire seasons that
mostly occur in summer time- what it takes to control it.
the Chemistry of Fire
chemistry of fire is a series of complex reactions, sometimes involving
well over 100 chemical elements. The many different substances that can
fuel a fire and the different resulting chemical reactions that take place
mean that fires may be very different in their cause, their composition
and their waste. Mitigation professionals must understand the chemistry of
each fire in order to react appropriately and to effectively restore the
Fires are classified into two groups: simple and complex. Simple fires
result in complete combustion and are usually fueled by relatively pure
fuel, producing no soot and only small amounts of gasses, fumes and smoke.
Complex fires, on the other hand, are the result of incomplete combustion
and are fueled by synthetic materials, including those found in many toys,
carpets, furniture, clothing, plumbing and bathroom equipment. As complex
fires cause the most damage and leave the most waste.
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Can you guess how many
are started by kids every year? five or maybe ahundreds?
Every year, children start nearly 100,000
that hurt people and cause a lot of
property damage, skin burn and even cause