There are many causes of fire – it can be due to faulty electrical wiring or a candle left attended or a material that caught on fire. Depending on the cause of the fire, the duration of the fire and the materials surrounding the area on fire, the damages can range from property loss to loss of life.

Whatever the reason is, there needs to be a couple of fundamental elements present for a fire to occur. Let’s take a look at how fire starts and how we can prevent it from happening.

Typically, fire happens as a chemical reaction between the oxygen in the atmosphere and then some type of fuel. But oxygen + fuel does not necessarily equate to fire. There has to be a third element, which is the ignition temperature. The fuel has to be hot enough for the combustion to occur.


Elements of Fire

Before, people are made aware of the fire triangle and we only know the three ingredients that make fires possible. These elements are Oxygen, Fuel and Heat. These elements should be present and combined in the right mixture for a fire to occur. However, recent studies show that there is a fourth element which is propagation. So instead of a fire triangle, we now have a fire tetrahedron.

Now let’s discuss these elements separately.

Fuel means any material to be burned. It could be paper, cloth, plastic, wood, etc. The lighter the material is, the easier it gets burned. For example, paper will burn faster compared to wood or metal.

The second necessary element for a fire to happen is the oxidizer. In this case, oxygen in the air. Oxygen is necessary to sustain combustion.

The third element is enough heat to raise the material or fuel to its ignition temperature. Without enough heat, the material will not combust.

The last element is an exothermic chemical reaction that allows the propagation of the fire.

Putting out a fire requires removing one of these elements. For example, you can use a wet blanket to put out a fire because it cuts off the oxygen supply, therefore destroying the tetrahedron. Or you can use water to douse the fire because it lowers the temperature of the material so it would no longer ignite. The use of water, however, should not be used if the fire is electrical in nature.Water conducts electricity and would only worsen the fire.



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