What is fire?

Fire is the visible effect of the process of combustion – a special type of chemical reaction. It occurs between oxygen in the air and some sort of fuel. The products from the chemical reaction are completely different from the starting material.

The fuel must be heated to its ignition temperature for combustion to occur. The reaction will keep going as long as there is enough heat, fuel and oxygen. This is known as the fire triangle.

The fire triangle

Oxygen, fuel and heat are needed for fire to occur.

This is known as the fire triangle.

Combustion is when fuel reacts with oxygen to release heat energy. Combustion can be slow or fast depending on the amount of oxygen available. Combustion that results in a flame is very fast and is called burning. Combustion can only occur between gases.

Chemical reaction in the combustion process

Fuels can be solids, liquids or gases. During the chemical reaction that produces fire, fuel is heated to such an extent that (if not already a gas) it releases gases from its surface.

Only gases can react in combustion. Gases are made up of molecules (groups of atoms). When these gases are hot enough, the molecules in the gases break apart and fragments of molecules rejoin with oxygen from the air to make new product molecules – water molecules (H2O) and carbon dioxide molecules (CO2) – and other products if burning is not complete.

How things ignite

Heated molecules are loosened, moving apart to form a gas. The gas mole
cules combine with oxygen in the air resulting in burning.

The heat generated by the reaction is what sustains the fire. The heat of the flame will keep remaining fuel at ignition temperature. The flame ignites gases being emitted, and the fire spreads. As long as there is enough fuel and oxygen, the fire keeps burning.

Fuel + oxygen (from the air) = combustion products (mainly CO2 + H2O) + heat energy.

Complete combustion

Burning showing complete combustion

In complete combustion, the burning fuel will produce only water and carbon dioxide (no smoke or other products). The flame is typically blue.

In complete combustion, the burning fuel will produce only water and carbon dioxide (no smoke or other products). The flame is typically blue. For this to happen, there needs to be enough oxygen to combine completely with the fuel gas.

Many of us use methane gas (CH4), commonly known as natural gas, at home for cooking. When the gas is heated (by a flame or spark) and if there is enough oxygen in the atmosphere, the molecules will break apart and reform totally as water and carbon dioxide.

CH4(g) + 2O2(g) + heat CO2(g) + 2H2O(g) + heat
methane + oxygen + heat carbon dioxide + water + heat

Causes of Fire

  • Appliances & equipment Cooking; heating; washing machines & dryers; air conditioners and fans; and more.
  • Arson and juvenile fire setting Children playing with fire and intentional fires.
  • Candles Causes and trends in home fires involving candles, candle fire frequency in other occupancies, and selected published incident descriptions
  • Chemical and gases Natural gas and LP-gas home and non-home fires; spontaneous combustion.
  • Electrical and consumer electronics
  • Fireworks Includes injury patterns and trends, including shares by type of fireworks, based on reports to hospital emergency rooms
  • Holiday Christmas trees, holiday lights and decorations.
  • Household products Mattresses, bedding and upholstered furniture
  • Lightning Fires and Lightning Strikes Information on incident type, and when and where the incidents occurred.
  • Smoking materials Fires involving smoking materials (i.e., tobacco products), including data from other countries, and what materials are most often ignited

Causes Of Fire

The most common causes of fire are:

  • Electrical
  • Pantry Area
  • SmokingElectrical Incidents of Fire mainly caused due to overloading, short circuit etc.As people start staying in a new apartment, or, a new office, they start making modifications to the wall socket outlets – in order to be able to plug in additional apparatus etc. Then, there reaches a time, when the total amount of current drawn from all the sockets together could exceed the rated capacity of the internal wiring.A simple solution to this is – not to make too many changes to the electrical circuitry inside your apartment/work-place. And, any alterations etc. if done, should keep in mind the capacity of the wires used.

    As time progresses, due to various minor repairs etc. wires might be changed, jumbled up etc., or, the insulation among wires might break down. This might cause some wires to come in contact with each other, and, thus, create a short circuit. This short-circuit can cause a very high current flow through the wires – and, thus causing fires.

    A simple solution to this is: periodic inspection of the conditions of the wiring, and, taking preventive action, whenever needed. And, install MCBs (Miniature Circuit Breakers), so that any short-circuit would result in immediate disconnection of the current flow.

    Pantry Area

    Incidents involving cooking gas, cooking oil etc.Leakage of cooking gas, accompanied by a spark around the leakage could cause fire. These are typically very dangerous. Sources of sparks could be anything: – a burning item, turning on/off of electrical gadgets/switches etc.The leak itself can be in the gas cylinder itself, the pipeline carrying the gas, the regulator, joints etc. Some simple precautions to be taken for this include:

    • Regular inspection of gas pipes, and, timely replacement.
    • No sparks etc. in case there is any trace of LPG smell. LPG itself does not have any odour. A trace odour is put in the LPG – only so that any leakage might be detected.
    • Just like electrical points, turn off gases at multiple points, when not in use, rather than just at the point of usage.

    While cooking, sometimes, the cooking medium could get overheated, resulting in fire. These are more frequent, but, fortunately – relatively easy to manage (if attended to immediately).

    A simple precaution to be taken for this is – never let cooking oil etc. unattended, when its being heated, nor, do keep bottles of oil etc. in contact with very hot object, like, hot utensils etc.


    Smoking in/around combustible materials could cause fire, due to hot ashes falling from the cigarette.

    Some simple precautions to be taken include:

    • Don’t smoke in/around bed, sofa etc.
    • When you throw away the cigarette etc. always stub it out
    • Always try to dispose off the cigarette-ash at proper places

Fire Damage

Fire damage doesn’t have to occur in a dramatic inferno that destroys property and threatens lives; there are also certain situations in which fire damage can be witnessed on a much smaller level. To learn more about such situations and the wide range of damage that fire can do, keep reading.

Causes of accidental fires:

Before going any further, it is a good idea to shed some light on the underlying causes of many fire-related accidents. When you understand these causes, you can avoid many fire accidents by keeping them in mind.

  • The biggest cause of fire accidents is the improper use of electricity. Many people don’t understand how to use electricity safely and correctly. Short circuits can happen at any time, which is why it is of the utmost importance to conduct regular inspections in order to prevent them.

  • Gas leakage is another leading cause of fire accidents that may be directly related to human error or carelessness on the part of users.

  • Improper handling of inflammable materials can also lead to fire accidents.

These are only a few of the causes; there are several others. However, the fact of the matter is that most fire accidents can be attributed to carelessness. People don’t pay enough attention to their electrical wires or gas lines and end up spending a lot of money on fire damage restoration.

Fire damage:

The extent of fire damage depends largely upon the intensity of the fire that caused it. If the fire was caused by a short circuit or gas leakage, it can spread rapidly, which means that losses will be severe. But whatever the cause of a fire, the effects can be devastating.

Fire damage can be observed in many different forms and types. Actually, the resulting damage is not due to the fire alone, but a combination of smoke, heat and soot, all of which can lead to different issues that must be remedied.

  • Damage done by fire: Fire has the potential for great devastation, and it can lead to enormous suffering. It has the ability to burn your appliances, destroy your belongings and leave you with fire damaged furniture. If something is seriously burnt, it is literally impossible to restore it to its normal condition.

  • Damage done by heat: Even if you don’t come in direct contact with the fire, the heat alone can burn your skin. This damage can range from mild to an extremely high intensity injury that requires hospitalization.

  • Damage done by smoke: Due to the burning of synthetic materials present in your house, smoke can easily become toxic. Most people killed in fires lose their lives not because of fire itself, but because of smoke inhalation. Therefore, the utmost care should be taken when entering a fire damaged house.

Of course, different types of damage require different types of fire restoration. It is clear that a fire damaged property with fire damaged concrete and furniture requires more money for fire cleanup.

Like floods, fire can also damage property on a large scale. That’s why fire and flood restoration is a complicated process. To deal with the fire restoration process, you will require assistance – just like people who seek flood restoration assistance after a flood. Both of these disasters can claim lives, so it is best to remain calm and prepare in advance.

The Five Classes of Fires

When buying fire extinguishers for your business, it’s important to buy the right type of fire extinguisher for your needs. There are several different classifications of fires based primarily on the fuel source. Every fire extinguisher is rated for the types of fires it’s effective in putting out. By understanding what each fire class means, you can understand which fire types are a safety hazard at your business. Once you are aware of what types of fires your business may encounter, you can buy the proper extinguisher for protecting against them.

Class A

Class A fires are defined as ordinary combustibles. These types are fires use commonly flammable material as their fuel source. Wood, fabric, paper, trash ,and plastics are common sources of Class A fires. This is essentially the common accidental fire encountered across several different industries. Trash fires are one such example. Class A fires are commonly put out with water or monoammonium phosphate.

Class B

The Class B fire is defined as one that uses a flammable liquid or gas as its fuel base. Common liquid based fuel sources include petroleum based oils and paints, kerosene, and gasoline. Flammable gases such as butane or propane are also common fuel sources in Class B fires. Class B fires are a common hazard in industries dealing with fuels, lubricants, and certain types of paint. Smothering these types of fires to remove oxygen is a common solution as are chemical reactions that produce similar effects. Note that cooking fires have their own classification and are defined as Class K fires.

Class C

The Class C fire is defined as a fire that uses electrical components and/or energized equipment as its fuel source. Electrical fires are often fueled by motors, appliances, and electronic transformers. Electrical fires are common in industries that deal with energy or make use of heavy electrically-powered equipment. However, electrical fires can occur on smaller scales in all businesses (i.e. an overloaded surge protector or bad wiring) and should be taken seriously. To extinguish such fires you cut the power off and use non-conductive chemicals to extinguish the fire.

Class D

The Class D fire is defined as one that uses a combustible metal as its fuel source. Examples of such combustible metals include titanium, magnesium, aluminum, and potassium. Note that there are also other metals with combustive properties you may encounter. Class D fires are a danger in laboratory environments. However, be aware that combustible metals are used as part of production and other industry processes, and you need to be certain of what materials you are using for day-to-day operations. When confronted with such a fire, common extinguishing agents such as water are ineffective and can be hazardous. To extinguish a Class D fire, use a dry powder agent. This absorbs the heat the fire requires to burn and smothers it as well.

Class K

A Class K fire is defined as a cooking fire involving combustion from liquids used in food preparation. Technically a type of liquid fire, Class K fires are distinct enough to warrant their own classification. Cooking fires are fueled by a wide range of liquid cooking materials. Greases, cooking oils, vegetable fat, and animal fat are all fuel sources found in Class K fires. Class K fires are naturally of concern in the food service and restaurant industry. Such fires can be very dangerous and far more destructive than you may think. Wet chemical fire extinguishers have become popular in putting out these types of fires.

During a fire incidentRelated image

– act in a calm and thoughtful manner, avoid panic;
– call for assistance by first alerting the

firemen (fire service) and precisely identifying the area
(locality, road, number, type of accident, and also the name and address of the caller);
– immediately warn persons in danger and those responsible for security in the building or the enterprise, especially in public places;
– try to recue persons and animaIs in danger (wrap people whose clothing is alight in blankets or coats and roll them on the ground);
– prevent the rush of air by closing all doors and windows and switching off ventilation;
– do not use the lifts, leave the premises (stairs, exits and emergency exits);

– if stair wells and corridors are filled with smoke, stay in the flat, close the door and water it frequently, draught-proof it with wet rags. Show your presence at the windows (without opening them);
– if you are in a place that is getting filled with smoke, stay low on the ground where the air remains fresh;
– fight the fire with all available means (fire extinguishers, in-house hydrants, pouring water from utensils using the bath tub or sink as an improvised water reservoir;
– extinguish oil or fat fires (liquids or recipients on fire) by covering them with a damp cloth. If an electrical apparatus catches fire do not use water on itwitch off the current immediately and pull out the plug;
– inform and guide firemen or other rescuers and follow their instructions;

In case of a “forest fire”:
– leave your house if it is a weak structure;
– open the entry gate to the building to facilitate the entry of rescuers;
– turn off gas bottles stored outside and place them away from the building but not in an access path;
– shelter vehicles, with their windows closed, against the side of the building protected from the wind;
– bring in watering hoses which may be used after the main fire is extinguished;
– close shutters and entrance doors and take refuge in the house with all your family and domestic animaIs; if necessary, shelter the homeless and the passers-by fleeing the fire;
– keep calm even if smoke enters the house despite the draught-proofing of the doors and windows;
– watch the situation and how the fire progresses (fire moves at a speed of 20 to 30 meters per minute) from a door or window situated on the side of the house facing the wind.

Top Tips for Fire Safety

  1. checkmarkInstall smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  2. checkmarkTest smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
  3. checkmarkTalk with all family members about a fire escape plan and practice the plan twice a year.
  4. checkmarkIf a fire occurs in your home, GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL FOR HELP. Never go back inside for anything or anyone.

    If a Fire Starts:

  5. Know how to safely operate a fire extinguisher
  6. Remember to GET OUT, STAY OUT and CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency phone number.
  7. Yell “Fire!” several times and go outside right away. If you live in a building with elevators, use the stairs. Leave all your things where they are and save yourself.
  8. If closed doors or handles are warm or smoke blocks your primary escape route, use your second way out. Never open doors that are warm to the touch.
  9. If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit. Close doors behind you.
  10. If smoke, heat or flames block your exit routes, stay in the room with doors closed. Place a wet towel under the door and call the fire department or 9-1-1. Open a window and wave a brightly colored cloth or flashlight to signal for help.
  11. Once you are outside, go to your meeting place and then send one person to call the fire department. If you cannot get to your meeting place, follow your family emergency communication plan.

    If your clothes catch on fire:

  12. Stop what you’re doing.
  13. Drop to the ground and cover your face if you can.
  14. Roll over and over or back and forth until the flames go out. Running will only make the fire burn faster.
  15. THEN:

    Once the flames are out, cool the burned skin with water for three to five minutes. Call for medical attention.

    Stages of fire

    Disastrous fire does not start huge, unless it is an explosion from a bomb, gas, or another explosive. In a non-explosive situation, there are stages of fire which serve as the basis for the management measure to be done.

    1.IGNITION STAGE- This first stage where fuel and oxygen are exposed to heat, having chemical reaction. At this stage fire can still be controlled by removing one of the elements of fire. Can be controlled by FIRE EXTIGUISGER.

    2.GROWTH- The initial flame becomes another source of heat and additional fuel ignites. The heat is transferred through convection and radiation which ignites more combustible materials. If the fire started at the floor, the plume now reaches the ceiling . The growth of fire results in hot gases collected at the ceiling. This allows the transfer of heat, Thus igniting all other fuels in the room.

    3.Fully developed- with presence of more heat coming from the fire itself, the fire spreads and consumes all available fuel. The temperature reaches its peak, and oxygen and other materials are consumed rapidly.

    4.Decay (Burnout) – When the fire consumes all available fuel, the temperature decreases. Since the heat as an element of fire ceases, the fire gets less intense

The 7 Ways to Prepare for a Home Fire

1.Install the right number of smoke alarms. Test them once a month and replace the batteries at least once a year.

2.Teach children what smoke alarms sound like and what to do when they hear one.

3.Ensure that all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home and know the family meeting spot outside of your home.

4.Establish a family emergency communications plan and ensure that all household members know who to contact if they cannot find one another.

5.Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year. Press the smoke alarm test button or yell “Fire“ to alert everyone that they must get out..

6.Make sure everyone knows how to call 9-1-1.

7.Teach household members to STOP, DROP and ROLL if their clothes should catch on fire.

Choosing Fire Extinguishers

Identify the type of materials in the area

Class A:  SOLIDS such as paper, wood, plastic etc
Class B:  FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS such as paraffin, petrol, oil etc
Class C:   FLAMMABLE GASES such as propane, butane, methane etc
Class D: METALS such as aluminium, magnesium, titanium etc
Class E: Fires involving ELECTRICAL APPARATUS
Class F: Cooking OIL & FAT etc

Types of fire extinguisher

Water Fire Extinguishers:
The cheapest and most widely used fire extinguishers. Used for Class A fires. Not suitable for Class B (Liquid) fires, or where electricity is involved.

Foam Fire Extinguishers:
AFFF foam fire extiguishersMore expensive than water, but more versatile. Used for Classes A & B fires. Foam spray extinguishers are not recommended for fires involving electricity, but are safer than water if inadvertently sprayed onto live electrical apparatus.

Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers:
Often terDry Powder fire extinguishersmed the ‘multi-purpose’ extinguisher, as it can be used on classes A, B & C fires. Best for running liquid fires (Class B). Will efficiently extinguish Class C gas fires, BUT BEWARE, IT CAN BE DANGEROUS TO EXTINGUISH A GAS FIRE WITHOUT FIRST ISOLATING THE GAS SUPPLY.  Special powders are available for class D metal fires.

Warning: when used indoors, powder can obscure vision or damage goods and machinery. It is also very messy.

CO2 Fire Extinguishers:
CarbonCO2 fire xtinguishers Dioxide is ideal for fires involving electrical apparatus, and will also extinguish class B liquid fires, but has NO POST FIRE SECURITY and the fire could re-ignite.

Wet chemical
Specialist extinguisher for class F fires.

For Metal Fires: A specialist fire extinguisher for use on Class D fires – metal fires such as sodium, lithium, manganese and aluminium when in the form of swarf or turnings.

Proper Use of Fire Extinguishers:

A simple fire extinguisher training technique to use with employees is the PASS method:

  • Pull the pin on the extinguisher.
  • Aim the hose nozzle low toward the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side at the base of the flames until extinguished.

Knowing how to operate the extinguisher is not the end of training. Employee responders to a fire also should be trained to adhere to the following protocol:

  • If appropriate, sound the fire alarm or call the fire department immediately.
  • Before approaching the fire, determine an evacuation route safe of flames, excessive heat and smoke. Do not allow this evacuation route to become blocked.
  • Use the PASS technique for discharging an extinguisher and back away from the area if the fire flares up again.
  • If the extinguisher is empty and the fire is not out, evacuate immediately.
  • If the fire grows beyond what can be safely handled, evacuate immediately.

Fire extinguishers are meant to handle only small fires. If a fire becomes too large or the environment becomes too dangerous, employees should know when and how to evacuate the area. If any of the following conditions are present, workers should follow evacuation procedures immediately and should not attempt to fight the fire with an extinguisher:

The fire is too large. The fire involves flammable solvents, is partially hidden behind a wall or ceiling, cannot be reached from a standing position, or covers more than 60 square feet in area.

The air is unsafe to breathe. Levels of smoke make the fire impossible to fight without some form of respiratory protection.

The environment is too hot or smoky. Radiated heat is easily felt, making it hard to approach a fire within adequate range of using the extinguisher (about 10-15 feet). It is necessary to crawl on the floor to avoid heat or smoke. Visibility is poor.

Evacuation paths are impaired. The fire is not contained and heat, smoke or flames block potential evacuation routes.

For All Burns

1. Stop Burning Immediately

  • Put out fire or stop the person’s contact with hot liquid, steam, or other material.
  • Help the person “stop, drop, and roll” to smother flames.
  • Remove smoldering material from the person.
  • Remove hot or burned clothing. If clothing sticks to skin, cut or tear around it.

2. Remove Constrictive Clothing Immediately

  • Take off jewelry, belts, and tight clothing. Burns can swell quickly.

Then take the following steps:

For First-Degree Burns (Affecting Top Layer of Skin)

1. Cool Burn

  • Hold burned skin under cool (not cold) running water or immerse in cool water until pain subsides.
  • Use compresses if running water isn’t available.

2. Protect Burn

  • Cover with sterile, non-adhesive bandage or clean cloth.
  • Do not apply butter or ointments, which can cause infection.

3. Treat Pain

  • Give over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve).

4. When to See a Doctor

Seek medical help if:

  • You see signs of infection, like increased pain, redness, swelling, fever, or oozing.
  • The person needs tetanus or booster shot, depending on date of last injection. Tetanus booster should be given every 10 years.
  • Redness and pain last more than a few hours.
  • Pain worsens.

5. Follow Up

  • The doctor will examine the burn and may prescribe antibiotics and pain medication.

For Second-Degree Burns (Affecting Top 2 Layers of Skin)

1. Cool Burn

  • Immerse in cool water for 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Use compresses if running water isn’t available.
  • Don’t apply ice. It can lower body temperature and cause further damage.
  • Don’t break blisters or apply butter or ointments, which can cause infection.

2. Protect Burn

  • Cover loosely with sterile, nonstick bandage and secure in place with gauze or tape.

3. Prevent Shock

Unless the person has a head, neck, or leg injury, or it would cause discomfort:

  • Lay the person flat.
  • Elevate feet about 12 inches.
  • Elevate burn area above heart level, if possible.
  • Cover the person with coat or blanket.

4. See a Doctor

  • The doctor can test burn severity, prescribe antibiotics and pain medications, and administer a tetanus shot, if needed.

    Thermal Burns Treatment

    For Third-Degree Burns

    1. Call 911

    2. Protect Burn Area

    • Cover loosely with sterile, nonstick bandage or, for large areas, a sheet or other material that that won’t leave lint in wound.
    • Separate burned toes and fingers with dry, sterile dressings.
    • Do not soak burn in water or apply ointments or butter, which can cause infection.

    3. Prevent Shock

    Unless the person has a head, neck, or leg injury or it would cause discomfort:

    • Lay the person flat.
    • Elevate feet about 12 inches.
    • Elevate burn area above heart level, if possible.
    • Cover the person with coat or blanket.
    • For an airway burn, do not place pillow under the person’s head when the person is lying down. This can close the airway.
    • Have a person with a facial burn sit up.
    • Check pulse and breathing to monitor for shock until emergency help arrives.

    4. See a Doctor

    • Doctors will give oxygen and fluid, if needed, and treat the burn.



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