Fire is a chemical reaction that occurs when combustible fuel is exposed to oxygen. As long as there is enough fuel and oxygen present, the reaction will continue. The heat generated by the reaction is used to sustain the fire. It is important to note that the fire can become life-threatening in only two minutes. For this reason, it is a good idea to leave the scene if possible, and call 9-1-1 if it gets out of hand.
Combustible fuels include liquids, solids, gases, and smoke. Regardless of the form, a fuel must have enough heat to achieve an ignition temperature. Depending on the fuel, the burning process may be slow or fast. A slow combustion produces no products, while a fast combustion produces a flame. In addition, the combustion of flammable materials is dependent on the oxidizer and the ambient temperature.
When a fuel is heated, the atoms of the molecules break free from bonds that hold them together. This results in the formation of new molecules. These include water molecules (H2O) and carbon dioxide molecules. Each new molecule carries energy that can be used to help sustain the fire.
A fuel may be any combustible material, but it must have a moisture content that will allow it to burn. Liquids are less flammable than solids, and the amount of heat needed to ignite them is greater. Wood is considered a prehistoric fuel, but it has long been used as an energy source. Fuels also vary in size, shape, and quantity.
Once a fuel has been heated to an ignition temperature, the atoms of the molecules will begin to break apart, releasing volatile gases. These gases will then ignite the flame. Depending on the chemistry, the colour of the flame will change with the amount of heat. Generally, blue is the dominant color of the flame. If the temperature is high, the carbon atoms emit light. Lighter colors are usually scorching temperatures, while darker colors represent cooler temperatures.
Gasoline burns in one step. However, other combustible materials will not. They must be hot enough to vaporize. This means the fuel must be smoldering or engulfed in a plume. Usually, this is accomplished by openings to admit oxygen.
A smoldering fuel will then be heated until it reaches its ignition temperature. As it heats, the particles will break away from the molecules and rejoin with the air. After that, the atoms will begin to emit light. Depending on the chemistry, this will either result in blue or violet flames.
If you are in a burning house, the best thing to do is to find an escape route, call the fire department, and call 9-1-1. If you can’t get out, try to roll on the ground and smother the flames with blankets, towels, or another smothering substance. Also, if there are children in the house, use a flashlight or a light-colored cloth to signal for assistance.
The heat produced by the fire is a major concern, as it is potentially harmful to inhale. Inhaling super-hot air can cause the skin to melt and the lungs to be damaged.