Fire is a chemical reaction that releases light and heat. The ancient Greeks thought it was one of the four elements that composed everything in the universe and it has fascinated humans since. It is the same kind of chemical reaction that makes a cut apple turn brown, an iron nail rust and a candle glow. It’s also the kind that can burn you if you get too close to it.
To start a fire you need three things: a source of heat, fuel (something to burn) and oxygen. This is referred to as the fire triangle. If you’ve ever lit a match or burned wood in your fireplace you have created fire. The heat from the flame breaks apart the hydrogen and carbon atoms in the fuel so that they can react with oxygen molecules to release more heat. That heat is what causes the visible flames.
Depending on the type of fuel and the amount of oxygen, these reactions can be slow or fast. When there is enough heat energy, the fuel and oxidizer can form a chain reaction where the new products of the original reaction combine with the leftovers from the previous reaction and continue to grow.
Once a fire is started, it can be self-perpetuating as long as there is enough fuel and oxygen to support it. To keep a fire going, you need to provide these ingredients in the correct proportions so that it can keep burning at its optimum rate. There are several ways to do this including adding an oxidizer to the fuel, raising the temperature of the fuel so that it can reach its ignition temperature more quickly, applying an inert gas like Halon to the flame to stop the reaction or simply adjusting the ambient air temperature so that the reactions are faster.
As the fire grows, it releases heat energy into its surroundings. This transfers to adjacent combustible material through radiation, convection and evaporation. The result is that the fire continues to spread until it has consumed most of the available fuel or run out of oxygen.
Clutter can increase the risk of fire. This is especially true in the home, where items that could easily be tripped over or knocked over might be exposed to a source of heat or an ignition source. In addition, cluttered spaces make it harder to escape from a fire. Keep your home and workplace clutter free. Make sure doors and windows are clear and can be opened easily in the event of an emergency. Also, be sure to shut the door before you go to sleep – this helps prevent fire from spreading through your house. Close interior and exterior doors when not in use. This will also help to protect your belongings from smoke damage if the area is ablaze. And lastly, remember to always unplug appliances like hair straighteners, curling irons and battery chargers when not in use. They generate a lot of heat and can cause fires if left plugged in.