The Basics of Fire
Fire is a reaction between oxygen in the air and combustible material, such as wood. The heat released by this chemical reaction fuels a fire and sustains it. It can also be used as a weapon. For humans, fire has been used for cooking, signaling, propulsion, and in the incineration of waste. A campfire can be a sensory experience as well as a physical one.
During combustion, gases are released from the surface of the fuel and ignited by the heat of the flame. These hot gases move upward to the ceiling and transfer the heat to the fuel. This further increases the temperature of the fuel and allows the fire to spread across the fuel. Eventually, the fuel has fully developed and the flame has reached the surface of all the available fuel. Incomplete combustion produces smoke and carbon monoxide, which is less intense than complete combustion.
Incomplete combustion is the result of a lack of oxygen. In this case, the particles of the fuel are too small to act as perfect blackbodies. When this happens, the carbon particles collect as soot.
Depending on the type of fuel, the fire may produce carbon dioxide, water, or some other products. Gases such as methane are heated by the flame, and the molecules break down to form water and carbon dioxide.
Combustion begins when a spark ignites the fuel, which is then heated to ignition temperature. As the temperature rises, more fuel surfaces can be reacted with the oxidizer. With sufficient oxygen, the fuel gas and oxygen combine into a flame. However, if there is not enough oxygen, the fuel and oxygen cannot combine. If there is not enough oxygen, the gas is absorbed by the air and reformed into carbon monoxide, which then forms smoke.
A flame is a blue or red glow. Typically, the color of the flame is governed by the temperature and the emission spectra of the gas being burned. Typically, the light that is emitted is in the visible bands, but much of the radiation is emitted in bands that are not visible.
Combustion is a self-perpetuating process, as long as there is fuel and oxygen in the right ratio. However, it is possible to break off an uninhibited chain reaction. Some examples of this include electrical power tools that can ignite combustible materials. Another example of this is an arson attack. During a home fire, you should notify your mortgage company and insurance company. You can also call 9-1-1 for medical assistance.
While fire can be controlled, it can be destructive if not managed properly. Check with your local fire department for more information and guidance. Also, be sure to take care of damaged goods before attempting to reconnect utilities. Be sure to have cool water on hand to treat burns for at least three to five minutes. Contact your local disaster relief service for advice and temporary housing.
Although fire is commonly associated with extreme passion, it is also a powerful force that can serve as a weapon or a source of mechanical work in engines. Modern applications of fire include internal combustion vehicles, thermal power stations, and fossil fuels.