Fire has captivated humans for thousands of years. It has played a vital role in rituals, agriculture, cooking, signaling, propulsion purposes, smelting, forging, cremation and as a weapon of war. It’s one of the four classical elements, and has been referred to as “life” or “energy” by virtually every culture throughout history.
A fire is a chemical reaction between combustible fuel (which can be any substance that will release its energy when heated to the ignition temperature) and oxygen. During combustion, atoms rearrange themselves irreversibly. As a result, a flame has a colourful appearance. Red is the coolest, while lighter colours indicate scorching temperatures.
The chemistry behind the flame
In addition to its color, a fire’s chemical makeup is important. The fuel is what burns, and it consists of atoms that get antsy when exposed to heat. The fuel’s flash point, or the temperature at which it ignites, determines how fast it will burn. Some, like wood, have higher flash points than others, so it’s critical to start a fire at the right temperature.
The ignition temperature of the fuel is dependent on the moisture content and chemical makeup of the fuel. The higher the moisture content, the faster and more intensely a fuel will burn.
Oxygen is also essential for the initial ignition of a fire, as well as for sustaining it as it spreads through the air. As an ingredient of air, oxygen is readily available and abundant on most planets.
A fire’s colour comes from the resulting chemical reaction between the fuel and oxygen. Once the fuel has reached its ignition temperature, it is burned, releasing gases that spread the fire.
As the gases spread, they heat up and the fuel vaporizes. This releases the gases that create the flames, and they also heat the surrounding air, which expands and pushes up the pressure. When a window or door is opened, these gases are released into the room and cause a sputtering or throbbing sound that may be noticeable from inside the building.
If you notice this sound, or if you see the flames, add water to the fire immediately. As the water dries and evaporates, it will help to extinguish the flames.
Fire is a natural phenomenon, and many ecosystems benefit from periodic fires. This helps to clear out dead organic material and promotes ecological health.
It’s a great way to enjoy nature, and can be very beneficial for your wallet. But don’t ignore the risks: As a natural process, fire can have devastating effects on the environment and human health if not properly managed.
The underlying principles of the FIRE movement can be applied to anyone looking to achieve financial independence and retire early. While the movement is primarily for those who can pull in a six-figure income, there are plenty of lessons to be learned by everyone.