What is Fire?

Fire is a natural chemical reaction which burns fuel and releases heat. It has many uses and is used by humans to provide heat for cooking, generating light and warmth, powering vehicles and electricity generation plants. It is also a weapon and a destructive force used in war. In the context of the English language, it is commonly used as a metaphor for intense emotion and passion (such as in The fire in my heart) as well as to dismiss someone from their job (in a literal sense).

Fire can be ignited by any combustible material (either solids, liquids or gases), oxygen gas, or another substance which is capable of oxidising the fuel. It is a self-perpetuating chemical process, meaning that once started, it will continue until the source of fuel or oxygen runs out. During combustion, the heat of the flame keeps remaining fuel at its ignition temperature, which then ignites the gases being released. The heat of the flame also causes other surfaces to burn and spread the fire.

A fire can be extinguished by removing the fuel, oxygen or other exogenous material from the burning area. It can also be controlled by applying a fire retardant such as Halon (which has been banned in some countries), increasing the input of fuel and oxidizer in a balanced mix, raising the ambient temperature to improve the speed of the fuel/oxygen reaction, or using a catalyst which speeds up the chemical reaction.

The fire of a forest or wildfire is most often caused by lightning, however it can also be started by people. The goal of the movement known as FIRE, or Financial Independence, Retire Early, is to allow individuals to save enough money so that they can quit their jobs or reduce their hours at work and spend more time with their families. Those who support this movement recommend that everyone should start saving as much as possible from an early age, including a large percentage of their salaries.

When a fire breaks out in the home, it is important to have an escape plan and to practise the routine of checking that all doors and windows can be opened easily. It is also advisable to close all internal doors before going to sleep and ensure that electrical appliances such as hair straighteners, curling irons and mobile phone chargers are unplugged after use.

If you see a fire, keep calm and call 911 to report it. It is important to remain on the telephone line until told to hang up by the emergency services dispatcher. Keep your pets and children away from the fire, as they may panic or get scared and run off into a dangerous place. Keep a fire extinguisher in the home and know how to use it. Ensure all members of the household are aware of the escape route from each room and check that the smoke detectors and alarms are working properly. Regularly check the condition of all wiring and electrics, as damaged or overheating cables can create sparks which can cause a fire.

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