The Science of Fire

Many people ask, "What is fire?"

Fire is a chemical reaction, often between different chemical compounds or elements, each of which has stored energy.  You must have the right kind of mixture in order for a fire to happen.

For example, for a fire to occur these items have to come together: heat, fuel, and oxygen.  Remove any of them and the fire will not happen.

Fire is a natural phenomenon that existed long before people began to use it.  Fire heats our homes, cooks our food, and runs our cars.  However, when used carelessly, fire has tremendous destructive powers.  All fires require fuel, oxygen (air), and heat, but there's also a fourth dimension to the traditional model -- the chemical chain reaction between the fuel and the oxygen which keeps the fire burning.

Once the fire is burning, the elements needed to start a fire are no longer necessary and the fire becomes a destructive force.

Many people underestimate the power of fire and its many causes.  They don't understand how fast it can spread, how hot it gets inside a burning building, and how dark it becomes from the smoke.  If they did, more people would plan in advance exactly what they would do to escape from a fire where they live, work and play.

- Written by Benard Schwarts, PE