The Anatomy of a Fire

Have you ever personally experienced a fire in your home or another building? If so, you know firsthand the trauma that brings. Once the whole ordeal was behind you and you were finally safe, maybe you've thought, "How did that fire start? What caused it?" While there's an endless list of things that can ignite a fire, there's a certain formula of elements that needs to be in place if a fire is going to start and grow. It's true that sometimes after a fire, you may want to put it behind you; however understanding what fuels a fire can prevent one in the future.

The equation for a fire is fairly simple: heat + oxygen + fuel. You need all 3 elements if a fire is going to start and then continue to burn. Maybe you might remember times when you've made a campfire or a fire in a firepit. First, you needed some heat - a match to spark the fire. Then you needed the fuel - something to burn, such as logs, twigs, paper, etc. Then, there's the oxygen - which is present until you remove it through water, sand, smothering, etc.

Without any one of those elements, a fire will die out. That first stage of just getting the fire going is called ignition. The stage that follows is called flamespread. What occurs at this stage is that the flames move rapidly over the surfaces that are closest to the fire. The fire consumes these materials and grows in intensity. The materials provide fuel for the fire and emit violate gas as they are burned, which only further fuels and strengthens the fire.

The stage that follows flamespread is flashover. This happens when air and gas reach their tipping points, and flames explode out in every direction. Here, the fire jumps past what was initially ignited and bursts out everywhere.

After flashover, the fire steadily burns, consuming everything in its path, until the final stage, total combustion, is reached.

Once you know the anatomy of a fire, how to prevent it makes a lot more sense. Flameproofing is one significant method to contain a fire and prevent it from growing into a disaster. When fabrics and objects have been soaked or coated in fire retardants, fuel and oxygen are removed from the equation. As the flames (the heat) comes in contact with the flameproofed materials, both carbon dioxide and nitrogen are released. As this happens, a carbon char is created by the carbon dioxide, which serves as a non-flammable barrier. This barrier separates the flameproofed fabric or object from the oxygen.

The nitrogen also plays an important role because it takes the place of the oxygen, which essentially removed oxygen from the fire equation.

This buffer zone protects the object while also removing fuel for the fire. As an extra benefit, the toxic gases that contribute to smoke inhalation injuries are confined to that space, giving people in the building a chance to evacuate without inhaling those fumes.

Knowing how fires work doesn't mean you'll never experience them, but it does mean that you can take extra measures to prevent them with the knowledge you now have. Flameproofing is a significant deterrent to the growth of a fire, as treated materials are no longer combustible, which means they won't contribute to the spread and severity of a fire.

Queens Flameproofing is a leader in the flameproofing field, and we would love to work with your business. If you have questions or flameproofing needs, we are here to help. Give us a call today, and we can also offer you a free, no-obligation estimate as well: 800-972-5587.

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