How a Fire Burns

If you've been in the unfortunate circumstance where you've experienced a fire, you know what a traumatic ordeal that can be. Few things strike fear in the heart like a fire. Once the dust and ashes settle, you might even begin to wonder how the fire actually started. While many things can act as fuel for the fire, there actually is a simple formula that addresses what it takes for a fire to ignite and burn. By having that information, you can prevent fires in the future.

It's really a simple equation when it comes to a fire: heat + oxygen + fuel = fire. Without any one of those elements, a fire will cease to burn. Maybe you can recall when you've built a fire in your fireplace or firepit - or even while camping. First, you need a match or lighter to get things going - that would be the heat. Then you need material to burn - wood, paper, cardboard, twigs, etc. That's the fuel. The fire will continue to burn as long as there's oxygen - which is why water or can put it out - it smothers the fire and removes the oxygen.

The first stage, when the fire is lit, is called ignition. The stage that follows is called flamespread - when the fire rapidly moves over the surfaces that are closest to the actual fire. As the fire builds in intensity, the materials that are on fire will give off more violate gas, which just makes the fire grow stronger.

After flamespread, the next stage is flashover - when air and gas reach their maximum points and flames shoot out and explode in every direction. When flashover is reached, the fire isn't contained just to what was burning initially but flashes out, covering a large area.

Once the burst of flashover occurs, there's a steady burn of the fire, which will consume everything in its path. That's when it reaches the final stage: total combustion.

So how does knowing this help in prevention?  Well, flameproofing addresses several of these elements that cause fires to burn. When textiles or material have been soaked in or coated with flame repellents, both fuel and oxygen are removed from the fire equation. When the treated materials come in contact with the flames, carbon dioxide and nitrogen are released. The carbon dioxide then creates a carbon char, which is a non-combustible barrier, separating the oxygen from the material. The nitrogen also displaces the oxygen, now making it a non-factor.

The carbon char buffer zone protects the treated materials and no longer provides fuel for the fire. An added benefit is that the toxic gases that cause so much damage in relation to smoke inhalation are trapped in that space as well, allowing people to safely evacuate.

While knowing how a fire works doesn't necessarily guarantee its prevention, it certainly can enhance fire protection. Practices such as flameproofing greatly decrease the damage a fire can do.

If you have flameproofing needs, call Queens Flameproofing today. We have been an industry leader for over 50 years in all of NYC and the Greater NY Metro area - we'd be happy to serve your business as well! 800-972-5587

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