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Fire, Friend or Foe?

What does this mean?

Fire, friend or foe? There is a saying, “It takes a tree to produce one million matches,
but it takes a match to destroy a million trees”. That’s the power
of a fire. It can also destroy tremendously. It can go out of
control. Efforts must be made to tame it.

There should not be any doubt in the minds of people. Fire is a boon to mankind. But it needs to be controlled well in order to use it.

People who makes use of fire, (that includes all of us), must know the nature of a fire, and how a fire can start. It is a fundamental rule to understand what we are dealing with.

In order for us to use fire properly, we should know something about how a fire can occur. People who have a natural fear of fire usually do not know much about fires. If they know how a fire can start, they will not fear it as much, but rather treat it with
respect. The more you find out about fires, the better you will be
at preventing it from going out of hand.

So, just how can a fire start?

In order for a fire to start, three conditions must be met, and they
must be present together. The conditions are heat, fuel, and oxygen.
If you take any one of them away, a fire will not occur. It is called
the “Fire Triangle”.

The Fire Triangle principle is used in all fire prevention and fire fighting measures. It is very simple. Remove any one of the three, and you will not have a fire. Put all of them together and you will have a fire or even an explosion. An explosion is just a rapid burning of a fire.

The three components of a Fire Triangle are heat, fuel and oxygen. The components can appear in many forms and it important for those of us who want to adopt fire prevention measures to look carefully.

Sometimes, people do not realize that all the three are present until
it becomes too late. For example, a tiny electrical spark that can
become a source of heat often cannot be seen at all. Sometimes, even when the three conditions are present, the energy of the heat may not be sufficient to cause a fire.

As with all accidents, when nothing terrible happens, people tend to get careless. Why worry? It did not happen the last time, it will not happen now. What they do not realize is that sometimes there is not sufficient heat to vaporize the fuel.

And fuel does not have to be petrol or kerosene. A piece of wood is combustible when it becomes heated enough. Cloth and paper are also fuels for a fire. The plastic chair in your dining room can be a fuel.
In fact all organic materials can burn if it is hot enough.

Oxygen is always present in our atmosphere. In fact we thrive on the oxygen in the air to live. Oxygen occupies about 21 percent by volume in air, the rest being nitrogen. So in normal conditions, this part of
the Fire Triangle will always be present and is very difficult to avoid having when we plan our fire prevention measures in our homes. It will be more relevant when we want to stop a fire that has already started.
In this case, one of the ways to break the Fire Triangle is to remove oxygen. There are ways to do this, one of them is by blanketing or smoldering.

However, in our planning for fire prevention, we can look at ways of reducing the chances of oxygen rich atmosphere forming anywhere around the fuel and the heat. This has been known to start fires rapidly.

Everybody knows that heating can cause fires. However, we must not be unduly alarmed if there are sources of heat around us. We simply cannot avoid the heat. In fact we use heating for our own benefit. Simply put, we must treat heat and fire with respect. We should also study the mechanism of a fire. 

Yours in Fire Safety

Alex




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