Fire is a really dangerous occurrence and can present several different threats. Fire can spread in a surprising number of ways. Fortunately, by being armed with knowledge and being aware of how and why fire spreads, you will be in the best possible position to prevent it. Here are some facts about fire spread you may have not known and how to limit it.
What is Fire?
Fire is the fast oxidization of any material. This can be a solid, a liquid, or a gas. As it oxidizes, also called burning, it releases energy. This energy is felt as heat. You’ll know rapid oxidization by another name, burning.
Fire needs three things to continue burning:
- A heat source
- A fuel source
These three factors combine into something called the Fire Triangle. It is useful to know about the fire triangle. Although it’s simple, it contains a clue in stopping the fire from spreading.
Remove any one of the three ‘sides,’ and you can prevent a fire from burning and spreading.
How Do Fires Spread?
Fire spread isn’t only limited to a naked flame touching another object. There are, in fact, four ways that fire can spread:
1. Direct Burning
Direct burning is when a naked flame is applied to a material. This is the most obvious form of fire spread. While it is obvious, large fires open flames aren’t the only cause in isolation!
Here are some more ways that fire spreads that you may not have known about. As the fire spreads, you can often get a combination of the following factors interacting together that can quickly make a developing fire situation completely unmanageable.
When you put your hands out in front of a strong bulb, the warmth you feel results from heat radiation. The same phenomenon can happen on a bigger scale with large fires. The electromagnetic radiation of fire will cause other materials to absorb heat and potentially ignite.
Combustible material doesn’t have to be nearby to combust when exposed to heat radiation. This is one of the quickest ways that fire can spread. If several items begin to combust, this creates even more radiation, and a fire can quickly become out of control.
It should come as no surprise that hot air rises. As it hits a limit, such as a ceiling, it can plume and spread, heating other elements even though they are not near the original heat source.
This is the most common way fires in residential and commercial property can quickly become out of control.
Ever picked up a metal spoon from a saucepan and burned your hand?
If so, you have a firsthand (pun intended) experience of conduction. This is where heat travels through a solid object. If this object is in contact with other flammable material, it can cause it to ignite.
In buildings, this could occur if structural beams are heated. Even wiring can act as a conductor for heat!
How to Stop Fire Spreading
So, now that you are aware of the various ways that fire spreads, we can look at some ways to prevent it.
- Direct Burning | Prevent the Spread
Direct burning is the most obvious way that fire spreads and is one of the easiest to prevent. Fitting equipment that quickly extinguishes naked flames will prevent other objects from catching fire.
Another key way to prevent direct burning is by ensuring that any materials that come into contact with flame don’t catch fire easily. If you are unsure which materials provide the best protection, it is well worth speaking to a professional.
- Stopping Heat Radiation
Heat radiation doesn’t have to come from a high-energy heat source. Badly positioned lighting and even some electrical appliances can cause radiation heat buildup on other surfaces. A great example is office lamps left shining on a stack of papers.
If a fire does break out, you need to remove one of the three sides of the ‘triangle’ quickly and effectively. Oxygen is nearly always present, but some extinguisher systems work in such a way as to deprive a fire of oxygen quickly and effectively. Fire doors can often block heat radiation too!
- Limiting Heat Convection
Remember we said that we don’t need a naked flame to cause a fire in a completely separate area?
By stopping hot air from being able to circulate and accumulate, you can prevent convective heating. Strategically placed fire doors are a great way to slow the spread of fire.
Cutting the heat off at the source is also a great way to prevent fire from spreading. Fire suppression systems are an effective means to stop a problem before it has the chance to escalate. Heat-sensitive alarms in areas where heat is likely to build up would act as an effective early warning system before a fire gets out of hand.
Combined with this, ensure that areas that are likely to suffer from convective heating are made of fireproof materials.
If you are unsure what these are, it might be best to contact a professional fire prevention service for guidance.
Do you know what’s beneath the walls or in the ceilings of your buildings? If a beam or conductive elements are running through an entire floor, then this could be a really easy way for a fire to spread.
Fraker Fire can offer expert guidance and assessment on the best steps to take to reduce the risk. This is especially true in large buildings where an initial source of fire might not be apparent. They can also offer guidance on quick fire suppression systems that can rapidly subdue large heat sources.
Even small fires can quickly spread. The greater the size of a fire, the bigger threat it poses. Above a certain size, fire spread and its causes can all start to interact. The quickest and easiest way to prevent fire from spreading is to stop it before it begins. With expert guidance and assessment, you can ensure that the risk is vastly reduced.