Fight Fire By Knowing Your Enemy
Your best way to prevent fire is to understand the conditions fire needs to exits. A fire cannot happen unless four elements are present. Take away or prevent one of these four elements and you can protect yourself from fires at your home, business, or anywhere. So, what are the four elements and what causes them to occur?
Heat is necessary for a fire. Unfortunately, heat can build up and start a fire in many ways. A fire in your home or business may start by flammable material coming in contact with a flame, too much friction, or mechanical generation (like with your car’s spark plugs). Heat can jump from an area where you want it (in a fireplace or stove, for example) to somewhere you don’t want it in one of three ways:
1. Direct contact: The heat source touches another object. A flame reaches a piece of paper.
2. Radiation: Heat can travel in an electromagnetic way. That’s like when you put your hands near a campfire. You don’t touch the flame or fire but you still receive the heat.
3. Convection: The heat transfers from one location to the next by the movement of fluids. This is what happens when a stove burner heats a pot of water.
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No matter how much heat you have, you won’t have a fire if there’s nothing to burn. All fires require fuel. The fuel can be wood, fabric, gasoline, ethanol, hydrogen, butane, or one of many, many other substances.
A third element every fire needs is oxygen. The air we breathe is about 21 percent oxygen. That’s enough to support combustion but oxygen itself does not burn. Air with a greater percentage of oxygen in it will burn more intensely.
Now here is a fire prevention key that many people don’t know. Ask most people what you need for a fire and many will list the three elements we just talked about. But you can have the right amount of heat, fuel, and oxygen and still not have a fire. What is this fourth element?
The first three elements must be in an environment where a chemical reaction will occur. That type of chemical reaction happens when the exact mixtures of heat, fuel, and oxygen blend in the right concentration. That cause ignition, the chemical reaction, the fire.
Take away any of these four elements and you can prevent or stop a fire. Spraying water on most fires, for example, removes the element of heat and stops the fire. Shutting off the value to the burner on your gas stove takes away the element of fuel. If you put a lid over a grease fire in a frying pan you eliminate the oxygen and stop the fire.
For fire prevention tips see the American Red Cross’s Home Fire Safety section and the National Fire Protection Association’s safety tips sheets.
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For questions about fire, call SERVPRO of Glastonbury/Wethersfield. We’re the fire restoration and clean up company that saves property and saves money for the owners of fire damaged homes and businesses. Whether you're in Glastonbury or Marlborough, Portland or Rocky Hill, Wethersfield or anywhere in between, we can help. You might also want to read some of other blog posts:
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