Understanding what a fire needs start is simple if you understand the Fire Triangle. In the Fire Triangle, there are three elements that are needed for a fire to start, and for it to continue.
These elements are:
When all three of these elements are combined in the right mixture, a fire will occur. And, once started, it will continue to burn until one of the three elements has been sufficiently reduced and/or removed, creating an imbalanced mixture of the Fire Triangle.
Understanding how a fire can be started, what will feed it, and what will make it stronger, can help to save your life or the lives of many others. We’ve already addressed what will start a fire and feed it, but now we’ll discuss ten things that will make a fire worse.
- Gasoline: Gasoline itself is not flammable, but the vapor is. When mixed with air, it creates a mixture that is very flammable. From improper use when trying to start a fire, or containers not being stored properly, gasoline can make a fire nearly unmanageable.
- Diesel: Diesel is not the same as gasoline. Where gasoline is flammable, diesel is combustible. Even so, it is the vapor that ends up catching fire, and not the liquid itself. Diesel tends to burn slower than gasoline, so it doesn’t exactly explode, but it is much harder to put out diesel fire. Just like gasoline, improper use and improper storage can make a fire hard to contain.
- Oil: Just like diesel, oil falls into the combustible category. And again, it is the vapor from the oil that ends up catching fire, not the liquid. Oil fires can occur under a plethora of scenarios including oil spills and improper storage. If a fire comes in contact with oil, regardless of how it is fire likely to become stronger.
- Grease: Cooking oils and grease are not flammable themselves, but once they have reached their flash point, they will ignite quickly and burn intensely. If a fire comes in contact with cooking grease, whether in a bottle, refuse container or a spill, it will dramatically strengthen in mere moments.
- Lack of Water: Since water is one way to put a fire out, the lack of water can be a serious problem. If your building lacks adequate water flow, or an active fire protection system, there is a good chance that a fire will get stronger and cause greater damage more unmanageable.
- Exposed Wires: It is easy to overlook a wire with a bare/stripped section on it, or a loose connection at a wall outlet. But fires can start from one perfectly placed spark, especially if the spark lands on something flammable.
- Excess Paper or Trash: An overabundance of paper and trash can easily become a fire hazard, which is why most safety manuals address keeping your area clean of trash and debris. All it takes it one flicked cigarette to start a fire. And if a fire makes contact with a large trash/debris pile, it could become much stronger and more unmanageable.
- Dust: No one ever thinks about dust making a fire worse, but dust is very dry. If there is enough dust, it can make a fire stronger. Dust burns very fast, making it much harder to contain if the dust is widespread.
- Gas Leaks: Gas leaks are normally undetected and can become explosive very quickly. When there is a gas leak, almost any spark can start a fire. If a fire is moving towards a gas leak, it could become disastrous, even fatal.
- Gas Filled Tanks: This includes oxygen tanks for breathing, helium tanks for filling balloons, propane tanks for heating/cooking, and so on. If a fire reaches one of these tanks, and the tank fails, the chance of a catastrophic fire is extremely likely.
Understanding how a fire can be started, how it continues, how to stop it, and what can make it worse could be the difference between living and dying. After reading through this, you should be able to easily identify potential fire hazards and take the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of starting a fire or feeding the fire. Being proactive can save your life or the lives of many others.