Safety Matters - Facts About Fire You Don't Know

It’s normal for anyone to be sceptical or lackadaisical towards undertaking an exercise he or she has little knowledge about. Our attitudes in such situations are quite pronounced due to fear of the unknown. But when you have been informed adequately about the activity you have to undertake, you approach it with a lot of confidence. Imagine how you feel when all of a sudden fire started in your room. In the first instance, you’re most likely to panic. That is why it is very important to know how fires start in the first place. This is what we want to discuss today.

Fire can be started by the presence of three (3) main things:

Ø  Fuel – any solid, liquid or anything that contains carbonaceous substance.

Ø  Oxygen – ever presence in the atmosphere.

Ø  Heat – this comes from heat energy sources such as mechanical, chemical, nuclear, solar and electrical.

Some people refer to these three elements as Fire Triangle. When these three elements come together, it leads to a process we call burning or combustion. But when one of these elements is not present, fire or burning cannot take place. There’s no way a fire would start with presence of any two of the elements. What’s most fundamental, however, is that oxygen is ever presence in the atmosphere and fuel plays a very key role in the start of a fire.
 
Photo credit: common.wikimedia.org

There are mainly six (6) classes of fire and it’s often determined by the type of fuel involved:

Class A – This is made up of organic solids that have carbonaceous substances such as paper, coal, textile, fibre, wood and plastic. For example if you lit a match and place it on a piece of textile in the presence of oxygen, there will be combustion leading to fire

Class B – It’s made up of liquids that are flammable for example oil, solvents, paraffin, diesel, petrol, kerosene, alcohol, spirit, turpentine, oil paint, grease, butter, shea butter. For example, when you drop butter (fuel) on a hot surface that has generated heat with the presence of oxygen, combustion will take place and thereby leads to fire.

Class C – It’s made up of flammable gases such as methane, acetylene, propane, butane. For instance, if you use LPG to cook in your home, there’s always the presence of oxygen without which you would not be able to light the stove. Also, when you drop live cigarette butt in a place where any of the gases mentioned above is present, there’s no doubt the place will explode.

Class D – Metals such as aluminium, magnesium, titanium, iron, steel. When welders are grinding metals, you would find that a lot of sparks are generated. There is always the presence of oxygen and so if the sparks fall on another combustible material for example a piece of wood, it can result in combustion leading to fire. Again when live electrical naked wires, for example, come into contact with each other, the friction generates sparks which create fire.

Class E – Fires involving electrical apparatus. For example when you plug a water heater and left it unattended, it will explode after all the water has dried up.   

Class F – High temperature fats and oils such as cooking fat. Since these are high temperature fats, if they’re not properly stored, it can create fire. For example, storing them close to a source of heat.

Note:

Three things start fire: fuel, oxygen and heat.

To stop or prevent fire, remove one of the elements.

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