Fire Safety - The Fire Traingle

Dec 11 10:24 2008 Felipe Splinter Print This Article

One of the first things taught in a Fire Safety Training course is how a fire starts. Knowing how fires start can considerably increase awareness of potential hazards and also helps in providing an understanding as to how fire extinguishers work.

In order for a fire to start,Guest Posting there needs to be sufficient quantities of three elements in place - fuel, oxygen and heat. Once a fire has started, removal of any of these three elements will cause the fire to extinguish. The term for this is the ‘Fire Triangle’.  Recently, this has largely been replaced in the industry by the term ‘fire tetrahedron’ which takes into consideration the ignition or combustion process.


Without fuel a fire will stop. Fuel can be removed naturally, where by the fire has consumed all the burnable fuel, or manually, by mechanically or chemically removing the fuel from the fire. Sources of fuel include:

Wood / paper / card
Plastics - most plastics will release toxic smoke during combustion
Metals - some metals are flammable, although usually very high temperatures are required
Dust - airborne particles which can be highly explosive
Materials/clothing/upholstery - present virtually everywhere, these can produce toxic smoke


When there is a lack of oxygen, a fire cannot begin nor can it continue. Oxygen can be removed from a fire by dousing it with foam, spraying it with inert gas, dry chemicals (powder) or by enclosing the fire in an area where all the available oxygen will be used up. Imagine using a candle snuffer on a burning candle, instantly the candles source of oxygen has been removed and therefore the flame will go out.


Without sufficient heat a fire cannot begin nor can it continue. Heat can be removed by dousing some fires with water; the water turns to steam taking the heat with it. However, it is worth noting that adding water to some types of fire (i.e. combustible metal fires) can have the reverse affect and can cause the fire to spread. That is why it is extremely important to use the correct type of fire extinguisher depending on what type of fire it is you are tackling.

The next article on ‘good housekeeping’ will offer further guidance on ways to reduce the risk of a fire.

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Felipe Splinter
Felipe Splinter

Fire Safety consultant with many years of experience

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