Not All Fires Burn The Same!
A fire can start in an instant and destroy anything in its path until its fuel source is gone, causing injuries and taking lives within a matter of seconds. According to (NFPA), fire departments respond to over 350,000 structure fires a year nationwide. Far more tragic than property damage, is the 2,500 civilian fire deaths and 12,300 civilian fire injuries annually. To prevent a fire related loss, We want to stress the importance to have a basic understanding of types of fires, how fires burn, and what to look out for.
Types of Fire
Not all fires burn the same way. Nor do they start the same way. The differences between electrical, spontaneous combustion, chemical, oil and gas fires are significant:
- Oil and gas fires are flammable or combustible liquids such as natural gas or class II and class IIIB combustible liquids. Class II combustible liquids contain fuel oils like kerosene and have a flashpoint (the temperature a fire can ignite) above 100°F. Class IIIB combustible liquids have a flashpoint of 200°F and include animal oils, glycerin, hydraulic fluids along with vegetable oils.
- Spontaneous combustion and chemical reactions. Spontaneous heating is frequently the catalyst. Spontaneous heating happens when a material increases in temperature without pulling heat from its surroundings. The exact cause of ignition in a spontaneous combustion chemical fire is often difficult to determine.
- Most commonly known to spontaneously combust are things such as hay, oily rags, trash and agricultural products. Oily rags account for the most fires. Summer months, like July, see the most spontaneous combustion and chemical reaction fires.
- Electrical fires include electrical failure or malfunction. According to the NFPA, more than 45,000 structure fires every year due to a malfunction or electrical failure, in which leads to more than $1.4 billion in damage. Common types of equipment to malfunction resulting in a fire are washer and dryers, space heaters, fans, and air-conditioning units.
How Fire Burns
Fire requires 3 elements to both ignite and burn:
- Heat: Common heat sources include: burning cigarette, worn electrical wires, stovetop burner.
- Fuel: basically everything in your home will fuel a fire. As a fire burns, the heat created warms close items, making it easy for things to start burning.
- Oxygen: The oxygen in the air fuels a fire.
Heat levels are not the only danger of a fire. At the time of a structure fire, there’s a dangerous level of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide as well as chemical and thermal irritants. Irritants can permanently damage a person’s or animal’s respiratory system and could cause death.
- Carbon monoxide is the result of incompletely burned fuel sources such as wood, oil and gas. Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are confusion, dizziness, headache and weakness. If levels of carbon monoxide are too high it can cause loss of consciousness or even death. High carbon monoxide levels can make it more difficult for people to escape a fire.
- Carbon dioxide is created from chemical reactions that occur during fires. In the presence of too much carbon dioxide, individuals often experience respiratory issues.
- Smoke inhalation irritates the mucous membranes along with the lining of the respiratory tract, causing difficulty breathing, swelling or collapsing the airway.
- Chemical irritants found in smoke are ammonia, chlorine, hydrogen chloride, sulfur dioxide.