Date: November 07, 2014 Author: Brandon Winters

At first glance, all fires encountered by firefighters seem to display the same fire behavior and combustion traits. However, they can differ significantly according to several factors, including:

  • Chemical elements and compounds
  • Flow of liquids
  • Heat transfer
  • Characteristics of combustibles
  • Smoke and heat hazards

For firefighters, learning about fire behavior and combustion traits can translate into fewer casualties at burn sites and flames being extinguished before the building is totally consumed.

Chemical Elements and Compounds

The behavior of fire and its combustion characteristics depends largely on the chemical elements and compounds present at the burn site. For example, flames fueled by oil, gasoline, and wood all behave differently. Knowing the chemicals and materials that influence a given fire is essential for efficiently extinguishing it and minimizing casualties at the site.

Flow of Liquids

The term “flow of liquids” applies to liquids that are used to extinguish fires. It can also apply to liquids already present that may hinder or promote combustion. Firefighters must choose a fire extinguishing liquid (e.g., water or foam) that addresses the fire behavior and combustion characteristics of each specific conflagration. When the flow of liquids at the burn site is correctly diagnosed, the burn time of a fire, as well as the casualties it could cause, can be reduced significantly.

Heat Transfer

Heat transfer can have a major impact on the combustion rate of a fire. In buildings that contain a lot of fire retardant construction materials, heat transfer may have a minimal impact on the combustion rate of the blaze. Conversely, buildings that contain plenty of combustibles, as well as materials that efficiently transfer heat (e.g., aluminum and copper), often experience an unusually high rate of heat transfer when they catch fire.     

Characteristics of Combustibles

It is also important for firefighters to know the characteristics of combustibles at the burn site. Some materials have a high rate of combustion (e.g. paper and gasoline), while others require a high level of heat transfer to catch fire (e.g. steel and glass). Furthermore, different combustibles often require different methods of fire extinguishment. For example, pumped water generally works better at combating wood fires than oil fires.  

Smoke and Heat Hazards

All of these factors combined affect the threat presented by smoke and heat at each burn site. The more efficiently a fire burns, the greater the level of heat transfer. The more combustible the materials involved, the greater the level of smoke. Knowing about smoke and heat hazards not only helps firefighters stay safe, but assists with gauging the danger present to people who may be trapped inside.     

Start Learning Today

Firefighters start learning about fire behavior and combustion in the classroom. That is why it’s essential for firefighting students to learn from a text that contains everything they need to know about how fire behaves and combusts, such as Principles of Fire Behavior and Combustion, 4th Edition. To start learning rom authors with years of experience in the field of firefighting, order this textbook from our online store today.

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