Fire

Fire

Overview

Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion
Combustion
Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

, releasing heat
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

, light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

, and various reaction products
Product (chemistry)
Product are formed during chemical reactions as reagents are consumed. Products have lower energy than the reagents and are produced during the reaction according to the second law of thermodynamics. The released energy comes from changes in chemical bonds between atoms in reagent molecules and...

. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion
Digestion
Digestion is the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food into smaller components that are more easily absorbed into a blood stream, for instance. Digestion is a form of catabolism: a breakdown of large food molecules to smaller ones....

 are not included by this definition.

The flame
Flame
A flame is the visible , gaseous part of a fire. It is caused by a highly exothermic reaction taking place in a thin zone...

is the visible portion of the fire and consists of glowing hot gases. If hot enough, the gases may become ionized to produce plasma
Plasma (physics)
In physics and chemistry, plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Heating a gas may ionize its molecules or atoms , thus turning it into a plasma, which contains charged particles: positive ions and negative electrons or ions...

. Depending on the substances alight, and any impurities outside, the color
Color
Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

 of the flame and the fire's intensity
Intensity (heat transfer)
In the field of heat transfer, intensity of radiation I is a measure of the distribution of radiant heat flux per unit area and solid angle, in a particular direction, defined according todq = I\, d\omega\, \cos \theta\, dAwhere...

 will be different.

Fire in its most common form can result in conflagration
Conflagration
A conflagration or a blaze is an uncontrolled burning that threatens human life, health, or property. A conflagration can be accidentally begun, naturally caused , or intentionally created . Arson can be accomplished for the purpose of sabotage or diversion, and also can be the consequence of...

, which has the potential to cause physical damage through burning.
Discussion
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Unanswered Questions
Quotations

Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.

Jorge Luis Borges, in "A New Refutation of Time" (1946)

"Regions Caesar never knew Thy posterity shall sway; Where his eagles never flew, None invincible as they." Such the bard's prophetic words, Pregnant with celestial fire, Bending as he swept the chords Of his sweet but awful lyre.

William Cowper in "Boadicea" (1782)

It is stern work, it is perilous work, to thrust your hand in the sun And pull out a spark of immortal flame to warm the hearts of men: But Prometheus|Prometheus, torn by the claws and beaks whose task is never done, Would be tortured another eternity to go stealing fire again.

Joyce Kilmer in "The Proud Poet" in Main Street and Other Poems (1917)

Time is the school in which we learn, Time is the fire in which we burn.

Delmore Schwartz, in "Calmly We Walk Through This April's Day|Calmly We Walk Through This April's Day" in In Dreams Begin Responsibilities|In Dreams Begin Responsibilities (1938), p. 93

When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.

Shunryu Suzuki, quoted in Enter the Heart of the Fire : A collection of Mystical Poems (1981) by Mary E. Giles and Kathryn Hohlwein
Encyclopedia

Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion
Combustion
Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

, releasing heat
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

, light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

, and various reaction products
Product (chemistry)
Product are formed during chemical reactions as reagents are consumed. Products have lower energy than the reagents and are produced during the reaction according to the second law of thermodynamics. The released energy comes from changes in chemical bonds between atoms in reagent molecules and...

. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion
Digestion
Digestion is the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food into smaller components that are more easily absorbed into a blood stream, for instance. Digestion is a form of catabolism: a breakdown of large food molecules to smaller ones....

 are not included by this definition.

The flame
Flame
A flame is the visible , gaseous part of a fire. It is caused by a highly exothermic reaction taking place in a thin zone...

is the visible portion of the fire and consists of glowing hot gases. If hot enough, the gases may become ionized to produce plasma
Plasma (physics)
In physics and chemistry, plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Heating a gas may ionize its molecules or atoms , thus turning it into a plasma, which contains charged particles: positive ions and negative electrons or ions...

. Depending on the substances alight, and any impurities outside, the color
Color
Color or colour is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans to the categories called red, green, blue and others. Color derives from the spectrum of light interacting in the eye with the spectral sensitivities of the light receptors...

 of the flame and the fire's intensity
Intensity (heat transfer)
In the field of heat transfer, intensity of radiation I is a measure of the distribution of radiant heat flux per unit area and solid angle, in a particular direction, defined according todq = I\, d\omega\, \cos \theta\, dAwhere...

 will be different.

Fire in its most common form can result in conflagration
Conflagration
A conflagration or a blaze is an uncontrolled burning that threatens human life, health, or property. A conflagration can be accidentally begun, naturally caused , or intentionally created . Arson can be accomplished for the purpose of sabotage or diversion, and also can be the consequence of...

, which has the potential to cause physical damage through burning. Fire is an important process that affects ecological systems across the globe. The positive effects of fire include stimulating growth and maintaining various ecological systems. Fire has been used by humans for cooking, generating heat, signaling, and propulsion purposes. The negative effects of fire include water contamination, soil erosion, atmospheric pollution and hazard to human life.

Chemistry




Fires start when a flammable and/or a combustible material, in combination with a sufficient quantity of an oxidizer such as oxygen gas or another oxygen-rich compound (though non-oxygen oxidizers exist that can replace oxygen), is exposed to a source of heat
Heat
In physics and thermodynamics, heat is energy transferred from one body, region, or thermodynamic system to another due to thermal contact or thermal radiation when the systems are at different temperatures. It is often described as one of the fundamental processes of energy transfer between...

 or ambient temperature above the flash point
Flash point
The flash point of a volatile material is the lowest temperature at which it can vaporize to form an ignitable mixture in air. Measuring a flash point requires an ignition source...

 for the fuel/oxidizer mix, and is able to sustain a rate of rapid oxidation that produces a chain reaction
Chain reaction
A chain reaction is a sequence of reactions where a reactive product or by-product causes additional reactions to take place. In a chain reaction, positive feedback leads to a self-amplifying chain of events....

. This is commonly called the fire tetrahedron
Fire triangle
The fire triangle or combustion triangle is a simple model for understanding the ingredients necessary for most fires.The triangle illustrates a fire requires three elements: heat, fuel, and an oxidizing agent . The fire is prevented or extinguished by removing any one of them...

. Fire cannot exist without all of these elements in place and in the right proportions. For example, a flammable liquid will start burning only if the fuel and oxygen are in the right proportions. Some fuel-oxygen mixes may require a catalyst, a substance that is not directly involved in any chemical reaction during combustion, but which enables the reactants to combust more readily.

Once ignited, a chain reaction must take place whereby fires can sustain their own heat by the further release of heat energy in the process of combustion and may propagate, provided there is a continuous supply of an oxidizer and fuel.

Fire can be extinguished
Fire protection
Fire protection is the study and practice of mitigating the unwanted effects of fires. It involves the study of the behaviour, compartmentalisation, suppression and investigation of fire and its related emergencies, as well as the research and development, production, testing and application of...

 by removing any one of the elements of the fire tetrahedron. Consider a natural gas flame, such as from a stovetop burner. The fire can be extinguished by any of the following:
  • turning off the gas supply, which removes the fuel source;
  • covering the flame completely, which smothers the flame as the combustion both uses the available oxidizer (the oxygen in the air) and displaces it from the area around the flame with CO2;
  • application of water, which removes heat from the fire faster than the fire can produce it (similarly, blowing hard on a flame will displace the heat of the currently burning gas from its fuel source, to the same end), or
  • application of a retardant chemical such as Halon to the flame, which retards the chemical reaction itself until the rate of combustion is too slow to maintain the chain reaction.


In contrast, fire is intensified by increasing the overall rate of combustion. Methods to do this include balancing the input of fuel and oxidizer to stoichiometric
Stoichiometry
Stoichiometry is a branch of chemistry that deals with the relative quantities of reactants and products in chemical reactions. In a balanced chemical reaction, the relations among quantities of reactants and products typically form a ratio of whole numbers...

 proportions, increasing fuel and oxidizer input in this balanced mix, increasing the ambient temperature so the fire's own heat is better able to sustain combustion, or providing a catalyst; a non-reactant medium in which the fuel and oxidizer can more readily react.

Flame




A flame is a mixture of reacting gases and solids emitting visible, infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

, and sometimes ultraviolet
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 light, the frequency spectrum
Frequency spectrum
The frequency spectrum of a time-domain signal is a representation of that signal in the frequency domain. The frequency spectrum can be generated via a Fourier transform of the signal, and the resulting values are usually presented as amplitude and phase, both plotted versus frequency.Any signal...

 of which depends on the chemical composition of the burning material and intermediate reaction products. In many cases, such as the burning of organic matter
Organic matter
Organic matter is matter that has come from a once-living organism; is capable of decay, or the product of decay; or is composed of organic compounds...

, for example wood, or the incomplete combustion
Combustion
Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

 of gas, incandescent solid particles called soot
Soot
Soot is a general term that refers to impure carbon particles resulting from the incomplete combustion of a hydrocarbon. It is more properly restricted to the product of the gas-phase combustion process but is commonly extended to include the residual pyrolyzed fuel particles such as cenospheres,...

 produce the familiar red-orange glow of 'fire'. This light has a continuous spectrum
Continuous spectrum
The spectrum of a linear operator is commonly divided into three parts: point spectrum, continuous spectrum, and residual spectrum.If H is a topological vector space and A:H \to H is a linear map, the spectrum of A is the set of complex numbers \lambda such that A - \lambda I : H \to H is not...

. Complete combustion of gas has a dim blue color due to the emission of single-wavelength radiation from various electron transitions in the excited molecules formed in the flame. Usually oxygen is involved, but hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 burning in chlorine
Chlorine
Chlorine is the chemical element with atomic number 17 and symbol Cl. It is the second lightest halogen, found in the periodic table in group 17. The element forms diatomic molecules under standard conditions, called dichlorine...

 also produces a flame, producing hydrogen chloride
Hydrogen chloride
The compound hydrogen chloride has the formula HCl. At room temperature, it is a colorless gas, which forms white fumes of hydrochloric acid upon contact with atmospheric humidity. Hydrogen chloride gas and hydrochloric acid are important in technology and industry...

 (HCl). Other possible combinations producing flames, amongst many, are fluorine
Fluorine
Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. It is the lightest element of the halogen column of the periodic table and has a single stable isotope, fluorine-19. At standard pressure and temperature, fluorine is a pale yellow gas composed of diatomic...

 and hydrogen
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

, and hydrazine
Hydrazine
Hydrazine is an inorganic compound with the formula N2H4. It is a colourless flammable liquid with an ammonia-like odor. Hydrazine is highly toxic and dangerously unstable unless handled in solution. Approximately 260,000 tons are manufactured annually...

 and nitrogen tetroxide.

The glow of a flame is complex. Black-body radiation
Black body
A black body is an idealized physical body that absorbs all incident electromagnetic radiation. Because of this perfect absorptivity at all wavelengths, a black body is also the best possible emitter of thermal radiation, which it radiates incandescently in a characteristic, continuous spectrum...

 is emitted from soot, gas, and fuel particles, though the soot particles are too small to behave like perfect blackbodies. There is also photon
Photon
In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

 emission by de-excited atom
Atom
The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

s and molecule
Molecule
A molecule is an electrically neutral group of at least two atoms held together by covalent chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their electrical charge...

s in the gases. Much of the radiation is emitted in the visible and infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 bands. The color depends on temperature for the black-body radiation, and on chemical makeup for the emission spectra. The dominant color in a flame changes with temperature. The photo of the forest fire is an excellent example of this variation. Near the ground, where most burning is occurring, the fire is white, the hottest color possible for organic material in general, or yellow. Above the yellow region, the color changes to orange, which is cooler, then red, which is cooler still. Above the red region, combustion no longer occurs, and the uncombusted carbon particles are visible as black smoke.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 has recently found that gravity also plays a role in flame formation. Modifying the gravity causes different flame types. The common distribution of a flame under normal gravity conditions depends on convection
Convection
Convection is the movement of molecules within fluids and rheids. It cannot take place in solids, since neither bulk current flows nor significant diffusion can take place in solids....

, as soot tends to rise to the top of a general flame, as in a candle
Candle
A candle is a solid block or cylinder of wax with an embedded wick, which is lit to provide light, and sometimes heat.Today, most candles are made from paraffin. Candles can also be made from beeswax, soy, other plant waxes, and tallow...

 in normal gravity conditions, making it yellow. In micro gravity or zero gravity
Weightlessness
Weightlessness is the condition that exists for an object or person when they experience little or no acceleration except the acceleration that defines their inertial trajectory, or the trajectory of pure free-fall...

, such as an environment in outer space
Outer space
Outer space is the void that exists between celestial bodies, including the Earth. It is not completely empty, but consists of a hard vacuum containing a low density of particles: predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium, as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, and neutrinos....

, convection no longer occurs, and the flame becomes spherical, with a tendency to become more blue and more efficient (although it may go out if not moved steadily, as the CO2 from combustion does not disperse as readily in micro gravity, and tends to smother the flame). There are several possible explanations for this difference, of which the most likely is that the temperature is sufficiently evenly distributed that soot is not formed and complete combustion occurs. Experiments by NASA reveal that diffusion flame
Diffusion flame
In combustion, a diffusion flame is a flame in which the oxidizer combines with the fuel by diffusion. As a result, the flame speed is limited by the rate of diffusion. Diffusion flames tend to burn slower and to produce more soot than premixed flames because there may not be sufficient oxidizer...

s in micro gravity allow more soot to be completely oxidized after they are produced than diffusion flames on Earth, because of a series of mechanisms that behave differently in micro gravity when compared to normal gravity conditions. These discoveries have potential applications in applied science
Applied science
Applied science is the application of scientific knowledge transferred into a physical environment. Examples include testing a theoretical model through the use of formal science or solving a practical problem through the use of natural science....

 and industry
Industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

, especially concerning fuel efficiency
Fuel efficiency
Fuel efficiency is a form of thermal efficiency, meaning the efficiency of a process that converts chemical potential energy contained in a carrier fuel into kinetic energy or work. Overall fuel efficiency may vary per device, which in turn may vary per application, and this spectrum of variance is...

.

In combustion engines
Internal combustion engine
The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer in a combustion chamber. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high -pressure gases produced by combustion apply direct force to some component of the engine...

, various steps are taken to eliminate a flame. The method depends mainly on whether the fuel is oil, wood, or a high-energy fuel such as jet fuel
Jet fuel
Jet fuel is a type of aviation fuel designed for use in aircraft powered by gas-turbine engines. It is clear to straw-colored in appearance. The most commonly used fuels for commercial aviation are Jet A and Jet A-1 which are produced to a standardized international specification...

.

Heat



Fires give off heat, or the process of energy transfer from one body or system due to thermal contact.

Typical temperatures of fires and flames

  • Oxyhydrogen
    Oxyhydrogen
    Oxyhydrogen is a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gases, typically in a 2:1 molar ratio, the same proportion as water. This gaseous mixture is used for torches for the processing of refractory materials and was the first gaseous mixture used for welding...

     flame: 2000 °C or above (3600 °F)
  • Bunsen burner
    Bunsen burner
    A Bunsen burner, named after Robert Bunsen, is a common piece of laboratory equipment that produces a single open gas flame, which is used for heating, sterilization, and combustion.- Operation:...

     flame: 1300 to 1600 °C (2,372 to 2,912 F)
  • Blowtorch flame: 1300 °C (2,372 °F)
  • Candle
    Candle
    A candle is a solid block or cylinder of wax with an embedded wick, which is lit to provide light, and sometimes heat.Today, most candles are made from paraffin. Candles can also be made from beeswax, soy, other plant waxes, and tallow...

     flame: 1000 °C (1,832 °F)
  • Smoldering cigarette
    Cigarette
    A cigarette is a small roll of finely cut tobacco leaves wrapped in a cylinder of thin paper for smoking. The cigarette is ignited at one end and allowed to smoulder; its smoke is inhaled from the other end, which is held in or to the mouth and in some cases a cigarette holder may be used as well...

    :
    • Temperature without drawing: side of the lit portion; 400 °C (752 °F); middle of the lit portion: 585 °C (1,085 °F)
    • Temperature during drawing: middle of the lit portion: 700 °C (1,292 °F)
    • Always hotter in the middle.

Temperatures of flames by appearance


The temperature of flames with carbon particles emitting light can be assessed by their color:
  • Red
    • Just visible: 525 °C (977 °F)
    • Dull: 700 °C (1,292 °F)
    • Cherry, dull: 800 °C (1,472 °F)
    • Cherry, full: 900 °C (1,652 °F)
    • Cherry, clear: 1000 °C (1,832 °F)
  • Orange
    • Deep: 1100 °C (2,012 °F)
    • Clear: 1200 °C (2,192 °F)
  • White
    • Whitish: 1300 °C (2,372 °F)
    • Bright: 1400 °C (2,552 °F)
    • Dazzling: 1500 °C (2,732 °F)

Fire ecology



Every natural ecosystem has its own fire regime
Fire regime
A fire regime is the pattern, frequency and intensity of the bushfires and wildfires that prevails in an area. It is an integral part of fire ecology, and renewal for certain types of ecosystems. If fires are too frequent, plants may be killed before they have matured, or before they have set...

, and the organisms in those ecosystems are adapted to or dependent upon that fire regime. Fire creates a mosaic of different habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

 patches, each at a different stage of succession
Ecological succession
Ecological succession, is the phenomenon or process by which a community progressively transforms itself until a stable community is formed. It is a fundamental concept in ecology, and refers to more or less predictable and orderly changes in the composition or structure of an ecological community...

. Different species of plants, animals, and microbes specialize in exploiting a particular stage, and by creating these different types of patches, fire allows a greater number of species to exist within a landscape.

Human control




The ability to control fire
Control of fire by early humans
The control of fire by early humans was a turning point in the cultural aspect of human evolution that allowed humans to cook food and obtain warmth and protection...

 was a dramatic change in the habits of early humans. Making fire
Making fire
Fire was an essential tool in early human cultural development and still important today. Many different techniques for making fire exist...

 to generate heat and light made it possible for people to cook
Cooking
Cooking is the process of preparing food by use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training...

 food, increasing the variety and availability of nutrients. The heat produced would also help people stay warm in cold weather, enabling them to live in cooler climates. Fire also kept nocturnal predators at bay. Evidence of cooked food is found from , although fire was probably not used in a controlled fashion until 400,000 years ago. Evidence becomes widespread around 50 to 100 thousand years ago, suggesting regular use from this time; interestingly, resistance to air pollution
Air pollution
Air pollution is the introduction of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or cause damage to the natural environment or built environment, into the atmosphere....

 started to evolve in human populations at a similar point in time. The use of fire became progressively more sophisticated, with its being used to create charcoal and to control wildlife from tens of thousands of years ago.

Fire has also been used for centuries as a method of torture
Torture
Torture is the act of inflicting severe pain as a means of punishment, revenge, forcing information or a confession, or simply as an act of cruelty. Throughout history, torture has often been used as a method of political re-education, interrogation, punishment, and coercion...

 and execution
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

, as evidenced by death by burning as well as torture devices such as the iron boot
Boot (torture)
The boot was an instrument of torture and interrogation designed to crush the foot and leg. The boot has taken many forms in various places and times. Common varieties include the Spanish boot and the Malay boot. One type was made of four pieces of narrow wooden board nailed together. The boards...

, which could be filled with water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, oil
Oil
An oil is any substance that is liquid at ambient temperatures and does not mix with water but may mix with other oils and organic solvents. This general definition includes vegetable oils, volatile essential oils, petrochemical oils, and synthetic oils....

, or even lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 and then heated over an open fire to the agony of the wearer.

By the Neolithic Revolution
Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

, during the introduction of grain-based agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, people all over the world used fire as a tool in landscape
Landscape
Landscape comprises the visible features of an area of land, including the physical elements of landforms such as mountains, hills, water bodies such as rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea, living elements of land cover including indigenous vegetation, human elements including different forms of...

 management. These fires were typically controlled burn
Controlled burn
Controlled or prescribed burning, also known as hazard reduction burning or Swailing is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for...

s or "cool fires", as opposed to uncontrolled "hot fires", which damage the soil. Hot fires destroy plants and animals, and endanger communities. This is especially a problem in the forests of today where traditional burning is prevented in order to encourage the growth of timber crops. Cool fires are generally conducted in the spring and autumn. They clear undergrowth, burning up biomass
Biomass
Biomass, as a renewable energy source, is biological material from living, or recently living organisms. As an energy source, biomass can either be used directly, or converted into other energy products such as biofuel....

 that could trigger a hot fire should it get too dense. They provide a greater variety of environments, which encourages game and plant diversity. For humans, they make dense, impassable forests traversable.

There are numerous modern applications of fire. In its broadest sense, fire is used by nearly every human being on earth in a controlled setting every day. Users of internal combustion vehicles employ fire every time they drive. Thermal power station
Power station
A power station is an industrial facility for the generation of electric energy....

s provide electricity
Electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 for a large percentage of humanity.

The use of fire in warfare
Conventional warfare
Conventional warfare is a form of warfare conducted byusing conventional military weapons and battlefield tactics between two or more states in open confrontation. The forces on each side are well-defined, and fight using weapons that primarily target the opposing army...

 has a long history
Military history
Military history is a humanities discipline within the scope of general historical recording of armed conflict in the history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, their cultures, economies and changing intra and international relationships....

. Fire was the basis of all early thermal weapons. Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 detailed the use of fire by Greek commando
Commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

s who hid in a wooden horse
Trojan Horse
The Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War about the stratagem that allowed the Greeks finally to enter the city of Troy and end the conflict. In the canonical version, after a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside...

 to burn Troy
Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

 during the Trojan war
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

. Later the Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 fleet used Greek fire
Greek fire
Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning while floating on water....

 to attack ships and men. In the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the first modern flamethrower
Flamethrower
A flamethrower is a mechanical device designed to project a long controllable stream of fire.Some flamethrowers project a stream of ignited flammable liquid; some project a long gas flame. Most military flamethrowers use liquids, but commercial flamethrowers tend to use high-pressure propane and...

s were used by infantry, and were successfully mounted on armoured vehicles in the Second World War. In the latter war, incendiary bombs
Incendiary device
Incendiary weapons, incendiary devices or incendiary bombs are bombs designed to start fires or destroy sensitive equipment using materials such as napalm, thermite, chlorine trifluoride, or white phosphorus....

 were used by Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 and Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 alike, notably on Tokyo, Rotterdam, London, Hamburg and, notoriously, at Dresden
Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

, in the latter two cases firestorm
Firestorm
A firestorm is a conflagration which attains such intensity that it creates and sustains its own wind system. It is most commonly a natural phenomenon, created during some of the largest bushfires, forest fires, and wildfires...

s were deliberately caused in which a ring of fire surrounding each city was drawn inward by an updraft caused by a central cluster of fires. The United States Army Air Force also extensively used incendiaries against Japanese targets in the latter months of the war, devastating entire cities constructed primarily of wood and paper houses. The use of napalm
Napalm
Napalm is a thickening/gelling agent generally mixed with gasoline or a similar fuel for use in an incendiary device, primarily as an anti-personnel weapon...

 was employed in July 1944, towards the end of the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

; although its use did not gain public attention until the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. Molotov cocktail
Molotov cocktail
The Molotov cocktail, also known as the petrol bomb, gasoline bomb, Molotov bomb, fire bottle, fire bomb, or simply Molotov, is a generic name used for a variety of improvised incendiary weapons...

s were also used.

Use as fuel


Setting fuel
Fuel
Fuel is any material that stores energy that can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner. Most fuels used by humans undergo combustion, a redox reaction in which a combustible substance releases energy after it ignites and reacts with the oxygen in the air...

 aflame releases usable energy. Wood
Wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

 was a prehistoric
Prehistory
Prehistory is the span of time before recorded history. Prehistory can refer to the period of human existence before the availability of those written records with which recorded history begins. More broadly, it refers to all the time preceding human existence and the invention of writing...

 fuel, and is still viable today. The use of fossil fuel
Fossil fuel
Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms. The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years...

s, such as petroleum
Petroleum
Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other liquid organic compounds, that are found in geologic formations beneath the Earth's surface. Petroleum is recovered mostly through oil drilling...

, natural gas
Natural gas
Natural gas is a naturally occurring gas mixture consisting primarily of methane, typically with 0–20% higher hydrocarbons . It is found associated with other hydrocarbon fuel, in coal beds, as methane clathrates, and is an important fuel source and a major feedstock for fertilizers.Most natural...

, and coal
Coal
Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure...

, in power plants
Fossil fuel power plant
A fossil-fuel power station is a power station that burns fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas or petroleum to produce electricity. Central station fossil-fuel power plants are designed on a large scale for continuous operation...

 supplies the vast majority of the world's electricity today; the International Energy Agency
International Energy Agency
The International Energy Agency is a Paris-based autonomous intergovernmental organization established in the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1974 in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis...

 states that nearly 80% of the world's power comes from these sources. The fire in a power station
Power station
A power station is an industrial facility for the generation of electric energy....

 is used to heat water, creating steam that drives turbine
Turbine
A turbine is a rotary engine that extracts energy from a fluid flow and converts it into useful work.The simplest turbines have one moving part, a rotor assembly, which is a shaft or drum with blades attached. Moving fluid acts on the blades, or the blades react to the flow, so that they move and...

s. The turbines then spin an electric generator to produce electricity. Fire is also used to provide mechanical work directly, in both external
External combustion engine
An external combustion engine is a heat engine where an working fluid is heated by combustion in an external source, through the engine wall or a heat exchanger. The fluid then, by expanding and acting on the mechanism of the engine, produces motion and usable work...

 and internal combustion engine
Internal combustion engine
The internal combustion engine is an engine in which the combustion of a fuel occurs with an oxidizer in a combustion chamber. In an internal combustion engine, the expansion of the high-temperature and high -pressure gases produced by combustion apply direct force to some component of the engine...

s.

The unburnable solid remains of a combustible material left after a fire is called clinker if its melting point
Melting point
The melting point of a solid is the temperature at which it changes state from solid to liquid. At the melting point the solid and liquid phase exist in equilibrium. The melting point of a substance depends on pressure and is usually specified at standard atmospheric pressure...

 is below the flame temperature, so that it fuses and then solidifies as it cools, and ash if its melting point is above the flame temperature.

Protection and prevention



Wildfire prevention programs around the world may employ techniques such as wildland fire use and prescribed or controlled burn
Controlled burn
Controlled or prescribed burning, also known as hazard reduction burning or Swailing is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for...

s
. Wildland fire use refers to any fire of natural causes that is monitored but allowed to burn. Controlled burns are fires ignited by government agencies under less dangerous weather conditions.

Fire fighting
Fire fighting
Firefighting is the act of extinguishing fires. A firefighter fights fires to prevent loss of life, and/or destruction of property and the environment...

 services are provided in most developed areas to extinguish or contain uncontrolled fires. Trained firefighter
Firefighter
Firefighters are rescuers extensively trained primarily to put out hazardous fires that threaten civilian populations and property, to rescue people from car incidents, collapsed and burning buildings and other such situations...

s use fire apparatus
Fire apparatus
A fire apparatus, fire engine, fire truck, or fire appliance is a vehicle designed to assist in fighting fires by transporting firefighters to the scene and providing them with access to the fire, along with water or other equipment...

, water supply resources such as water mains and fire hydrant
Fire hydrant
A fire hydrant , is an active fire protection measure, and a source of water provided in most urban, suburban and rural areas with municipal water service to enable firefighters to tap into the municipal water...

s or they might use A and B class foam depending on what is feeding the fire.

Fire prevention is intended to reduce sources of ignition. Fire prevention also includes education to teach people how to avoid causing fires. Buildings, especially school
School
A school is an institution designed for the teaching of students under the direction of teachers. Most countries have systems of formal education, which is commonly compulsory. In these systems, students progress through a series of schools...

s and tall buildings, often conduct fire drill
Fire drill
A fire drill is a method of practicing the evacuation of a building for a fire or other emergency. Generally, the emergency system is activated and the building is evacuated as though a real fire had occurred...

s to inform and prepare citizens on how to react to a building fire. Purposely starting destructive fires constitutes arson
Arson
Arson is the crime of intentionally or maliciously setting fire to structures or wildland areas. It may be distinguished from other causes such as spontaneous combustion and natural wildfires...

 and is a crime
Crime
Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction...

 in most jurisdictions.

Model building code
Code
A code is a rule for converting a piece of information into another form or representation , not necessarily of the same type....

s require passive fire protection
Passive fire protection
Passive fire protection is an integral component of the three components of structural fire protection and fire safety in a building. PFP attempts to contain fires or slow the spread, through use of fire-resistant walls, floors, and doors...

 and active fire protection
Active fire protection
Active fire protection is an integral part of fire protection. AFP is characterised by items and/or systems, which require a certain amount of motion and response in order to work, contrary to passive fire protection.-Fire suppression:...

 systems to minimize damage resulting from a fire. The most common form of active fire protection is fire sprinkler
Fire sprinkler
A fire sprinkler system is an active fire protection measure, consisting of a water supply system, providing adequate pressure and flowrate to a water distribution piping system, onto which fire sprinklers are connected...

s. To maximize passive fire protection of buildings, building material
Building material
Building material is any material which is used for a construction purpose. Many naturally occurring substances, such as clay, sand, wood and rocks, even twigs and leaves have been used to construct buildings. Apart from naturally occurring materials, many man-made products are in use, some more...

s and furnishings in most developed countries
Developed country
A developed country is a country that has a high level of development according to some criteria. Which criteria, and which countries are classified as being developed, is a contentious issue...

 are tested for fire-resistance
Fire-resistance rating
A fire-resistance rating typically means the duration for which a passive fire protection system can withstand a standard fire resistance test. This can be quantified simply as a measure of time, or it may entail a host of other criteria, involving other evidence of functionality or fitness for...

, combustibility
Combustion
Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

 and flammability
Flammability
Flammability is defined as how easily something will burn or ignite, causing fire or combustion. The degree of difficulty required to cause the combustion of a substance is quantified through fire testing. Internationally, a variety of test protocols exist to quantify flammability...

. Upholstery
Upholstery
Upholstery is the work of providing furniture, especially seats, with padding, springs, webbing, and fabric or leather covers. The word upholstery comes from the Middle English word upholder, which referred to a tradesman who held up his goods. The term is equally applicable to domestic,...

, carpeting and plastics used in vehicle
Vehicle
A vehicle is a device that is designed or used to transport people or cargo. Most often vehicles are manufactured, such as bicycles, cars, motorcycles, trains, ships, boats, and aircraft....

s and vessels
Containerization
Containerization is a system of freight transport based on a range of steel intermodal containers...

 are also tested.

Where fire prevention and fire protection have failed to prevent damage, fire insurance can mitigate the financial impact.

Restoration


Different restoration methods and measures are used depending on the type of fire damage that occurred. Fire damage can be performed by property management
Property management
Property management is the operation, control of ususally on behalf of an owner, and oversight of commercial, industrial or residential real estate as used in its most broad terms. Management indicates a need to be cared for, monitored and accountability given for its usable life and condition...

 teams, building maintenance
Maintenance, Repair and Operations
Maintenance, repair, and operations or maintenance, repair, and overhaul involves fixing any sort of mechanical or electrical device should it become out of order or broken...

 personnel, or by the homeowners themselves; however, contacting a certified professional fire damage restoration specialist is often regarded as the safest way to restore fire damaged property due to their training and extensive experience. Most are usually listed under "Fire and Water Restoration" and they can help speed repairs, whether for individual homeowners or for the largest of institutions.

Fire and Water Restoration companies are regulated by the appropriate state's Department of Consumer Affairs - usually the state contractors license board. In California, all Fire and Water Restoration companies must register with the California Contractors State License Board. Presently, the California Contractors State License Board has no specific classification for "water and fire damage restoration." Hence, the Contractor's State License Board requires both an asbestos certification (ASB) as well as a demolition classification (C-21) in order to perform Fire and Water Restoration work.

See also




  • Áed (given name)
    Áed (given name)
    Aodh or Áed is an Irish word of Indo-European origin, equivalent to fire in English. Aodh , and its many variants is used today in the Irish and Scottish Gaelic languages as a given name for both sexes , and in even more variants as a family name...

  • Colored fire
    Colored fire
    Colored fire is a common pyrotechnic effect used in stage productions, fireworks and by fire performers the world over. Generally, the color of a flame may be red, orange, yellow, or white, and is dominated by blackbody radiation from soot and steam...

  • Combustion
    Combustion
    Combustion or burning is the sequence of exothermic chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the production of heat and conversion of chemical species. The release of heat can result in the production of light in the form of either glowing or a flame...

  • Cremation
    Cremation
    Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

  • Deflagration
    Deflagration
    Deflagration is a term describing subsonic combustion that usually propagates through thermal conductivity; hot burning material heats the next layer of cold material and ignites it. Most "fire" found in daily life, from flames to explosions, is deflagration...

  • Fire (classical element)
    Fire (classical element)
    Fire has been an important part of all cultures and religions from pre-history to modern day and was vital to the development of civilization. It has been regarded in many different contexts throughout history, but especially as a metaphysical constant of the world.-Greek and Roman tradition:Fire...

  • Fire investigation
    Fire investigation
    Fire investigation, sometimes referred to as origin and cause investigation, is the analysis of fire-related incidents. After firefighters extinguish a fire, an investigation is launched to determine the origin and cause of the fire or explosion...

  • Fire lookout
    Fire lookout
    A fire lookout is a person assigned the duty to look for fire from atop a building known as a fire lookout tower. These towers are used in remote areas, normally on mountain tops with high elevation and a good view of the surrounding terrain, to spot smoke caused by a wildfire.Once a possible fire...

     (tower
    Fire lookout tower
    A fire lookout tower, fire tower or lookout tower, provides housing and protection for a person known as a "fire lookout" whose duty it is to search for wildfires in the wilderness...

    )
  • Fire pit
    Fire pit
    Fire pits have been in existence for a very long time and despite many technological advancements since the advent of man's use of fire, they have remained a popular item because of their versatility. A fire pit can physically vary from a pit dug into the ground to an elaborate gas burning...

  • Fire whirl
    Fire whirl
    A fire whirl, colloquially fire devil or fire tornado, is a phenomenon—rarely captured on camera—in which a fire, under certain conditions , acquires a vertical vorticity and forms a whirl, or a tornado-like vertically oriented rotating column of air...

  • Fire worship
    Fire worship
    Worship or deification of fire is known from various religions. Fire has been an important part of human culture since the Lower Paleolithic...

  • Flame test
    Flame test
    A flame test is a procedure used in chemistry to detect the presence of certain metal ions, based on each element's characteristic emission spectrum. The color of flames in general also depends on temperature; see flame color....

  • Life Safety Code
    Life safety code
    Administered, copyrighted, and published by the National Fire Protection Association , the Life Safety Code, known as NFPA 101 is the registered trademark of an American consensus standard which, like many NFPA documents, is systematically revised on a three year cycle.The standard, despite its...

  • List of historic fires
  • List of light sources
  • Phlogiston theory
    Phlogiston theory
    The phlogiston theory , first stated in 1667 by Johann Joachim Becher, is an obsolete scientific theory that postulated the existence of a fire-like element called "phlogiston", which was contained within combustible bodies and released during combustion...

  • Pyranoscope
    Pyranoscope
    A pyranoscope is an instrument for displaying controlled large flames. The name pyranoscope stems from Greek, "pyr" meaning "fire", "ano" meaning "sky" and , "skopeîn", "to look" or "see"...

  • Pyrokinesis
    Pyrokinesis
    Pyrokinesis, derived from the Greek words and , was the name coined by horror novelist Stephen King for the ability to create or to control fire with the mind that he gave to the protagonist Charlie McGee in Firestarter...

  • Pyrolysis
    Pyrolysis
    Pyrolysis is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures without the participation of oxygen. It involves the simultaneous change of chemical composition and physical phase, and is irreversible...

  • Pyromania
    Pyromania
    Pyromania in more extreme circumstances can be an impulse control disorder to deliberately start fires to relieve tension or for gratification or relief. The term pyromania comes from the Greek word πῦρ . Pyromania and pyromaniacs are distinct from arson, the pursuit of personal, monetary or...

  • Smoke
    Smoke
    Smoke is a collection of airborne solid and liquid particulates and gases emitted when a material undergoes combustion or pyrolysis, together with the quantity of air that is entrained or otherwise mixed into the mass. It is commonly an unwanted by-product of fires , but may also be used for pest...

  • Volcano
    Volcano
    2. Bedrock3. Conduit 4. Base5. Sill6. Dike7. Layers of ash emitted by the volcano8. Flank| 9. Layers of lava emitted by the volcano10. Throat11. Parasitic cone12. Lava flow13. Vent14. Crater15...


External links



  • How Fire Works at HowStuffWorks
    HowStuffWorks
    HowStuffWorks is a commercial edutainment website that was founded by Marshall Brain with the goal of giving its target audience an insight into the way in which many things work. The site uses various media in its effort to explain complex concepts, terminology and mechanisms, including...

  • What exactly is fire? from The Straight Dope
  • On Fire, an Adobe Flash
    Adobe Flash
    Adobe Flash is a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to web pages. Flash is frequently used for advertisements, games and flash animations for broadcast...

    -based science tutorial from the NOVA (TV series)
    NOVA (TV series)
    Nova is a popular science television series from the U.S. produced by WGBH Boston. It can be seen on the Public Broadcasting Service in the United States, and in more than 100 other countries...

  • Early human fire mastery revealed BBC
    BBC
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

     article on archaeological discoveries
  • Flames in microgravity
  • Spiral flames in microgravity
  • moebuildingcontrol.co.uk - UK Guidance on fire safety codes and fire engineering
  • Smokey Bear - Prevent Wildfires
  • Fun Uses with Fire with a Rubens' Tube
    Rubens' Tube
    The Rubens' tube, also known as the standing wave flame tube, or simply flame tube, is a physics experiment demonstrating a standing wave...