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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Components of Fire – Part 55

July 20, 2020 2:04 pm

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 54, we discussed civil liability in respect of loss or injury as a result of fire. In part 55, we begin to look at the components of fire and what fire actually is.

Fire is actually just a chemical reaction between a fuel and oxygen, according to chemistry. There are three components required for fire to occur.

Heat, provided as an ignition source

Fuel, provided by combustible materials

Oxygen, which is readily available in our breathable air at 21 per cent.

When contemplating fire prevention, the simple fact that a fire cannot be sustained without all three of the components is important.  Removal of any one of those three factors can prevent a fire from occurring or for a fire to self-extinguish if it is already in progress.

Consider a room with a source of ignition for a fire, a pile of newspapers books as fuel and a window open. The fire could start easily and then progress to burn up all the newspapers books. If there was no more fuel in the room and the surfaces weren’t flammable, the fire would burn out. If the window was closed, there would still be oxygen in the air already contained in the room, but the fire would use up the available oxygen and providing no more air was entering the room, the fire would go out.

Needless to say, if there is no ignition source, the fire wouldn’t start at all.

The complete removal of all fuel from any given area is usually impractical, simply furnishing an area is sufficient fuel for a fire. It is useful to remove all waste, however, and to ensure that unnecessary storage of potential combustibles and fuels, such as flammable liquids, is avoided or managed securely.

Equally, removing all oxygen from the atmosphere isn’t possible or desirable in most circumstances, although there are some specialist conditions in which the maintenance of a low oxygen concentration is used to avoid fire outbreaks.

Fires can start without warning and have done in many circumstances, but none where the three components weren’t all available.

In part 56, LWF will look at the combustion of solid materials. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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