3 Elements of Fire

Misunderstanding Fire Can Extinguish Your Life: Learn More

Fire is a serious business with many components of how they start, what the principles are of what they need to burn, and what needs to be done to extinguish them or keep them under control.  The National Safety Compliance provides vital guidelines.

Understanding the principles of fire is important.  There are three elements that are necessary to make a chemical reaction: heat, fuel, and oxygen.  As long as these three elements are present, a fire will continue to burn.  When any one of these elements are removed, can a fire be extinguished.  A fire starts with heat which can serves as a source of ignition. Open flames, static electricity, faulty electrical circuits, unshielded hot surfaces, friction, and chemical reactions are where heat can be generated.  Fuels that contribute to a fire can be combustible solids like paper or wood, some metals, and flammable liquids and gasses. 

OSHA (Occupation of Safety and Health Association) mandates a workplace safety plan according to its regulation standard 29 CFR 1910.39.  For a workplace of eleven or more employees, this plan must be made available to all workers in writing.  Less than eleven employees often will have employers discuss fire safety plans verbally with everyone. 

Some of the common causes of workplace fires can be: electrical neglect and misuse of wiring and electrical appliances, particularly with the operation and use of space heaters.   Work places that have certain chemicals present can start fires as well.  They are: gasoline, paint, fuels, solvents, and manufacturing chemicals. They should always be used in well ventilated areas and kept away from heat and objects that can create sparks. Where there are situations where welding, torching, and other tasks that emit sparks can occur are potential hazardous areas for a workplace fire.

A company’s housekeeping practices such as trash and paper accumulation can also be a potential source of ignition within an office.  The improper storage of flammable substances can cause a fire in offices or storage rooms.  Smoke-free office policies does not remove the threat of fire since the improper discarding of cigarettes without proper receptacles can lead to the outbreak of a fire very easily.

There are varying degrees of fire severity and understanding them can determine whether the fire can be put out, what means they can be extinguished, and which ones require special handling.  Notification of the fire department is always the best practice whenever a fire ignites.  There are five classes of fire that are established for this purpose:  Class A, B, C, D, and K   This also will enable you to understand which fire extinguisher can be used for which circumstance. 

The most common type of fire is a Class A fire.  This includes the burning of wood, paper, cloth, plastic, and rubber.  A Class B fire is a combustible fuel fire which includes flammable liquids, oils, greases, gases, tars, and oil based paints. A Class C fire involves energized electrical equipment.  Water cannot be used in this kind of a fire since electrical shock can occur if water is used here.  A Class D fire is the burning of flammable metals such as sodium, titanium, magnesium, potassium, and lithium, and this fire also like a Class C cannot be put out with water.    A Class K fire is a kitchen fire which is a subset of a Class B fire which involves cooking oils.    

These classification understandings of fire determine which type of fire extinguishers can be used.  Water based fire extinguishers can be used for a Class A fire which are designed to remove the heat from the fire.  Dry chemical based fire extinguishers can be used in Class A,B,C, or K fires.  These fire extinguishers can inhibit a chemical reaction.  Carbon dioxide extinguishers can be used on a Class A, B, C, or K fire.  They are designed to remove the oxygen from the fire.  There are also halogenated/ clean agent based fire extinguishers that can be used in the same classes of fires but particularly Class C fires.  They also remove the oxygen from a fire.  Metal X extinguishers are for Class D fires. 

A monthly fire extinguisher inspection should be conducted.  All fire extinguishers need to be in their proper location and easily visible and accessible. Someone should also be responsible for ensuring that each extinguisher is indicated with the proper pressure and use prominently displayed.  An annual inspection of each fire extinguisher needs to be conducted by the fire marshal and depending upon the age and type of extinguisher, the necessary steps need to be adhered. 

If and when a fire occurs, it is important to remember the basics of safety namely dialing 911 immediately to notify the fire department, activate the emergency alarm, and help others to escape safely.  When using a fire extinguisher, one needs to determine that it is small and contained, you are safe from toxic smoke, and that there is a clear cut evacuation means.   When using the extinguisher, you must know the  procedure as PASS.  P-Pull the pin, A-aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire, S-squeeze the handle, and S-sweep from side to side.  A fire extinguisher is only designed for small fires and only contain a few seconds of discharge. 

Ultimately, time is of the essence and escaping rapidly is always the best policy when unsure as to how to handle a fire and what to do.  For more fire prevention and safety tips to follow, contact Manhattan Fire & Safety          242 W 30th St # 701    New York, NY 10001-0792   (212) 563-7500   www.rechargingfireextinguishers.com.

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