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FireHouse 101
Techniques & Tactics

The Nature of a Fire

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Creating a fire breakFire Break: The road is a fuel break as is the burning of the fuel ahead of the fire’s path.Foam smothering the fire. Arial foam covers fuel, depriving it of oxygen.

Often fire is described as a triangle, as it needs all three of the following elements to exist. There must be fuel, oxygen and heat. To extinguish a fire, one of these three elements must be removed.

Fuel

Everything has a different kindling or ignition temperature. Put a match to a healthy green tree and it will not start burning. However, if you put that same match to dry grass it will start burning immediately. It is called the fire ladder. Grass starts burning easily and gets hot enough to ignite shrubs which burn hot enough to ignite trees.

The health of a bush or tree is also critical. Green healthy grass, shrubs and trees do not ignite as easily as a dead grass, bushes and trees. Even distressed bushes and trees caused by lack of water or insects are more flammable that healthy green specimens.

One of the best ways to protect your home from a fire, is to create a fire break around it by removing all dry grass and dead or dying branches, and trimming low branches on shrubs and trees.

Firefighters cut fire lines with bulldozers or by hand to remove fuel. They also can start a fire to burn fuel in front of a fire, so when the fire reaches that point, there is no fuel left to burn. This procedure is called a backfire.

Heat

Fire burns up a slope faster and hotter than down a slope because the heat from the fire preheats and dries out the fuel ahead of it. Thus, firefighters are more successful in stopping a fire at the top of a ridge or on the downward side of a hill.

Water is usually used to reduce the heat of a fire to extinguish it.

Oxygen

Just as you might have a candle in a jar, you can extinguish by covering the jar and when all the oxygen burns up in the jar, the fire goes out. Firefighters do essentially the same thing by covering and smoothing the fire with foam, or by flooding it with water.

Though wind and humidity play a major role in the spread of a fire and the firefighters’ ability to extinguish a fire, they are not necessary for a fire to start.