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What is the Fire Triangle

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Understanding the Fire Triangle

Dust Safety Science reported 99 industrial factory fires/explosions in the United States in the first half of 2019.

Trying to keep up with fire safety regulations, understanding what can cause combustion, and what we can do to keep our factories and employees safe are all serious and sometimes overwhelming undertakings.

The Fire Triangle (or Fire Tetrahedron) breaks combustion down to its simplest form to allow us to better understand what combustion is and how it works. By having a full understanding of the basics, we can begin to better equip ourselves to avoid and (when necessary) deal with combustions that happen in our factory, in the safest manner possible.

The Fire Tetrahedron

Okay so what is it and how can it help us?

The fire triangle is often used as a basic form of fire safety training and looks at the dynamics of fire itself. By looking at and understanding this in more detail, it is much easier to grasp the need for, and details of, fundamental fire regulations…- Elitefire - Teaching Fire Safety

The Fire Triangle is composed of 3 elements - fuel, heat, and oxygen. Once they are all present, a chain of chemical reactions occurs and a fire starts. Let’s go over what each of these elements can consist of in a factory setting.

Fuel - is the material that actually burns. This can be any type of combustible material from wood in a woodworking factory to gases, liquids, plastics, rubber, paper, sugar, etc that are present in other types of factories across the world. These materials are characterized by their moisture content, size, shape, and quantity and they’ll determine how easily the fuel will burn and at what temperature.

Heat - is needed to begin the initial ignition of a fire as well as maintain and spread the fire. Heat removes all moisture from the nearby fuel source, warms the surrounding air, and preheats the fuel in its pathway which enables the fire to spread quicker and wider as time goes on. You can remove heat with substances that reduce the amount of heat available… The most common heat reducer used to suppress fires is water, however, that doesn’t always work.

Oxygen - is the last element needed to initiate the chemical chain reaction. In most cases, all that is necessary is the oxygen in the ambient air. Air contains about 21% oxygen, and most fires require at least 16% oxygen content to burn. If you can deprive or suffocate a fire of oxygen, it can be extinguished. Redzone - Wildfire 101