Fire is a hazard that causes damage to both people and property. It can occur anywhere provided the three components that cause it are present. By understanding the causes of fire, it is possible to prevent it from occurring though most of the time it occurs as an emergency case. The understanding of fire helps in its control and prevention. Often, fires occur when least expected but one can predict their behavior although it is difficult to predict peoples’ behavior with fire. Most people panic when faced with fire instead of looking for ways of preventing it. This paper looks at the types of fires and how fire can be controlled and prevented in homes, agricultural farms, and companies.
Types of Fires
Before taking any step to fight a fire, one should have knowledge of how fire functions. The fire triangle is used to explain how it functions. This triangle has three crucial constituents (i.e. heat, fuel, and oxygen) responsible for causing the blaze. Just like any other triangle, the fire triangle cannot function if one element is eliminated from it. Fuel causes a fire if exposed to excessive heat whereas oxygen is used to keep the blaze (Buzzi, p. 77).
Fire control and prevention training is usually based on the fire triangle. The understanding of how a fire function is the first step in fire fighting. The second step is to identify the type of fire. There are different types of fires with different control mechanisms. There are mainly four types of fires which are referred to as “the ABCDs of fire”. Each type of fire has its unique characteristics which determine the control mechanism to be employed (Buzzi, p. 78).
Class A fire emanates from such causes as paper, wood among others. When these materials are burned, they leave ash behind. Class B emanates from liquids that are combustible e.g. gasoline. These materials will only cause fire if ignited by heat. The third type of fire is known as class C. It occurs due to defects in electrical equipment which require current. The last type of fire is class D whose cause is metals e.g. aluminium, magnesium et cetera.
Most fires can be prevented by identifying the causes. Fire occurs after the reaction of oxygen, heat and fuel also known as the fire triangle. Knowledge of the fire triangle is the first step in fire prevention. This can be done through the introduction of a fire prevention program on maintenance, analysis of the work-site, and fire control and prevention training. The fire prevention program has been proven to be one of the most effective methods in prevention of fire. A work-site analysis involves surveying of fire hazards at factories, companies or farms, identifying any combustible material and storing them in a safe place, and proper installation of fire extinguishers where they are readily available and accessible by any employee. Fire extinguishers should be recharged annually and inspected by professionals.
In housekeeping and maintenance, all equipment or facilities should be in working conditions and well maintained. They should be checked regularly and repaired to prevent them from causing fire. For example, if a motor shaft has a worn bearing; it can overheat and cause fire to flammable materials nearby. This can be prevented by lubricating the motor shaft regularly. The house should be well maintained at all times; oil-soaked rags should be cleaned to reduce the risk of fire which may be caused by sparks (Diamantes, p. 145).
Every employee should be equipped with proper training on fire prevention and control. It is the responsibility of every individual to have adequate knowledge on the procedures for fire prevention and control. Their job description should include:
- Training in the use of fire extinguisher
- Habitual inspection on fire hazard
- Good housekeeping procedures
Use of Fire Extinguishers
Because oxygen is a component of fire that is used to keep the fire burning, almost all fire extinguishers are designed to eliminate oxygen supply. Fire extinguishers comes in different types all with the sole purpose off the various types of fires. A pictorial is usually attached to the body of the fire extinguisher with the description of the type of fire the extinguisher should be used in. One type of fire extinguisher is called the water extinguisher which contains water under pressure. This type of extinguisher can only be used on class A fires because if used on grease fires, fire is likely to spread to other flammable areas. These extinguishers are made using stainless steel, long hose, and a pressure gauge. The other type of fire extinguisher is the chemical extinguisher. It contains a dry chemical powder which can be used on three types of fires; class A, B, and C. The dry chemical powder eliminates air in a fire; controlling fire from spreading (International Association of Fire Chiefs, p. 20).
Carbon dioxide extinguishers contain carbon dioxide gas and they are used on class B and C fires. Unlike the chemical extinguisher, the carbon dioxide extinguisher leaves no residue behind. After contacting air, carbon dioxide form dry ice which is used to cool the fire.
Every person is urged to be always prepared to control fire if is occurs. Many steps are followed before one becomes prepared to put off an emergency fire. Some of these steps include:
- Training all employees or members of the family on how to prevent or control fire
- Putting fire company’s phone numbers in an accessible place
- Providing a detailed map to the fire company of the farm or factory’s location
- Installing smoke alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors and which should be inspected regularly
- Supplying the correct fire extinguishers
The first step in controlling fire is to eliminate any one element from the fire triangle (oxygen, fuel or heat), in order to prevent it from spreading or to put it off. There are different control mechanisms which are used depending on the type of fire. For class A fires, the most effective method to put the fire out is to spray it with water from a pump or a water extinguisher. Another method is to spray the fire with a carbon dioxide extinguisher to cut off its oxygen supply. Wildfire can be controlled by use of wild and fire suppression techniques which includes use of defensible space, backfires among others in minimizing the wildfire from extending to other (combustible) fuel (International Association of Fire Chiefs, p.22).
Class B fires require the use of more specialized methods than class A fires. Water cannot be used with this type of fire because it will facilitate it in spreading further. To put out class B fire, chemical dust should be dumped on it. Another method would be the use of cooling protein foam, gasoline fire are likely to be put out by this method. Class C fire can be put out by either cutting the supply of oxygen or putting off the electricity. Use of water on these types of fires can cause a lot of damage because current will travel through the water and spread fire to other combustible materials.
Fire is a hazard that affects all nations in the world. It can occur in the house, factory, and farm or in the forests. Proper control and prevention of fire require knowledge on how fire functions and the elements of fire. Fires occur in a fire triangle composed of three elements (oxygen, heat and fuel). Just like any other triangle, fire cannot function in the absence of any of the three elements. Fire can be classified into four categories with unique characteristics; class A, class B, Class C, and class D. In order to prevent fire from spread or to put it out completely, one has to identify which class the fire is because different classes require different control mechanisms. Class A fires can be controlled by use of water which cannot be used in any other class. Other classes of fire require the use of carbon dioxide and chemical extinguishers. Fire can be prevented through the introduction of a fire prevention program on maintenance, analysis of the work-site, and fire control and prevention training.
- Buzzi, Ruth Ann. Chemical hazards at water and wastewater treatment plants. New York: CRC Press, 1992
- Diamantes, David. Fire Prevention: Inspection and Code Enforcement. New York: Delmar Publishers, 1997
- International Association of Fire Chiefs. Fundamentals of Fire Fighter Skills. London: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2008