How Fast Can Fire Spread?

Jul 18, 2019

What Is Fire?

Fire is the result of a chemical reaction called oxidation. Oxidation is the combination of oxygen with another substance. In the case of a fire, the oxidation happens so quickly that light, heat, and sound are released.

A fire needs oxygen to burn. A fire needs heat to burn. Moreover, a fire needs fuel, something to burn.
 

Fire Needs Fuel

A fire can be fueled by many things, especially items in our home or business. Today’s furnishings, are made primarily of synthetic materials which are highly combustible. Paints, cleaners, magazines, newspapers, paper, clothing, window treatments, wood moldings, and trim are all combustible.

Open spaces also allow the fire to spread, particularly areas like the ductwork for central heating or air conditioning.
house on fire
 

Fire Spread Rate

In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In five minutes, a residence can become engulfed in flames.

These are the sobering statistics regarding house fires displayed by Ready.gov, the official website of the Department of Homeland Security.

The fact is that fire can spread fast. Residential fires are the leading cause of civilian death and injuries, according to the most recent statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). In terms of property loss, residential fires also rank first followed by property loss associated with business or mercantile fires.

These statistics are why both Ready and the NFPA stress the importance of an up-to-date fire escape plan and working smoke alarms in homes and businesses. The NFPA also advocates installing fire sprinklers if you are building or remodeling your home. Sprinklers can contain and may even extinguish a fire in less time than it will take the fire department to arrive.
 

Putting Out Fires

To put out a fire, you have to remove one of the three required elements that cause the fire: Oxygen, Heat, or Fuel.

Because fire spreads so quickly, the NFPA recommends that the number one priority for people during a fire is to get out. Yes, fire extinguishers can put out a fire confined in a small area, but they have limitations and won’t work in every situation. Plus, many civilians do not know how to operate a fire extinguisher properly.

You may think that filling a bucket full of water is a good way to douse the flames, but that won’t always work. For example, flammable liquids like oil, alcohol, gasoline, paint, or propane must have their oxygen source removed to put out a fire. A stream of water may spread the flaming material rather than neutralize it.

building on fire

How to Prevent Fires

The best way to protect yourself and your family is to test your smoke detectors and fire alarms regularly and create a safety plan for your home and office. No matter where you are in a building, always know where the nearest exits are and how you can exit a multi-floor building safely. Also, you should always know where the areas of refuge are located in multi-story buildings.

Fires can occur suddenly and without warning, and they can spread incredibly quickly. Every second counts so plan at least two ways out.

FSS Technologies specializes in residential and small business fire alarms as part of your total security system solution, as well as the design and installation of complete life safety systems in large commercial properties.

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