The Fire Triangle Explained: What Are The Three Elements

The Fire Triangle Explained-What Are The Three Elements

Fire education is compulsory to help you fight fires effectively and efficiently without compromising safety. As such, understanding the fire triangle is essential in stopping the ignition of an uncontrolled fire and mitigating severe fire risks in advance.

After all, prevention is key, and knowledge is power.

In this article, we go back to the very basics of fire safety by discussing the concept of the fire triangle as well as the less popular fire tetrahedron. Continue reading to learn more about this fundamental scientific principle.

What Is The Fire Triangle?

What Is The Fire Triangle

Also known as the ‘combustion triangle’, the fire triangle is composed of the three components necessary to successfully produce flame: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Without the existence of any of these three elements, fires are not able to be ignited or sustained.

1. Heat

First and foremost, heat must be present for ignition to occur. All flammable materials release flammable vapours that, in the presence of heat, will combust.

Additionally, heat also contributes to the spread and sustainability of fire since it plays a role in removing moisture from nearby fuel. Subsequently, this warms the surrounding area and pre-heats fuel in its path, resulting in widespread fires.

2. Fuel

To create a fire, there must be fuel—a material to burn. The material here may refer to any combustible material, such as oils, liquids, textiles, paper, gases, wood, rubber, plastics, etc.

It’s also important to remember that the fuel’s moisture content, shape, size, and quantity often dictate how easily and at what temperature the fuel will burn. For instance, a fuel with low moisture content is easier to burn.

3. Oxygen

Last but certainly not least is oxygen. Essentially, most fires require at least 16% oxygen to burn, and since oxygen makes up about 21% of the earth’s atmosphere, it’s sufficient to start a fire as long as the two factors above are present.

Some firefighting tools, namely fire extinguishers and fire blankets, eliminate oxygen by displacing or removing it. This causes suffocation and eventually puts an end to the combustion process.

Read More: Workplace Fire Safety: A Shared Responsibility in Malaysia

What Is The Fire Tetrahedron?

What Is The Fire Tetrahedron

Meanwhile, the fire tetrahedron or the ‘fire diamond’ provides a more complex explanation of fire generation. Similar to the fire triangle, the fire tetrahedron represents the elements necessary for fire (heat, fuel, and oxygen) with the addition of a chemical chain reaction.

By addressing the chemical chain reaction as a separate component, this model is merely adding a new dimension to the conventional fire triangle model.

How to Stop a Combustion Reaction?

In order to extinguish a fire, one of the three elements of the fire triangle must be eliminated. This is due to the fact that a fire cannot begin or continue when there is zero or insufficient heat, fuel, or oxygen.

Therefore, interfering with any of the elements will cause the fire triangle to collapse and extinguish the fire. This includes applying water or chemical fire retardants commonly found in fire extinguishers, removing flammable material, and using a fire blanket to smother fires.

When using fire extinguishers, keep in mind that different types of fire classes require different types of fire extinguishers. Thus, it’s important to use the right fire extinguisher to stop a fire.

Read More: 6 Fire Extinguisher Types for Different Fire Classes

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