Fire has been a fundamental tool of mankind throughout history, and civilisation would not have been possible without it. Since the earliest times, human beings have used fire to keep warm and cook their food.
But how much do you really know about fire? Test yourself and read on for 20 fascinating facts!
1. Fire is an event, not a thing. Fire is the result of a chemical reaction that releases energy as light and heat. Heating wood or other fuel releases volatile vapors that can rapidly combust with oxygen in the air; the resulting incandescent bloom of gas further heats the fuel, releasing more vapors and continuing the cycle.
2. A fire needs three components to exist: heat, oxygen and fuel.
3. Most of the fuels we use derive their energy from trapped solar rays. In photosynthesis, sunlight and heat make chemical energy (in the form of wood or fossil fuel); fire uses chemical energy to produce light and heat.
4. Fire spreads very fast, and it can take less than 30 seconds for a fire to get out of control.
The flame is the visible part of the fire that consists of heat-generating gases.
5. Assuming a constant supply of fuel, heat and oxygen, a typical house fire will double in size every minute.
6. Earth is the only known planet where fire can burn. Everywhere else: Not enough oxygen.
7. The more oxygen available, the hotter the fire. Air is 21 percent oxygen. By combining pure oxygen with acetylene, you can make an oxyacetylene welding torch which burns at a scorching 3,500 °C — the hottest fire you are likely to encounter.
8. Oxygen supply influences the color of the flame. A low-oxygen fire contains lots of uncombusted fuel particles and will give off a yellow glow. A high-oxygen fire burns blue. Candle flames are blue at the bottom because that’s where they receive the most fresh air, and yellow at the top because the rising fumes from below reduce the air supply to the upper part of the flame.
9. A candle flame burns at around 1,000°C.
10. Flames do not cast shadows.
11. Fire makes water? It’s true. Place a cold spoon over a candle and you will observe the water vapor condense on the metal. This is because wax (like most organic materials, including wood and gasoline) contains hydrogen, which bonds with oxygen to make H2O when it burns. Water comes out your car’s exhaust, too.
12. Fires can be stopped in 3 different ways:
Removing the fuel source by exhausting it or taking it away.
Removing the oxygen by smothering the fire.
Removing the heat by absorbing it with water.
13. No one knows who invented the fire hydrant, because its patent was destroyed in a fire in 1836.
14. Spontaneous combustion is real. Some fuel sources can generate their own heat for example by rotting. This can lead to spontaneous combustion in certain conditions. Pistachios have so much natural oil and are so prone to heat-generating fat decomposition that the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code regards them as dangerous.
15. During wildfires, trees can explode if the water inside them rapidly turns to steam.
Forest fires move faster uphill than downhill. The steeper the slope, the faster the fire spreads.
16. The ancient Greeks started fire by focusing sunlight onto a small area. The tradition continues to this day with a parabolic mirror that focuses solar rays still used to ignite the Olympic torch.
17. Every 52 years, when their calendar completed a cycle, the Aztecs would extinguish every flame in the empire. The high priest would start a new fire on the ripped-open chest of a sacrificial victim. Fires fed from this flame would be distributed throughout the land.
18. Back in the day when horses pulled fire engines, fire stations were equipped with spiral staircases so the horses would not try to climb the stairs into the living quarters. You may still find some stations with these stairs.
19. Dancing on fire is a common ritual performed throughout many cultures.
20. Fire is used in many cultures for decoration, which could range from lighting candles to exploding fireworks. The practice can be traced back to ancient China, where people ignited fireworks to create spectacular fire shows.
The most important thing that everyone should know is how to protect yourself from fire and don’t intentionally cause fires unless in a controlled environment. Fire safety is an extremely major topic that must not be neglected.