We explain everything about fire, how it is produced and the components it has. Also, what are its characteristics and what is it used for.
What is fire
A set of incandescent particles of combustible matter is called fire, fire or candle . Due to a chemical reaction of violent oxidation (known as combustion), these particles give off heat energy (heat) and light energy ( light ), during a certain time
In other words, fire is a type of plasma , or a set of incandescent gases that give off energy. This means that they are part of an exothermic reaction in which one matter turns into another. For example, burning wood turns into ash, CO 2 and other material waste .
During this process, the fire can be seen in the form of flames , that is, on its part that emits visible light. Smoke is the same physical particles, but no longer able to continue emitting light.
How was the fire controlled?
Fire has existed in nature since the beginning of the world .
It is estimated that the first encounters of our species with him were due to lightning, fires and volcanoes , or other natural combustion phenomena.
When humans learned to control it, it marked an important event that marks the beginning of civilization .
Using it, it was able to illuminate their nights and transform the elements around them.
The first evidences of human use of fire date back to 1.42 million years , in different archaeological sites of East Africa . The presence of clay pots suggests the ability to heat the materials to temperatures of at least 400 ° C to harden them.
There is also enough evidence to suppose that Homo erectus , 1.7 million years ago, already understood the usefulness of fire. However, he would not have yet been an expert in reproducing it.
How is fire produced?
Fire can occur as a consequence of many everyday events . Some are accidental, such as a lightning strike on combustible material or a gas pipe exploding, while others are deliberate, such as lighting a match or match.
Whatever the context in which it occurs, fire requires three elements in adequate quantities interacting in a chain reaction:
- Fuel. Combustible matter is one that can undergo combustion processes, that is, violent and rapid oxidation. These substances can appear in liquid, solid or gaseous states and be more or less flammable, that is, they react more or less explosively to heat and oxygen.
- Oxidizing. There is no fire in a vacuum, since a source of oxygen is necessary for combustion to occur. In this case, oxygen acts as an oxidizer: an element or substance that promotes the combustion of others.
- Heat. For combustion to occur, a minimum of activation energy is required, which triggers the reaction of the fuel and oxidizer, generating the fire. This heat energy can come from the flames of a smaller fire, from certain chemical reactions, from the sparks of an electrical source or it can even be friction force (as it happens with matches).
In short, for the fire to be produced and maintained, there must be an initial source of heat that makes a portion of the fuel and the oxidizer react, generating fire that in turn will make another portion react and so on until one is exhausted. of the two inputs.
Fire can be differentiated into components such as:
- Flames or flames. The most visible part of fire, as it emits light in a certain spectrum, depending on the substances that burn: blue, yellow, red, white ... each one also with a certain temperature range.
- Smoke. The “burned” particles, that is, those that can no longer be part of the combustion reaction and that are part of the by-product of fire. They are usually lighter than air and therefore rise. Depending on the nature of the burning materials, their color can vary: white, black or gray. Its inhalation is a source of health risks.
- Gases Another by-product of base element combustion are gases, often colorless and toxic, which are forms of matter that escape along with smoke. Depending on the nature of the elements burned, the gases can be more or less harmful.
- Heat. Fire generates light and also heat energy, since its base reaction is exothermic, that is, it produces an excess of energy that must be released into the environment . This excess affects the matter around it, being able to spread fire or transform it, as happens with food when we cook.
Types of fire
Materials that produce type A fires leave embers when burned.
Fire is generally classified according to the nature of the combustible substance:
- Type A ( solid ) fires . Fires product of the burning of flammable materials that form embers, generally of organic origin such as wood, fabrics, paper and certain types of plastic .
- Type B fires ( liquids ). They are produced by the combustion of flammable liquids such as oil , gasoline, alcohol, certain paints , certain solvents, etc.
- Type C fires ( gases ). Product of flammable and generally explosive gases, such as methane, natural gas, hydrogen , propane, etc.
- Type D fires ( metals ). Certain metallic elements react violently when mixed with water or other substances, such as lithium, sodium, magnesium or potassium.
- Type E fires ( electricity ). Electricity can be the trigger for fires when short circuits or overheating occur due to excessive or improper operation of the lines or resistors.
- Type F fires ( fats and oils). Common in the kitchen, these types of flammable materials are of controlled use for cooking food, but they require a separate category since they do not respond to the same type of CO 2 or ABC powder extinguishers as normally occurs.
Physical properties of fire
Gas doesn’t fit well into any description of the physical state of matter . At most, it can be said to be a form of plasma, that is, electrically charged gas, such as that found inside stars or in certain halogen lamps.
Fire is usually understood as pure heat energy , although we can see its flames because they emit light. More than a state of combustible matter, fire is the perceptible evidence of such a chemical reaction.
It can spread or it can die out, but it cannot remain unchanged . This is because all matter that burns is rapidly and violently transforming.
How is fire used?
Fire can be used for cooking, as in pizza ovens.
The uses that we give to fire in human life are infinite, generally linked to its ability to transform matter, or its ability to illuminate the environment. Thus, we can say that fire serves to:
- Heating environments, such as fireplaces.
- Illuminate environments, such as campfires.
- Cook food , such as cooking.
- Destroy unwanted matter, as is often done with certain garbage.
- Unleash controlled combustion reactions, such as inside engines.
- Trigger or catalyze chemical reactions in laboratories.
- Change the matter of state of aggregation: solid, liquid, gaseous.
- Drive away unwanted animals.
Why is fire important?
Mastery of fire is a basic element of our civilization . It is involved in practically all human industries , as one of the main forces of transformation of matter that we know.
Cooking food, protection from the cold and wild animals , as well as lighting dark environments are just the basic benefits that fire has provided us since ancient times.
What are the risks of fire?
Uncontrolled fire can cause damage to property, animals, and individuals.
Fire is a powerful and fundamental tool of humanity but also a constant danger. The reactions it triggers can easily spiral out of control if the necessary precautions are not taken.
When not controlled, it can cause damage to property, animals and individuals , since organic matter is susceptible to combustion. Fire wounds are difficult to heal and often leave permanent scars or deformations, as well as being extremely painful and leaving severe emotional trauma.
Smoke detectors make it possible to put out the fire quickly.
Fires are catastrophes of extremely high human, ecological and / or material cost, which can often be avoided. For this, certain precautions are usually recommended:
- Keep flammable material neat and safe.
- Use fire responsibly.
- Do not throw glass or metal residues into forests that can serve as a magnifying glass and concentrate the sun’s rays to start a flame.
- Take the necessary precautions to stop fires: fire extinguishers in key places, fire alarms, etc.
Fire has been in our imagination and culture forever. Formerly it formed one of the four traditional elements into which we divided nature (air, earth, water, fire) and was considered one of its fundamental forces. In some cultures it is considered a secret and form of communication with the gods.
It is associated with feelings of anger, passion, pain or lust , all those that are difficult to control and that can be very harmful. It is also associated with purity, in the sense that it “cleanses” everything in its path.
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