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Fire Triangle

Understanding how fires function is important to knowing how to extinguish one.

PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5


In order to understand how fire extinguishers work, you first need to know a little bit about fire.

Four things must be present at the same time in order to produce fire

  1. Enough OXYGEN to sustain combustion,
  2. Enough HEAT to raise the material to it's ignition temperature,
  3. Some sort of FUEL or combustible material, and

The Fire Triangle

Image contains text "The Fire Triangle" and "Oxygen, Heat, Fuel."

Oxygen, heat, and fuel are frequently referred to as the "fire triangle." Add in the fourth element, the chemical reaction, and you actually have a fire "tetrahedron." The important thing to remember is take any of these four things away, and you will not have a fire or the fire will be extinguished.

the fire tetrahedron

Image contains text "The Firs Tetrahedron" and "oxygen, heat, fuel, chain reaction."

Essentially, fire extinguishers put out fire by taking away one or more elements of the fire triangle/tetrahedron.

Fire safety, at its most basic, is based upon the principle of keeping fuel sources and ignition sources separate.

Next: » Classifications of Fuels