How Fire Spreads – And What We Can Do to Stop It

In our last blog, we talked about how smoke spreads and ways in which we can slow it down. But, as the adage goes, there’s no smoke without fire – so this week, we thought we’d cover exactly that: how fire spreads.

Like smoke, fire is a chemical process which we can watch happening. There needs to be three elements present: heat, oxygen and fuel. As the process begins heat and energy are released quickly, fuelled by the surroundings; certain things burn better (i.e. faster) than others, which plays a huge part in how quickly a fire spreads from its point of origin into other parts of the building.

Fire spreads by eating up all the energy being provided to it, to put it simply. It sounds scary – and it is – but luckily, that’s where we come in. There are a couple of key things we can do to slow and mitigate how fire spreads, the speed at which it does so, and minimise the resulting damage.

How fire spreads: open spaces

Open spaces within a building ultimately give a fire more space – therefore oxygen, therefore freedom – to spread at will, which is why compartmentalisation, an aspect of passive fire protection, is so important. This essentially means to create smaller, closed off spaces inside the building to trap the flames and delay, if not stop the spread of fire. These ‘compartments’ can take the form of hallways and corridors or rooms and flats in their totality, but usually encompass floors and ceilings too. Compartments can be created within existing structures using the right materials to drive the best results, with the result of slowing the speed at which a fire spreads exponentially, providing crucial time for any inhabitants to escape.

How fire spreads: combustible materials

As we mentioned above and have touched upon a couple of times now, how fire spreads very much depends on the materials it comes into contact with from the offset, including furniture, building materials (for instance cladding, which was involved in a recent incident over in Madrid, Spain) and more. There are a couple of different ways to try and mitigate the spread of fire in this sense – by either using fire-resistant materials in construction to begin with, or implementing other means of passive fire protection to deter access the more combustible materials. The idea is to limit the what the fire is able to take hold of and burn, effectively cutting off its fuel.

As FIRAS certified fire risk assessors, not only are we able to consult with you and point out any things which could be improved in terms of how fire spreads around your building, we’re also able to physically undertake the installation work to get your property up to speed and fully compliant. Get in touch with our team today, and let’s talk about the benefits of passive fire protection.

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