20 Fun Facts About Fire | Thing You Didn’t Know About Fire
Fire is a fascinating event (yep, event, no a thing) and there are a lot of things that most people don’t know about fire. We gathered a list of our favourite 20 fun facts about fire – it is sure to help you increase your fire knowledge. With these interesting facts under your sleeve, you’ll be on fire when it’s time for the next pub quiz!
- Excess energy in combustion makes fire hot
To answer the question “Why is fire hot?”, we first need to understand where fire comes from. When fuel and oxygen interact using sufficient amounts of energy, a combustion reaction occurs and as a result, carbon dioxide, water and even more energy are produced. Carbon dioxide is what makes the smoke during a fire and the excess energy is thermal energy, or in other words – heat. This is why fire is hot.
- Fire is self-sustaining
One of the most amazing things about fire is that it is self-perpetuating, meaning it’s a process which fuels itself endlessly. Since combustion requires less energy to occur than it produces, the heat released makes enough thermal energy to sustain the continuous burning and the growth of the fire.
- Fire can double every 30 seconds
Given the right conditions, it takes just ½ a minute for a fire to double in size. This is why it’s crucial to evacuate a burning building as quickly as possible. Just for reference, a house can be completely engulfed in flames in just 2 ½ minutes.
- Fire changes colour based on oxygen levels
One of the interesting facts about oxygen and fire is that varying degrees of oxygen can change the colour of a flame. A blue flame means lots of oxygen, while a yellow flame = low oxygen supply.
- Fire burns only on Earth
Yep, that’s right. Fire can exist on no planet known to man, other than Earth itself. This is because the rest of the planets in our Galaxy don’t have enough oxygen to support the burning of a flame.
- Fire may have ended the bubonic plague
As devastating as it was, the Great Fire of London in 1666 is believed to have been what ultimately put an end to the uncontrollable spread of the bubonic plague. It’s estimated that 80% of the city was destroyed in the fiery blaze and a large number of the city’s rats and fleas died in the process. Since vermin was one of the main carriers of the plague, this significantly slowed down the spread of the disease.
- Fire can make trees explode
If wildfires weren’t scary enough, here comes one of the weirdest fire facts – if there is enough water deep within a tree, the steam produced by the burning fire can cause the tree to explode.
- You can make water with fire
The chemical reaction of fire burning produces a tiny bit of water. If you put a cold spoon or an empty metal pot over a naked flame, you’ll see drops of condensed water appear inside. There’s no magic going on here – just chemistry.
- You can start a fire using water
An odd fact about fire is that even though firefighters use water to put out fires, water can also be used to start a fire. Pure water isn’t flammable but one of its main components, hydrogen, is. Using energy, such as an electrical current, to break up the chemical elements that water is made up from can create a spark and consequently – start a fire.
- Oxygen makes fire hotter
Another interesting fact about oxygen is that it can change the temperature of a fire. The more oxygen there is, the hotter the flames are.
- The Olympic Flame was started using sunlight
The Ancient Greeks used the power of sunlight to start the famous Olympic Flame. What’s even more curious is that in the name of tradition, the same method is still used today to light the Olympic torch. You can try it in your garden with your kids – all you need is a magnifying glass and a piece of paper. When direct sunlight goes through the lense of the magnifying glass, it heats the paper, producing a flame. Just be very careful if you decide to conduct fire experiments at home because fire can get out of control very quickly.
- Fire cannot exist without all three of its main components
Heat, oxygen and fuel – those are the three elements you need to start a fire. Remove either one of them and the fire will be extinguished. Those are the three sides of the fire triangle.
- Smoke inhalation can kill you before flames do
Death caused by a fire isn’t necessarily caused by burning. A person is much more likely to pass out and eventually die from carbon monoxide poisoning first.
- Flames can actually cast a shadow
One of the fun facts about fire that’s actually a myth is that flames don’t have a shadow. A flame contains bits of half-burnt fuel (soot) and hot air, both of which can deflect light, creating a shadow. However, this happens rarely because for a shadow to become visible, the light beam going through the flame has to be as bright or brighter than the light radiated by the fire itself.
- Spontaneous combustion is a real thing
Newspapers, grass clippings and hay are amongst the things that are susceptible to spontaneous combustion. Different factors, including bacterial fermentation, oxidation and moisture in the air, can pile up over time, causing a spontaneous auto-ignition. Spontaneous human combustion, however, is only a theoretical concept and is yet to be proven by science.
- Fire destroyed the first fire hydrant patent
Ironically, in 1836, a fire in the Washington patent office destroyed the majority of the US patent records held there at the time. Amongst those was the original patent for the classic fire hydrant.
- Fire smoke can cause disorientation
Smoke inhalation is one of the most hazardous aspects of a fire incident. Smoke can make a room look pitch black and combined with the fact that smoke can cause severe disorientation and blurry vision, it makes it extremely difficult to find the fire exit, even if you know a building very well. This is why fire drills are so important – spatial working memory can kick in and help you make your way out safely.
- Fire fighting was an Olympic sport once
We are told to never play with fire, yet, during the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, fire fighting was part of the competitive games that took place. Both professional and volunteer firefighters participated in the event. Even though it wasn’t officially on the list of Olympic games, the fire fighting competition was heavily featured in the official reports regarding the Olympics in France that year.
- Human bones can’t be fully destroyed by fire
While the human body can sustain first-degree burns at temperatures of 47°C and above, the human bones are much more durable. Crematoriums use fires that reach 1100°C to 1500°C and even then parts of the bones remain intact, so they have to be ground up before the remains of the deceased are returned to the family.
- Fires are affected by gravity
Combustion gases rise, so as a flame moves upwards, it sucks in more oxygen, making it burn faster and stronger. This is why wildfires spread more quickly uphill than downhill.
If you have enjoyed our list of fun facts about fire, check out our blog for more articles packed with interesting information about fire and fire safety.