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How Do Fires Spread?

Fire is a constant threat to businesses across the country. A fire can start and spread rapidly, growing from the smallest point of ignition into room-scale blazes in a matter of minutes.

Last month we looked at the different classes of fire in the UK, and another vital part of fire safety is knowing how fires can spread. Being aware of the potential fire hazards in your commercial property will help to prevent fires in the future, so in this article we’re looking at some of the ways that a fire can spread.

Spread of fire

For a fire to start, oxygen, fuel and heat must be present. The heat source must reach a hot enough temperature to cause ignition, and with ample fuel and oxygen in the surrounding area, a fire can spread with dramatic speed.

Once started a fire can spread in three ways: convection, conduction and radiation.

Convection is the most dangerous way in which fire can spread through a property. The heat generated by a fire naturally rises, but in an enclosed space such as an office, this heat becomes trapped when it hits the ceiling. The heat then travels horizontally, spreading the fire across the entire space. Combustible elements in the room can quickly ignite, and an entire room can be engulfed in just a few minutes. Convection is the most common cause of fire spreading in domestic and commercial buildings.

Conduction refers to the spread of fire through direct contact between materials. Some materials are better conductors of heat than others, metal is a good example. A fire spreading through conduction in a commercial property might involve heat transferring through structural materials such as steel beams. Combustible elements which come into contact with the beams can ignite, and fire can spread from there. Conduction can be responsible for the spread of fire between rooms in larger buildings, as well as the failure of load-bearing structural supports.

Radiation transfers heat via electromagnetic waves in the air. Heat transmits in every direction until it reaches an object which absorbs it. Radiation can spread fire from building to building, igniting combustible materials nearby, and can also penetrate through windows, gaining access to the interior of adjacent properties.

how do fires spread?

Limiting the spread of fire

For commercial and industrial properties it’s important to consider what does and does not facilitate the rapid spread of fire. This can encompass every aspect of your building, from materials used in construction to what is stored on site, the objects in your office and whether or not you have fire doors installed.

Being aware of how fire can spread in a commercial property is a key step to limiting the damage a fire can cause. For example, an industrial premises which stores or uses hazardous chemicals should ensure that every chemical is stored safely and away from potential ignition sources.

This is why a strong focus on fire safety and training is important in any business. Fire spreads with frightening speed, so to help make sure that a fire doesn’t take such a destructive toll on your business, you should enlist professional fire safety experts.

Target Fire Protection are dedicated to helping you prepare your commercial property for the outbreak of fire. We provide thorough fire safety and training courses, and we also carry out fire risk assessments on your building. Our experienced team can advise on the most suitable fire protection equipment for your business and are on hand to perform regular maintenance on fire safety equipment throughout Rochdale, Bury, Manchester, Oldham and across the entire UK. To find out more, simply contact us today.

For free, impartial advice, call our expert team: 0800 030 6079

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