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The fire triangle illustrates the three elements a fire needs to ignite: heat, fuel, and an oxidizing agent (usually oxygen). A fire naturally occurs when the elements are present and combined in the right mixture.

A fire can be prevented or extinguished by removing any one of the elements in the fire triangle. For example, covering a fire with a fire blanket removes the oxygen part of the triangle and can extinguish a fire.

The fire tetrahedron represents the addition of a component in the chemical chain reaction, to the three already present in the fire triangle. Once a fire has started, the resulting exothermic chain reaction sustains the fire and allows it to continue until or unless at least one of the elements of the fire is blocked. Foam can be used to deny the fire the oxygen it needs. Water can be used to lower the temperature of the fuel below the ignition point or to remove or disperse the fuel. Halon can be used to remove free radicals and create a barrier of inert gas in a direct attack on the chemical reaction responsible for the fire.

Combustion is the chemical reaction that feeds a fire more heat and allows it to continue. When the fire involves burning metals like lithium, magnesium, titanium,etc. (known as a class-D fire), it becomes even more important to consider the energy release. The metals react faster with water than with oxygen and thereby more energy is released. Putting water on such a fire results in the fire getting hotter or even exploding. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are ineffective against certain metals such as titanium. Therefore, inert agents (e.g. dry sand) must be used to break the chain reaction of metallic combustion.

In the same way, as soon as one of the four elements of the tetrahedron is removed, combustion stops.

Types of Fires

Not all fires are the same. Different fuels create different fires and require different types of fire extinguishing agents.

Class A fires are fires in ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, trash, and plastics.

Class B fires are fires in flammable liquids such as gasoline, petroleum oil and paint. Class B fires also include flammable gases such as propane and butane. Class B fires do not include fires involving cooking oils and grease.

Class C fires are fires involving energized electrical equipment such as motors, transformers, and appliances. Remove the power and the Class C fire becomes one of the other classes of fire.

Class D fires are fires in combustible metals such as potassium, sodium, aluminum, and magnesium.

Class K fires are fires in cooking oils and greases such as animals fats and vegetable fats.


Scope of Fire and Safety Engineering Education : In Govt sector job, a B.Tech fire engineer can get a monthly starting salary of Rs. 25,000 to 30,000. Salary increases with experience, performance and promotions.

Swami Vivekanand University is UGC recognized university and member of National Safety Council. University offers above courses.

Courses in Fire and Safety

B.Sc in Fire Safety and Hazard Management 3 Years HSC (PCM)
B.Tech. in Fire and Safety Engineering  4 Years HSC (PCM)

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Also Read : Fire and Safety EngineeringDiploma in Safety Management

Blog Writer: 

Fire and Safety Engineer Arvind Kamath 

Director, Firepower Engineering Services

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