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Avoiding Fires and Explosions

By: Kent Courtney

Fire and Explosion

Flammable chemicals are all around us.  Every time we get into a car, we are in a traveling bomb.   You have seen photographs or video of flaming automobiles where the gas tank has exploded into flames.

In your garage, you may keep gasoline for your lawn mower.  That, too, has incredible potential for a dangerous explosion.

Almost everyday, people suffer burns caused by the uncontrolled ignition of flammable chemicals.  Some are obvious, like gasoline.  But, there are many others that can cause injury or serious property damage.  Heating fuel, paint thinners, kerosene, or even accumulated gasses can linger in your home or business to cause death and destruction.

The Fire Triangle

If you add air and a source of ignition to these fuels, you have the elements of what is known as the fire triangle.   (Air plus a source of ignition plus fuel equals fire).  Controlling or eliminating the parts of the fire triangle is what puts out a fire.  Preventing a fire is also accomplished by controlling the parts of the fire triangle.

The Fuel

Let us look at some of the flammable substances that can fuel a fire.  They are, liquids, dusts, gases and solids.


Gasoline, kerosene, bunker heating oil, solvents, some paints, adhesives and cleaning fluids give off a flammable vapor can ignite and explode when mixed with air.  You should make a habit of checking labels of chemicals that come into your home or place of business.  Knowing that something can cause a fire is the first step to preventing a fire.


Coal dust was a very common source of fire when coal was used for heating on a large scale.  The dust of wood, grain, sugar, certain metals and synthetic organic chemicals can ignite when in a confined area.  These explosions can be enormous.  A spark is all it takes to set them off.   Do you remember the huge grain elevator that exploded in New Orleans?


Liquified petroleum gas, propane or methane is often stored under pressure in cylinders.  Besides exploding, they uncontrolled release of gas from a cylinder can cause the cylinder to become a projectile.  Simple camping cylinders contain a powerful potential for explosion and injury.  Nearly every convenience store sells propane cylinders that contain a large amount of fuel.  They are often used around the house.  When they leak in small amounts, the gas can fill the storage area that it is in.  At that point, it is only waiting for something to ignite it.  A flick of a light switch or a cellphone may be all it needs to explode.


Plastic foam, packing, cardboards and textiles can burn fiercely and give of a thick smoke that can be deadly.  Besides the pain associated with the fire, damage can occur to your lungs.  Some of these materials are even poisonous when they burn.

Regulating the Danger

Because of the complications associated with regulatory compliance, it is difficult to know what to do.  It's important that your building (and of course your people) comply with the latest revisions of the various Fire Safety Codes.  The National Fire Protection Association has over 175 technical committees that make recommendations that are often enacted into law at the Federal, State, County and local level.

Keeping track of these changes is a full-time job.  It is the job of Baker's Fire Protection and Safety Equipment Company to make sure that you have made your "due diligence" to ensure every possible effort has been made for the fire safety of your employees and visitors.  Their thorough inspections give you peace of mind.


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Avoiding Fires and Explosions

By: Kent Courtney
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