Fire Facts

Who Invented The Modern Match?

Gustaf Erik Pasch is the inventor of the modern safety match. His invention was improved upon by John Edvard Lundström, another Swede. The most important adaptation of previous types of matches was the exchange of the dangerous, and deadly, white phosphorous with red phosphorous.

Some Famous Fires

  • The Great Chicago Fire occurred on 8th October 1871. The origins of the fire are unknown, but the results were 300 people dead and 17 000 structures destroyed, these included factories, government buildings, hotels, and other businesses. All of the buildings in the downtown Chicago area that were obliterated by the fire were made of wood, as well as the sidewalks, which had just been completed soon before the fire started.
  • The Great Fire of London killed an unknown number of people over the several days that it burned through London. It destroyed over 13 000 structures, including several city prisons and four bridges. Almost 100 local chapels and churches were reduced to rubble, including St. Paul’s Cathedral. The fire began on 2nd September 1666 in a baker’s shop and burned for three days. After the fire, holes were drilled at regular intervals along streets to provide direct access to water mains for more effective fire fighting.
  • In 1906 San Francisco was rocked by a severe earthquake that caused multiple fires to break out, combining in a terrifying citywide conflagration, consuming 500 blocks of downtown San Francisco. 300 000 structures were destroyed and it is estimated that more than 3000 people died and almost 80 percent of the over 400 000 residents were left homeless.

More Fire-Related Facts

  • Horses are forbidden to eat fire hydrants in Marshalltown, Iowa, USA.
  • A matchstick machine can produce as much as one million matches an hour.
  • Evergreen vegetation burns easier than deciduous (plants that shed their leaves before cold or dry seasons) vegetation.
  • Another name for a forest fire — a fire in which the fire jumps with great speed from tree to tree — is a “crown fire”. The “crown” of the tree being its upper branches and leaves.
  • More than half of all arson in the United States is committed by adolescents.
  • Fires actually climb up hills very fast.
  • Approximately 4500 people a year die in the USA from fire and burn injuries. Over one million burn injuries are reported in the USA every year, a decline from the 1950s and 1960s when two million burn injuries were sustained annually.
  • An easy way to check for gas leaks is to apply soapsuds to connections when the gas is on — bubbling at any connection will be indicative of a leak and should be inspected by a professional.
  • A quarter of all fires in the USA are deliberately set.

Fire Extinguishers And Their Applications

Fire extinguishers are an important measure against fighting small fires and an essential addition to any home or building. As they contain only a limited amount of fuel they should not be employed against large fires.

Types Of Fires

Fires are categorised according to the fuel that created the fire. This is important to know because when fighting fires different methods are applied to different classes of fire. As an effective method for one can actually make the situation worse for another kind.

Class A
Fires that involve unextraordinary materials, including cloth, paper, plastic, trash, and wood.
Class B
Flammable liquids and gasses fall into this class, such as gasoline, paint, petroleum oil, propane, and butane.
Class C
Electrical fires, started by electrical equipment, such as appliances, motors, and transformers, comprise Class C fires.
Class D
Fires in combustible metals, such as aluminium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and titanium. Dry chemical extinguishers are used against Class D fires. Often a Class D extinguisher is designed specifically for a certain type of metal to allow maximum fire extinction.
Class K
Cooking oils and greases, such as animal and vegetable fats, start the fires in Class K. Wet chemical fire extinguishers were specially developed to deal with Class K fires.

Extinguishers Effective Against Class A, B, & C Fires

Class AClass BClass C
Water, Foam,
Dry Chemical,
Water Mist
Carbon Dioxide,
Dry Chemical,
Clean Agent
Carbon Dioxide,
Dry Chemical,
Clean Agent

The 3 A’s: Activate, Assist, Attempt

These are important fire fighting rules to remember when a fire breaks out.

Activate a fire alarm if the building has one or call the local fire department. Assist any people who are in direct danger of the fire or cannot escape it themselves, as long as this does not place you in any more danger than you are already in. Attempt to extinguish the fire, but only if it is small, contained, you are safe from smoke, there is an easy unblocked escape route.

Remember that if it doesn’t feel right to fight the fire yourself or you don’t feel safe to do so, DON’T. It is best to leave fire fighting to firefighters.

PASS: Pull. Aim. Squeeze, Sweep

PASS is an acronym for the correct method of handling an extinguisher when using it against a fire.

The safety pin, which prevents the extinguisher from accidentally being used, out.
The fire extinguisher at the base of the fire.
The trigger while standing approximately 2.5 m away from the fire.
The nozzle of the extinguisher across the base of the fire instead of focusing on one spot, utilising the limited supply of fire retardent to its maximum capacity.


Burns are categorised in to four degrees, depending on the depth of the burn. First-degree burns are the shallowest while fourth-degree burns are those that have charred the skin and damaged the tissue beneath or even exposed bone. The seriousness of a burn is also determined by the size of the burn and its placement on the body. Even second-degree burns — burns that have penetrated through to the underlying layer of the skin — over a wide enough percentage of a victim’s body can be fatal.

Burns are assessed in terms of TBSA (Total Body Surface Area), which is the percentage affected by non-superficial burns. The rule of nines is used as a quick and useful way to estimate the affected TBSA in adults.

This table explains the rule of nines:
Body Part Surface Area
Head 9%
Anterior Torso
Posterior Torso
Each Leg 18%
Each Arm 9%
Genitalia/perineum 1%

Well-Known “Fire” Songs