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What Is The Fire Tetrahedron?

What Is The Fire Tetrahedron?

When you’re in the fire safety business, it’s important to understand the chemistry behind a fire if you want to be able to devise more effective ways of preventing and controlling it. 

We’ve written in the past about the ‘fire triangle’, which is the traditional way of explaining the elements needed for a fire to start and thrive. These are fuel, heat and oxygen – take just one of these away and a fire would be either prevented or extinguished.

However, more recent analysis has developed this concept further to come up with the ‘fire tetrahedron’, which adds an extra element to the traditional triangle.

In this article, we’re going to examine the concept of the fire tetrahedron and discover how it differs from the fire triangle.

What is the fire tetrahedron_

What is the fire tetrahedron?

Before examining how it relates to the chemistry of a fire, it’s important to understand what a tetrahedron actually is. Otherwise known as a ‘triangular pyramid’, it is made up of four triangular bases. 

Each face in a tetrahedron connects to every other face, which basically means that all four elements in the fire tetrahedron need to be present in order for a fire to start and continue.

So what is the extra element that has been added to the fire triangle to make it the fire tetrahedron?

What are the different elements in the fire tetrahedron?

These are the four elements that together make up the fire tetrahedron – removing any of them will cause a fire to be extinguished.

  • Fuel – essentially, this is the material that is going to burn once a fire starts, such as paper, cardboard, fabric and oil.
  • Heat – it’s the introduction of heat that causes the fuel to reach the temperature at which it ignites and starts a fire. Heat can be removed from a fire by using a cooling extinguishant such as water.
  • Oxygen – this feeds a fire by reacting with the fuel to release carbon dioxide and heat. A fire can be put out by preventing the oxygen from getting to the fuel, utilising barriers like a fire blanket or a smothering extinguishant such as foam. 
  • Chemical Reaction – it’s the chemical reaction that occurs between the other three elements that causes a fire to continue to burn once it has started. Without that reaction, no fire would be possible. 

How is the fire tetrahedron different from the fire triangle?

Quite simply, the concept of the fire tetrahedron recognises that something else – beyond the mere presence of fuel, heat and oxygen – needs to happen for a fire to start and be sustained. Removing any of those three elements will still put out a fire, but recognising the role of the reaction between the three is key to our understanding of how a fire works.

As things stand, there are no commonly available extinguishers that can put out a fire solely by interrupting the chemical reaction. Halon fire extinguishers used to be able to do that and were recognised as being an effective universal extinguishing agent on aircraft. However, their use has been identified as causing significant damage to the ozone layer and they have been banned for a number of years. 

Here at Scutum South East, we bring decades’ worth of experience and knowledge to fire safety. We are proud to offer customers across South East England the very latest tools for fast and effective fire prevention, fire detection and fire control, including professional fire risk assessments, state-of-the-art fire alarm systems and a wide range of fire extinguishers

Find out more and start the process of improving fire safety at your commercial premises by getting in touch with our experienced team of advisors today.



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About Scutum South East

Scutum South East is a leading expert in fire safety and security solutions for businesses and organisations located across South East England, including London and Surrey.

From fire alarms, fire extinguishers and fire risk assessments to access control, CCTV and intruder alarm systems – and a lot more besides – we offer a comprehensive range of products and services designed to keep you, your business and your staff and visitors safe.

With decades of industry experience to call on, we’re proud to hold accreditations from leading trade associations and bodies such as British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE), the British Fire Consortium, the Fire Industry Association (FIA) and Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB).

If you’d like to find out more about Scutum South East, get in touch with our friendly team or explore our products and services on our site.


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