How Does a Fire Spread?

Understanding & Preventing The Rapid Spread of Fire

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Even the smallest of fires can rapidly escalate, engulfing entire buildings in flames in just mere minutes. Such incidents can result in extensive damage, financial loss and, above all, endanger lives. It’s important to be aware of how fire behaves to ensure you can best protect yourself in an emergency. 

With this in mind, the team at TVF has written this article to help you understand just how a fire spreads and how you can prevent this from occurring in the first place.

How Does a Fire Spread?

Following ignition, a fire will commonly spread in three different ways: convection, conduction and radiation.

Convection Fire

Convection is one of the most common and dangerous ways a fire can spread. The massive amount of heat generated by a fire has to go somewhere, so it rises upwards. In the absence of anywhere else to go, this heat becomes trapped by a ceiling and then travels horizontally across the entire space. This is why emergency services advocate a ‘stay low and go’ approach in the event of a fire, to avoid the intense heat and harmful smoke.

Conduction Fire

Conduction fires are spread through heat that transfers to nearby objects via direct contact. For example, if an overheated electrical cable comes into contact with a combustible material, this can then ignite and start a fire. This will then spread and surge out of control through contact with other combustible materials.

Radiation Fire

As a fire intensifies, it emits more heat that will travel in all directions until it finds an object to absorb it. Heat can be transferred through electromagnetic waves, which explains why we feel hot when exposed to the sun. In a radiation fire, the heat can reach such extreme temperatures that it can ignite objects some distance away from the flames. If these objects are flammable, they will catch fire and accelerate the spread of the blaze. Hence, it is crucial to keep combustible materials away from open flames and heat sources.

How to prevent a fire from spreading

Fire safety equipment

Installing the correct fire safety equipment is a crucial way to prevent fires from spreading. Fire extinguishers and fire blankets can be used to suppress small fires before they have the chance to grow, whilst sprinkler systems can prevent larger fires from spreading to other areas of the building. Early detection is also essential and this is where fire alarms come in handy, allowing building occupants precious extra time to escape the premises. It goes without saying that all fire safety equipment should be regularly checked and maintained, to ensure it is performing to an optimum level.

Fire risk assessments

Fire risk assessments are essential for any commercial property. A qualified assessor will visit your premises, identifying any potential hazards and recommending ways in which these can be reduced. The layout and structure of your building will also be considered and a suggested emergency plan will be created. This is a proactive measure that can prevent a fire before it even starts.

Fire safety training

As per UK regulations, all commercial buildings must have a designated ‘responsible person’ who oversees all fire safety measures. On a day-to-day basis, this role includes monitoring potential hazards, performing inspections on fire safety equipment and ensuring emergency preparedness. It is essential to have adequate fire safety training in place so that this person fully understands their role and can take appropriate action to prevent fires from occurring in the first place. 


TVF (UK) Limited is your local, leading fire safety provider, serving the communities of High Wycombe, Watford, Slough and beyond. We recognise the importance of stopping a fire before it spreads out of control and provide a comprehensive range of fire safety equipment to help you do just that. Our third-party accredited team can also conduct fire risk assessments and fire safety training to ensure your premises are fully prepared for any emergency situation.

For additional information about any of our services or to book a consultation, get in touch with our friendly team today.


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