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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A outdoor fire using wood, termed bonfire.
The ignition and extinguishing of a pile of wood shavings.

Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products.[1] Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not considered to be part of this definition.

The flame is the visible portion of the fire and consists of glowing hot gases. If hot enough, the gases may become ionized to produce plasma.[2] Depending on the substances alight, and any impurities outside, the color of the flame and the fire's intensity might vary.

Fire in its most common form can result in conflagration, which has the potential to cause physical damage through burning. Fire is an important process that affects ecological systems across the globe. The positive effects of fire include stimulating growth and maintaining various ecological systems. Fire has been used by humans for cooking, generating heat, signaling, and propulsion purposes. The negative effects of fire include decreased water purity, increased soil erosion, increased in atmospheric pollutants, and an increased hazard to human life.[3]


Physical properties


The fire tetrahedron


Fires start when a flammable and/or a combustible material, in combination with a sufficient quantity of an oxidizer such as oxygen gas or another oxygen-rich compound (though non-oxygen oxidizers exist that can replace oxygen), is exposed to a source of heat or ambient temperature above the flash point for the fuel/oxidizer mix, and is able to sustain a rate of rapid oxidation that produces a chain reaction. This is commonly called the fire tetrahedron. Fire cannot exist without all of these elements in place and in the right proportions (though as previously stated, another strong oxidizer can replace oxygen). For example, a flammable liquid will start burning only if the fuel and oxygen are in the right proportions. Some fuel-oxygen mixes may require a catalyst, a substance that is not directly involved in any chemical reaction during combustion, but which enables the reactants to combust more readily.

Once ignited, a chain reaction must take place whereby fires can sustain their own heat by the further release of heat energy in the process of combustion and may propagate, provided there is a continuous supply of an oxidizer and fuel.

Fire can be extinguished by removing any one of the elements of the fire tetrahedron. Consider a natural gas flame, such as from a stovetop burner. The fire can be extinguished by any of the following:

  • turning off the gas supply, which removes the fuel source;
  • covering the flame completely, which smothers the flame as the combustion both uses the available oxidizer (the oxygen in the air) and displaces it from the area around the flame with CO2;
  • application of water, which removes heat from the fire faster than the fire can produce it (similarly, blowing hard on a flame will displace the heat of the currently-burning gas from its fuel source, to the same end), or
  • application of a retardant chemical such as Halon to the flame, which retards the chemical reaction itself until the rate of combustion is too slow to maintain the chain reaction.

In contrast, fire is intensified by increasing the overall rate of combustion. Methods to do this include balancing the input of fuel and oxidizer to stoichiometric proportions, increasing fuel and oxidizer input in this balanced mix, increasing the ambient temperature so the fire's own heat is better able to sustain combustion, or providing a catalyst; a non-reactant medium in which the fuel and oxidizer can more readily react.


A flame is a mixture of reacting gases and solids emitting visible and infrared light, the frequency spectrum of which depends on the chemical composition of the burning material and intermediate reaction products. In many cases, such as the burning of organic matter, for example wood, or the incomplete combustion of gas, incandescent solid particles called soot produce the familiar red-orange glow of 'fire'. This light has a continuous spectrum. Complete combustion of gas has a dim blue color due to the emission of single-wavelength radiation from various electron transitions in the excited molecules formed in the flame. Usually oxygen is involved, but hydrogen burning in chlorine also produces a flame, producing hydrogen chloride (HCl). Other possible combinations producing flames, amongst many, are fluorine and hydrogen, and hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide.

The glow of a flame is complex. Black-body radiation is emitted from soot, gas, and fuel particles, though the soot particles are too small to behave like perfect blackbodies. There is also photon emission by de-excited atoms and molecules in the gases. Much of the radiation is emitted in the visible and infrared bands. The color depends on temperature for the black-body radiation, and on chemical makeup for the emission spectra. The dominant color in a flame changes with temperature. The photo of the forest fire is an excellent example of this variation. Near the ground, where most burning is occurring, the fire is white, the hottest color possible for organic material in general, or yellow. Above the yellow region, the color changes to orange, which is cooler, then red, which is cooler still. Above the red region, combustion no longer occurs, and the uncombusted carbon particles are visible as black smoke.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States has recently found that gravity also plays a role in flame formation. Modifying the gravity causes different flame types.[4] The common distribution of a flame under normal gravity conditions depends on convection, as soot tends to rise to the top of a general flame, as in a candle in normal gravity conditions, making it yellow. In micro gravity or zero gravity, such as an environment in outer space, convection no longer occurs, and the flame becomes spherical, with a tendency to become more blue and more efficient (although it may go out if not moved steadily, as the CO2 from combustion does not disperse as readily in micro gravity, and tends to smother the flame). There are several possible explanations for this difference, of which the most likely is that the temperature is sufficiently evenly distributed that soot is not formed and complete combustion occurs.[5] Experiments by NASA reveal that diffusion flames in micro gravity allow more soot to be completely oxidized after they are produced than diffusion flames on Earth, because of a series of mechanisms that behave differently in micro gravity when compared to normal gravity conditions.[6] These discoveries have potential applications in applied science and industry, especially concerning fuel efficiency.

In combustion engines, various steps are taken to eliminate a flame. The method depends mainly on whether the fuel is oil, wood, or a high-energy fuel such as jet fuel.


Fires give off heat, or the process of energy transfer from one body or system due to thermal contact.

Typical temperatures of fires and flames

  • Oxyhydrogen flame: 2000 °C or above (3645 °F)[7]
  • Bunsen burner flame: 1,300 to 1,600 °C (2,372 to 2,912 °F)[8]
  • Blowtorch flame: 1,300 °C (2,370 °F)[9]
  • Candle flame: 1,000 °C (1,830 °F)
  • Smoldering cigarette:
    • Temperature without drawing: side of the lit portion; 400 °C (752 °F); middle of the lit portion: 585 °C (1,085 °F)
    • Temperature during drawing: middle of the lit portion: 700 °C (1,292 °F)
    • Always hotter in the middle.

Temperatures of flames by appearance

A Fire at 1/4000th of a second

The temperature of flames with carbon particles emitting light can be assessed by their color:[10]

  • Red
    • Just visible: 525 °C (977 °F)
    • Dull: 700 °C (1,292 °F)
    • Cherry, dull: 800 °C (1,470 °F)
    • Cherry, full: 900 °C (1,650 °F)
    • Cherry, clear: 1,000 °C (1,830 °F)
  • Orange
    • Deep: 1,100 °C (2,010 °F)
    • Clear: 1,200 °C (2,190 °F)
  • White
    • Whitish: 1,300 °C (2,370 °F)
    • Bright: 1,400 °C (2,550 °F)
    • Dazzling: 1,500 °C (2,730 °F)

Fossil record

The fossil record of fire first appears with the establishment of a land-based flora in the Middle Ordovician period, 470 million years ago,[11] permitting the accumulation of oxygen in the atmosphere as never before, as the new hordes of land plants pumped it out as a waste product. When this concentration rose above 13%, it permitted the possibility of wildfire. Wildfire is first recorded in the Late Silurian fossil record, 420 million years ago, by fossils of charcoalified plants.[12] Apart from a controversial gap in the Late Devonian, charcoal is present ever since.[12] The level of atmospheric oxygen is closely related to the prevalence of charcoal: clearly oxygen is the key factor in the abundance of wildfire.[13] Fire also became more abundant when grasses radiated and became the dominant component of many ecosystems, around 6 to 7 million years ago;[14] this kindling provided tinder which allowed for the more rapid spread of fire.[13] These widespread fires may have initiated a positive feedback process, whereby they produced a warmer, drier climate more conducive to fire.[13]

Human control

The fire miracle of Saint Peter Martyr by Antonio Vivarini.

The ability to control fire was a dramatic change in the habits of early humans. Making fire to generate heat and light made it possible for people to cook food, increasing the variety and availability of nutrients. The heat produced would also help people stay warm in cold weather, enabling them to live in cooler climates. Fire also kept nocturnal predators at bay. Evidence of cooked food is found from 1.9 million years ago, although fire was probably not used in a controlled fashion until 400,000 years ago.[13] Evidence becomes widespread around 50 to 100 thousand years ago, suggesting regular use from this time; interestingly, resistance to air pollution started to evolve in human populations at a similar point in time.[13] The use of fire became progressively more sophisticated, with it being used to create charcoal and to control wildlife from 'tens of thousands' of years ago.[13]

By the Neolithic Revolution,[citation needed] during the introduction of grain-based agriculture, people all over the world used fire as a tool in landscape management. These fires were typically controlled burns or "cool fires",[citation needed] as opposed to uncontrolled "hot fires" which damage the soil. Hot fires destroy plants and animals, and endanger communities. This is especially a problem in the forests of today where traditional burning is prevented in order to encourage the growth of timber crops. Cool fires are generally conducted in the spring and autumn. They clear undergrowth, burning up biomass that could trigger a hot fire should it get too dense. They provide a greater variety of environments, which encourages game and plant diversity. For humans, they make dense, impassable forests traversable.

There are numerous modern applications of fire. In its broadest sense, fire is used by nearly every human being on earth in a controlled setting every day. Users of internal combustion vehicles employ fire every time they drive. Thermal power stations provide electricity for a large percentage of humanity.

Hamburg after four fire-bombing raids in July, 1943, which killed an estimated 50,000 people.[15]

The use of fire in warfare has a long history. Hunter-gatherer groups around the world have been noted[citation needed] as using grass and forest fires to injure their enemies and destroy their ability to find food, so it can be assumed that fire has been used in warfare for as long as humans have had the knowledge to control it[citation needed]. Fire was the basis of all early thermal weapons. Homer detailed the use of fire by Greek commandos who hid in a wooden horse to burn Troy during the Trojan war. Later the Byzantine fleet used Greek fire to attack ships and men. In the First World War, the first modern flamethrowers were used by infantry, and were successfully mounted on armoured vehicles in the Second World War. In the latter war, incendiary bombs were used by Axis and Allies alike, notably on Tokyo, Rotterdam, London, Hamburg and, notoriously, at Dresden, in the latter two cases firestorms were deliberately caused in which a ring of fire surrounding each city[citation needed] was drawn inward by an updraft caused by a central cluster of fires. The United States Army Air Force also extensively used incendiaries against Japanese targets in the latter months of the war, devastating entire cities constructed primarily of wood and paper houses. In the Second World War, the use of napalm and molotov cocktails was popularized, though the former did not gain public attention until the Vietnam War. More recently many villages were burned during the Rwandan Genocide.

Use as fuel

Setting fuel aflame releases usable energy. Wood was a prehistoric fuel, and is still viable today. The use of fossil fuels, such as petroleum, natural gas and coal, in power plants supplies the vast majority of the world's electricity today; the International Energy Agency states that nearly 80% of the world's power comes from these sources.[16] The fire in a power station is used to heat water, creating steam that drives turbines. The turbines then spin an electric generator to produce electricity.

The unburnable solid remains of a combustible material left after a fire is called clinker if its melting point is below the flame temperature, so that it fuses and then solidifies as it cools, and ash if its melting point is above the flame temperature.

Fire is also used to make steam trains run.

Protection and prevention

Fire fighting services are provided in most developed areas to extinguish or contain uncontrolled fires. Trained firefighters use fire apparatus, water supply resources such as water mains and fire hydrants or they might use A and B class foam depending on what is feeding the fire.

Fire prevention is intended to reduce sources of ignition, and is partially focused on programs to educate people from starting fires.[17] Buildings, especially schools and tall buildings, often conduct fire drills to inform and prepare citizens on how to react to a building fire. Purposely starting destructive fires constitutes arson and is a crime in most jurisdictions.

Model building codes require passive fire protection and active fire protection systems to minimize damage resulting from a fire. The most common form of active fire protection is fire sprinklers. To maximize passive fire protection of buildings, building materials and furnishings in most developed countries are tested for fire-resistance, combustibility and flammability. Upholstery, carpeting and plastics used in vehicles and vessels are also tested.

See also

Disability-adjusted life year for fires per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004.[18]
     no data      less than 50      50-100      100-150      150-200      200-250      250-300      300-350      350-400      400-450      450-500      500-600      more than 600


  1. ^ Glossary of Wildland Fire Terminology, National Wildfire Coordinating Group, November 2009,, retrieved 2008-12-18 
  2. ^ Helmenstine, Anne Marie, What is the State of Matter of Fire or Flame? Is it a Liquid, Solid, or Gas?,,, retrieved 2009-01-21 
  3. ^ Lentile, et al., 319
  4. ^ Spiral flames in microgravity, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2000.
  5. ^ CFM-1 experiment results, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, April 2005.
  6. ^ LSP-1 experiment results, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, April 2005.
  7. ^ ""Flame Temperature Measurement"". 
  8. ^ ""Flame Temperatures"". 
  9. ^ ""Pyropen Cordless Soldering Irons"" (PDF). 
  10. ^ "A Book of Steam for Engineers", The Stirling Company, 1905
  11. ^ Wellman CH, Gray J. The microfossil record of early land plants. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2000;355(1398):717–31; discussion 731–2. doi:10.1098/rstb.2000.0612. PMID 10905606.
  12. ^ a b Scott AC, Glasspool IJ. The diversification of Paleozoic fire systems and fluctuations in atmospheric oxygen concentration. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2006;103(29):10861–5. doi:10.1073/pnas.0604090103. PMID 16832054.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Bowman DM, Balch JK, Artaxo P et al. Fire in the Earth system. Science. 2009;324(5926):481–4. doi:10.1126/science.1163886. PMID 19390038.
  14. ^ Retallack GJ. Neogene expansion of the North American prairie. PALAIOS. 1997;12(4):380–90. doi:10.2307/3515337.
  15. ^ "In Pictures: German destruction". BBC News.
  16. ^ ""Share of Total Primary Energy Supply", 2002; International Energy Agency". 
  17. ^ Fire & Life Safety Education, Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner
  18. ^ "WHO Disease and injury country estimates". World Health Organization. 2009. Retrieved Nov. 11, 2009. 


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire. ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Fire is a phenomenon of the heat and light energy released during a chemical reaction, in particular a combustion reaction. Depending on the substances involved, and any impurities within, the color and intensity of the flames of fire will vary. It is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and science. This page is for quotes referring to fire in literal or metaphorical ways.



Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn. ~ Delmore Schwartz
This man ... must look upon the fire, smell of it, warm his hands by it, stare into its heart, or remain forever ignorant. ~ Roger Zelazny in Lord of Light
  • Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.
  • "Regions Caesar never knew
    Thy posterity shall sway;
    Where his eagles never flew,
    None invincible as they."

    Such the bard's prophetic words,
    Pregnant with celestial fire,
    Bending as he swept the chords
    Of his sweet but awful lyre.

  • It is stern work, it is perilous work, to thrust your hand in the sun
    And pull out a spark of immortal flame to warm the hearts of men:
    But Prometheus, torn by the claws and beaks whose task is never done,
    Would be tortured another eternity to go stealing fire again.
    • Joyce Kilmer in "The Proud Poet" in Main Street and Other Poems (1917)
  • When you do something, you should burn yourself completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.
    • Shunryu Suzuki, quoted in Enter the Heart of the Fire : A collection of Mystical Poems (1981) by Mary E. Giles and Kathryn Hohlwein
  • A thing happens once that has never happened before. Seeing it, a man looks upon reality. He cannot tell others what he has seen. Others wish to know, however, so they question him saying, 'What is it like, this thing you have seen?' So he tries to tell them. Perhaps he has seen the very first fire in the world. He tells them, 'It is red, like a poppy, but through it dance other colors. It has no form, like water, flowing everywhere. It is warm, like the sun of summer, only warmer. It exists for a time upon a piece of wood, and then the wood is gone, as though it were eaten, leaving behind that which is black and can be sifted like sand. When the wood is gone, it too is gone.' Therefore, the hearers must think reality is like a poppy, like water, like the sun, like that which eats and excretes. They think it is like to anything that they are told it is like by the man who has known it. But they have not looked upon fire. They cannot really know it. They can only know of it. But fire comes again into the world, many times. More men look upon fire. After a time, fire is as common as grass and clouds and the air they breathe. They see that, while it is like a poppy, it is not a poppy, while it is like water, it is not water, while it is like the sun, it is not the sun, and while it is like that which eats and passes wastes, it is not that which eats and passes wastes, but something different from each of these apart or all of these together. So they look upon this new thing and they make a new word to call it. They call it 'fire.'
    If they come upon one who still has not seen it and they speak to him of fire, he does not know what they mean. So they, in turn, fall back upon telling him what fire is like. 'As they do so, they know from their own experience that what they are telling him is not the truth, but only a part of it. They know that this man will never know reality from their words, though all the words in the world are theirs to use. He must look upon the fire, smell of it, warm his hands by it, stare into its heart, or remain forever ignorant. Therefore, 'fire' does not matter, 'earth' and 'air' and 'water' do not matter. 'I' do not matter. No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words.


  • Hate is like fire; it eats you up from the inside-out.
    • Babu
  • Fires all go out eventually.
  • Hate is like fire; it burns those who hold it.
    • Alden Loveshade (Same River Twice)
  • The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter, and is about as ample at one season as at another. It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth and dryness.
  • As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.
  • Today I had a chance to watch Fire... Its wild tounges licking toward the sky, sending glittery sparks flying. The embers smoldering like passion in your soul, as the flames lust to grow higher. The heat warmed my face arms and legs, as it begged me to feed it further. I felt bad as the night grew on and I had to starve it to smoldering embers, I knew that it left me a legacy of heat, passion, and lust... A Gift, I suppose.
    • Jerry Grant Blakeney

See also

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:
Look up fire in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource


by Dorothea Mackellar
From The Witch Maid, and Other Verses

[ 34 ]


This life that we call our own
Is neither strong nor free:
A flame in the wind of death
It trembles ceaselessly.

And this is all we can do—
To use our little light
Before, in the piercing wind,
It flickers into night.

To yield the heat of the flame,
To grudge not, but to give
Whatever we have of strength
That one more flame may live.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

FIRE (in O. Eng. _Or; the word is common to West German languages, cf. Dutch vuur, Ger. Feuer; the pre-Teutonic form is seen in Sanskrit pu, pavaka, and Gr. irup; the ultimate origin is usually taken to be a root meaning to purify, cf. Lat. purus), the term commonly used for the visible effect of combustion (see Flame), operating as a heating or lighting agency.

So general is the knowledge of fire and its uses that it is a question whether we have any authentic instance on record of a tribe altogether ignorant of them. A few notices indeed are to be found in the voluminous literature of travel which would decide the question in the affirmative; but when they are carefully investigated, their evidence is found to be far from conclusive. The missionary Krapf was told by a slave of a tribe in the southern part of Shoa who lived like monkeys in the bamboo jungles, and were totally ignorant of fire; but no better authority has been found for the statement, and the story, which seems to be current in eastern Africa, may be nothing else than the propagation of fables about the Pygmies whom the ancients located around the sources of the Nile. Lieut. Charles Wilkes, commander of the United States exploring expedition of 1838 -42, says that in Fakaafo or Bowditch Island "there was no sign of places for cooking nor any appearance of fire," and that the natives felt evident alarm at the sparks produced by flint and steel and the smoke emitted by those with cigars in their mouths. The presence of the word afi, fire, in the Fakaafo vocabulary supplied by Hale the ethnographer of the expedition, though it might perhaps be explained as equivalent only to solar light and heat, undoubtedly invalidates the supposition of Wilkes; and the Rev. George Turner, in an account of a missionary voyage in 1859, not only repeats the word afi in his list for Fakaafo, but relates the native legend about the origin of fire, and describes some peculiar customs connected with its use. Alvaro de Saavedra, an old Spanish traveller, informs us that the inhabitants of Los Jardines, an island of the Pacific, showed great fear when they saw fire - which they did not know before. But that island has not been identified with certainty by modern explorers. It belongs, perhaps, to the Ladrones or Marianas Archipelago, where fire was unknown, says Padre Gobien, "till Magellan, wroth at the pilferings of the inhabitants, burnt one of their villages. When they saw their wooden huts ablaze, their first thought was that fire was a beast which eats up wood. Some of them having approached the fire too near were burnt, and the others kept aloof, fearing to be torn or poisoned by the powerful breath of that terrible animal." To this Freycinet objects that these Ladrone islanders made pottery before the arrival of Europeans, that they had words expressing the ideas of flame, fire, oven, coals, roasting and cooking. Let us add that in their country numerous graves and ruins have been found, which seem to be remnants of a former culture. Thus the question remains in uncertainty: though there is nothing impossible in the supposition of the existence of a fireless tribe, it cannot be said that such a tribe has been discovered.

It is useless to inquire in what way man first discovered that fire was subject to his control, and could even be called into being by appropriate means. With the natural phenomenon and its various aspects he must soon have become familiar. The volcano lit up the darkness of night and sent its ashes or its lava down into the plains; the lightning or the meteor struck the tree, and the forest was ablaze; or some less obvious cause produced some less extensive ignition. For a time it is possible that the grand manifestations of nature aroused no feelings save awe and terror; but man is quite as much endowed with curiosity as with reverence or caution, and familiarity must ere long have bred confidence if not contempt. It is by no means necessary to suppose that the practical discovery of fire was made only at one given spot and in one given way; it is much more probable indeed that different tribes and races obtained the knowledge in a variety of ways.

It has been asserted of many tribes that they would be unable to rekindle their fires if they were allowed to die out. Travellers in Australia and Tasmania depict the typical native woman bearing always about with her a burning brand, which it is one of her principal duties to protect and foster; and it has been supposed that it was only ignorance which imposed on her the endless task. This is absurd. The Australian methods of producing fire by the friction of two pieces of wood are perfectly well known, and are illustrated in Howitt's Native Tribes of South-East Australia, pp. 771-773. To carry a brand saves a little trouble to the men.

The methods employed for producing fire vary considerably in detail, but are for the most part merely modified applications of concussion or friction. Lord Avebury has remarked that the working up of stone into implements must have been followed sooner or later by the discovery of fire; for in the process of chipping sparks were elicited, and in the process of polishing heat was generated. The first or concussion method is still familiar in the flint and steel, which has hardly passed out of use even in the most civilized countries. Its modifications are comparatively few and unimportant. The Alaskans and Aleutians take two pieces of quartz, rub them well with native sulphur, strike them together till the sulphur catches fire, and then transfer the flame to a heap of dry grass over which a few feathers have been scattered. Instead of two pieces of quartz the Eskimos use a piece of quartz and a piece of iron pyrites. Mr Frederick Boyle saw fire produced by striking broken china violently against a bamboo, and Bastian observed the same process in Burma, and Wallace in Ternate. In Cochin China two pieces of bamboo are considered sufficient, the silicious character of the outside layer rendering it as good as native flint. The friction methods are more various. One of the simplest is what E. B. Tylor calls the stick and groove - "a blunt pointed stick being run along a groove of its own making in a piece of wood lying on the ground." Much, of course, depends on the quality of the woods and the expertness of the manipulator. In Tahiti Charles Darwin saw a native produce fire in a few seconds, but only succeeded himself after much labour. The same device was employed in New Zealand, the Sandwich Islands, Tonga, Samoa and the Radak Islands. Instead of rubbing the movable stick backwards and forwards other tribes make it rotate rapidly in a round hole in the stationary piece of wood - thus making what Tylor has happily designated a fire-drill. This device has been observed in Australia, Kamchatka, Sumatra and the Carolines, among the Veddahs of Ceylon, throughout a great part of southern Africa, among the Eskimo and Indian tribes of North America, in the West Indies, in Central America, and as far south as the Straits of Magellan. It was also employed by the ancient Mexicans, and Tylor gives a quaint picture of the operation from a Mexican MS. - a man half kneeling on the ground is causing the stick to rotate between the palms of his hands. This simple method of rotation seems to be very generally in use; but various devices have been resorted to for the purpose of diminishing the labour and hastening the result. The Gaucho of the Pampas takes "an elastic stick about 18 in. long, presses one end to his breast and the other in a hole in a piece of wood, and then rapidly turns the curved part like a carpenter's centre-bit." In other cases the rotation is effected by means of a cord or thong wound round the drill and pulled alternately by this end and that. In order to steady the drill the Eskimo and others put the upper end in a socket of ivory or bone which they hold firmly in their mouth. A further advance was made by the Eskimo and neighbouring tribes, who applied the principle of the bow-drill; and the still more ingenious pump-drill was used by the Onondaga Indians. For full descriptions of these instruments and a rich variety of details connected with fire-making we must refer the reader to Tylor's valuable chapter in his Researches. These methods of producing fire are but rarely used in Europe, and only in connexion with superstitious observances. We read in Wuttke that some time ago the authorities of a Mecklenburg village ordered a "wild fire" to be lit against a murrain amongst the cattle. For two hours the men strove vainly to obtain a spark, but the fault was not to be ascribed to the quality of the wood, or to the dampness of the atmosphere, but to the stubbornness of an old lady, who, objecting to the superstition, would not put out her night lamp; such a fire, to be efficient, must burn alone. At last the strong-minded female was compelled to give in; fire was obtained - but of bad quality, for it did not stop the murrain.

It has long been known that the rays of the sun might be concentrated by a lens or concave mirror. Aristophanes mentions the burning-lens in The Clouds, and the story of Archimedes using a mirror to fire the ships at Syracuse is familiar to every schoolboy. If Garcilasso de la Vega can be trusted as an authority the Virgins of the Sun in Peru kindled the sacred fire with a concave cup set in a great bracelet. In China the burning-glass is in common use.

To the inquiry how mankind became possessed of fire, the cosmogonies, those records of pristine speculative thought, do not give any reply which would not be found in the relations of travellers and historians.

They say in the Tonga Islands that the god of the earthquakes is likewise the god of fire. At Mangaia it is told that the great Maui went down to hell, where he surprised the secret of making fire by rubbing two pieces of wood together. The Maoris tell the tale differently. Maui had the fire given to him by his old blind grandmother, Mahuika, who drew it from the nails of her hands. Wishing to have a stronger one, he pretended that it had gone out, and so he obtained fire from her great toe. It was so fierce that every thing melted before the glow; even Maui and the grandmother herself were already burning when a deluge, sent from heaven, saved the hero and the perishing world; but before the waters extinguished all the blaze, Mahuika shut a few sparks into some trees, and thence men draw it now. The Maoris have also the legend that thunder is the noise of Tawhaki's footsteps, and that lightnings flash from his armpits. At Western Point, Victoria, the Australians say the good old man Pundyil opened the door of the sun, whose light poured then on earth, and that Karakorok, the good man's good daughter, seeing the earth to be full of serpents, went everywhere destroying serpents; but before she had killed them all, her staff snapped in two, and while it broke, a flame burst out of it. Here the serpent-killer is a fire-bringer. In the Persian Shahnama also fire was discovered by a dragon-fighter. Hushenk, the powerful hero, hurled at the monster a prodigious stone, which, evaded by the snake, struck a rock and was splintered by it. "Light shone from the dark pebble, the heart of the rock flashed out in glory, and fire was seen for the first time in the world." The snake escaped, but the mystery of fire had been revealed.

North American legends narrate how the great buffalo, careering through the plains, makes sparks flit in the night, and sets the prairie ablaze by his hoofs hitting the rocks. We meet the same idea in the Hindu mythology, which conceives thunder to have been, among many other things, the clatter of the solar horses on the Akmon or hard pavement of the sky. The Dakotas claim that their ancestor obtained fire from the sparks which a friendly panther struck with its claws, as it scampered upon a stony hill.

Tohil, who gave the Quiches fire by shaking his sandals, was, like the Mexican Quetzelcoatl, represented by a flint stone. Guamansuri, the father of the Peruvians, produced the thunder and the lightning by hurling stones with his sling. The thunderbolts are his children. Kudai, the great god of the Altaian Tartars, disclosed "the secret of the stone's edge and the iron's hardness." The Slavonian god of thunder was depicted with a silex in his hand, or even protruding from his head. The Lapp Tiermes struck with his hammer upon his own head; the Scandinavian Thor held a mallet in one hand, a flint in the other. Taranis, the Gaul, had upon his head a huge mace surrounded by six little ones. Finnish poems describe how "fire, the child of the sun, came down from heaven, where it was rocked in a tub of yellow copper, in a large pail of gold." Ukko, the Esthonian god, sends forth lightnings, as he strikes his stone with his steel. According to the Kalewala, the same mighty Ukko struck his sword against his nail, and from the nail issued the "fiery babe." He gave it to the Wind's daughter to rock it, but the unwary maiden let it fall in the sea, where it was swallowed by the great pike, and fire would have been lost for ever if the child of the sun had not come to the rescue. He dragged the great pike from the water, drew out his entrails, and found there the heavenly spark still alive. Prometheus brought to earth the torch he had lighted at the sun's chariot.

Human culture may be said to have begun with fire, of which the uses increased in the same ratio as culture itself. To save the labour expended on the initial process of procuring light, or on carrying it about constantly, primitive men hit on the expedient of a fire which should burn night and day in a public building. The Egyptians had one in every temple, the Greeks, Latins and Persians in all towns and villages. The Natchez, the Aztecs, the Mayas, the Peruvians had their "national fires" burning upon large pyramids. Of these fires the "eternal lamps" in the synagogues, in the Byzantine and Catholic churches, may be a survival. The "Regia," Rome's sacred centre, supposed to be the abode of Vesta, stood close to a fountain; it was convenient to draw from the same spot the two great requisites, fire and water. All civil and political interests grouped themselves around the prytaneum which was at once a temple, a tribunal, a town-hall, and a gossiping resort: all public business and most private affairs were transacted by the light and in the warmth of the common fire. No wonder that its flagstones should become sacred. Primitive communities. consider as holy everything that ensures their existence and promotes their welfare, material things such as fire and water not less than others. Thus the prytaneum grew into a religious institution. And if we hear a little more of fire worship than of water worship, it is because fire, being on the whole more difficult to obtain, was esteemed more precious. The prytaneum and the state were convertible terms. If by chance the fire in the Roman temple of Vesta was extinguished, all tribunals, all authority, all public or private business had to stop immediately. The connexion between heaven and earth had been broken, and it had to be restored in some way or other - either by Jove sending down divine lightning on his altars, or by the priests making a new fire by the old sacred method of rubbing two pieces of wood together, or by catching the rays of the sun in a concave mirror. No Greek or Roman army crossed the frontier without carrying an altar where the fire taken from the prytaneum burned night and day. When the Greeks sent out colonies the emigrants took with them living coals from the altar of Hestia,. and had in their new country a fire lit as a representative of that burning in the mother country.' Not before the three curiae united their fires into one could Rome become powerful; and 1 Curiously enough we see the same institution obtaining among the Damaras of South Africa, where the chiefs, who sway their people with a sort of priestly authority, commit to their daughters the care of a so-called eternal fire. From its hearth younger scions separating from the parent stock take away a burning brand to their new home. The use of a common prytaneum, of circular form, like the Roman temple of Vesta, testified to the common origin of the North American Assinais and Maichas. The Mobiles, the Chippewas, the Natchez, had each a corporation of Vestals. If the Natchez let their fire die out, they were bound to renew it from the Mobiles. The Moquis, Pueblos and Comanches had also their perpetual fires. The Redskins discussed important affairs of state at the "council fires," around which each sachem marched three times, turning to it all the sides of his person. "It was a saying among our ancestors," said an Iroquois chief in 1753, "that when the fire goes out at Onondaga"- the Delphi of the league - "` we shall no longer be a people." Athens became a shining light to the world only, we are told, when the twelve tribes of Attica, led by Theseus, brought each its brand to the altar of Athene Polias. All Greece confederated, making Delphi its central hearth; and the islands congregated around Delos, whence the new fire was fetched every year.

Periodic Fires.-Because the sun loses its force after noon, and after midsummer daily shortens the length of its circuit, the ancients inferred, and primitive populations still believe, that, as time goes on, the energies of fire must necessarily decline. Therefore men set about renewing the fires in the temples and on the hearth on the longest day of summer or at the beginning of the agricultural year. The ceremony was attended with much rejoicing, banqueting and many religious rites. Houses were thoroughly cleansed; people bathed, and underwent lustrations and purifications; new clothes were put on; quarrels were made up; debts were paid by the debtor or remitted by the creditor; criminals were released by the civil authorities in imitation of the heavenly judges, who were believed to grant on the same day a general remission of sins. All things were made new; each man turned over a new page in the book of his existence. Some nations, like the Etruscans in the Old World and the Peruvians and Mexicans in the New, carried these ideas to a high degree of development, and celebrated with magnificent ceremonies the renewal of the saecula, or astronomic periods, which might be shorter or longer than a century. Some details of the festival among the Aztecs have been preserved. On the last night of every period (52 years) every fire was extinguished, and men proceeded in solemn procession to some sacred spot, where, with awe and trembling, the priests strove to kindle a new fire by friction. It was as if they had a vague idea that the cosmos, with its sun, moon and stars, had been wound up like a clock for a definite period of time. And had they failed to raise the vital spark, they would have believed that it was because the great fire was being extinguished at the central hearth of the world. The Stoics and many other ancient philosophers thought that the world was doomed to final extinction by fire. The Scandinavian bards sung the end of the world, how at last the wolf Fenrir would get loose, how the cruel fire of Loki would destroy itself by destroying everything. The Essenes enlarged upon this doctrine, which is also found in the Sibylline books and appears in the Apocrypha (2 Esdras xvi. 15).

See Dupuis, Origine de tous les cultes (1794); Burnouf, Science des religions; Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie, cap. xx. (1835); Adalbert Kuhn, Die Herabkunft des Feuers and des Gottertranks (1859) Steinthal, Uber die urspriingliche Form der Sage von Prometheus (1861); Albert Reville, "Le Mythe de Promethee," in Revue des deux mondes (August 1862); Michel Breal, Hercule et Cacus (1863); Tylor, Researches into the Early History of Mankind, ch. ix. (1865); Bachofen, Die Sage von Tanaguil (1870); Lord Avebury, Prehistoric Times (6th ed., 1900); Haug, Religion of the Parsis (1878). (E. RE.)

<< Fir

Fire and fire extinction >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to fire article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Most common English words: towards « friends « forth « #378: fire » lost » human » kept
A large fire.


From Middle English fier < Old English fȳr < Proto-Germanic *fuir < Proto-Indo-European *perjos, *paewr- (fire) This was an inanimate noun, whose animate counterpart was Proto-Indo-European *egni-. Akin to Old Norse fúrr, Danish fyr, Dutch vuur, German Feuer, Ancient Greek πῦρ (pur).




countable and uncountable; plural fires

fire (countable and uncountable; plural fires)

  1. (uncountable) A (usually self-sustaining) chemical reaction involving the bonding of oxygen with carbon or other fuel, with the production of heat and the presence of flame or smouldering.
  2. (countable) Something that has produced or is capable of producing this chemical reaction, such as a campfire.
    We sat around the fire singing songs and telling stories.
  3. (countable) The, often accidental, occurrence of fire in a certain place leading to its full or partial destruction.
    There was a fire at the school last night and the whole place burned down.
    During hot and dry summers many fires in forests are caused by regardlessly discarded cigarette butts.
  4. (uncountable, alchemy) One of the four basic elements.
  5. (India and Japan) One of the five basic elements (see Wikipedia article on the Classical elements).
  6. (countable, British) A heater or stove used in place of a real fire (such as an electric fire).
  7. (countable) The elements necessary to start a fire.
    The fire was laid and needed to be lit.
  8. (uncountable) The in-flight bullets or other projectiles shot from a gun.
    The fire from the enemy guns kept us from attacking.

Derived terms


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.


to fire

Third person singular

Simple past

Past participle

Present participle

to fire (third-person singular simple present fires, present participle firing, simple past and past participle fired)

  1. (transitive) To set (something) on fire.
    • (A date for this quote is being sought): 1898 "Then I slipped up again with a box of matches, fired my heap of paper and rubbish, put the chairs and bedding thereby, led the gas to the affair, by means of an india-rubber tube, and waving a farewell to the room left it for the last time.
    • (A date for this quote is being sought): "You fired the house!" exclaimed Kemp.
    • 1897, H.G. Wells, The Invisible Man Chapter 20,
      "Fired the house. It was the only way to cover my trail—and no doubt it was insured."
  2. (transitive) To heat without setting on fire, as ceramic, metal objects, etc.
    If you fire the pottery at too high a temperature, it may crack.
    They fire the wood to make it easier to put a point on the end.
  3. (transitive) To drive away by setting a fire.
  4. (transitive) To terminate the employment contract of an employee, usually because of the misconduct or poor performance of the employee (as opposed to "make redundant" or "lay off", where the employee’s actions are not the reason for the termination); to expel one from their job.
    She should fire the employee that stole from the company.
  5. (transitive) To shoot (a device that launches a projectile or a pulse of stream of something).
    We will fire our guns at the enemy.
    His fired his radar gun at passing cars.
  6. (intransitive) To shoot a gun, a cannon or a similar weapon.
    Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes.
  7. (intransitive, physiology) To cause an action potential in a cell.
    When a neuron fires, it transmits information.
  8. (transitive) To forcibly direct.
    He answered the questions the reporters fired at him.
    His nail gun fired about twenty roofing nails a minute.



  • (to terminate the employment): hire

Derived terms


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

External links


Crimean Tatar



  1. shrinkage, loss
  2. scrap


Etymology 1

From Old Norse fjórir, from Proto-Germanic *petwōr, from Proto-Indo-European *kʷetwóres (four).


  • IPA: /fiːrə/, [ˈfiːɐ]



  1. (cardinal) four

Etymology 2

From Middle Low German fīren, from French virer (bear, veer).


  • IPA: /fiːrə/, [ˈfiːɐ]


fire (imperative fir, infinitive at fire, present tense firer, past tense firede, past participle har firet)

  1. to slacken, to ease.


Cardinal number


  1. (cardinal) Four.

Derived terms


å fire (present tense firer; past tense fira/firet/firte; past participle fira/firet/firt; present participle firende)

  1. slacken, ease.



fire n. pl.

  1. Plural form of fir. threads, strings


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Outdoor Survival/Fire article)

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

< Outdoor Survival

Start the fire first with tinder, then add small twigs (wire size), then pencil size twigs, then thumb size twigs. Keep the fire small so that you aren't wasting valuable energy gathering firewood all the time. However if gathering wood is easy big fires attract attention. Burn whole logs without cutting them by just sliding them into the fire as they burn (the whole log will not catch fire).

Don't fear rain. Rainwater is just on the outside, and this does not mean that wood is sodden through. Green wood and young branches are "wet," and won't ignite readily, but any kind of wood will eventually burn on a hot enough fire. If it looks like a heavy downpour is coming, build a roof over your fire using one or two big logs about a foot (30cm) above the coals.

  • Paper, cardboard, or unneeded cloth can be easy to start on fire
  • Use small twigs from under the main canopy of the tree as tinder. (If they don't break off easily, they are still green.)
  • Dry pine needles work great to start fires and give off lots of smoke.
  • Rubbing bark between your hands until it is fluffy also makes excellent tinder
  • Cattails easily catch on fire.
  • If stranded in a vehicle, siphon out some gas or oil.

If you don't have matches:

  • The old "fire-bow" trick is very hard work even under the best circumstances
  • Fire can be started with a glass lens from a magnifying glass, mirror, binoculars, and the polished bottom of a soda can. (Most eyeglasses will not work.)
  • The reflector of a (broken) car headlight can be used to concentrate sunlight and start a fire. Place tinder where the filament is and point the lamp at the sun. Same with a flashlight reflector.
  • Flint and steel works but you must practice with it first.

Lately many new products have become available:

  • Two-part chemical fire starters work fairly well and work even in the rain
  • Magnesium fire starters work well but practice with them first

Some other ideas

  • a tealight candle works wonders.
  • If you have a 9 volt battery and a bit of steel wool, hold the steel wool against the battery's terminals and it will spark and start the steel wool burning.
  • Just for fun ( be careful with frost bite for this one) but you can actually start a fire by melting a piece of ice with your hands into a lens and using it to start a fire. However Mythbusters showed this does not work.
  • Be creative

To coax a struggling fire into a healthy blaze, fan it or blow on the coals. A flap of cardboard makes an ideal fan. Be careful not to blow it out.

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

  1. For sacred purposes. The sacrifices were consumed by fire (Gen 8:20). The ever-burning fire on the altar was first kindled from heaven (Lev 6:9, Lev 6:13; Lev 9:24), and afterwards rekindled at the dedication of Solomon's temple (2Chr 7:1, 2Chr 7:3). The expressions "fire from heaven" and "fire of the Lord" generally denote lightning, but sometimes also the fire of the altar was so called (Ex 29:18; Lev 1:9; Lev 2:3; Lev 3:5, Lev 3:9). Fire for a sacred purpose obtained otherwise than from the altar was called "strange fire" (Lev 10:1, Lev 10:2; Num 3:4). The victims slain for sin offerings were afterwards consumed by fire outside the camp (Lev 4:12, Lev 4:21; Lev 6:30; Lev 16:27; Heb 13:11).
  2. For domestic purposes, such as baking, cooking, warmth, etc. (Jer 36:22; Mk 14:54; Jn 18:18). But on Sabbath no fire for any domestic purpose was to be kindled (Ex 35:3; Num 15:32 Num 15:33 Num 15:34 Num 15:35 Num 15:36.
  3. Punishment of death by fire was inflicted on such as were guilty of certain forms of unchastity and incest (Lev 20:14; Lev 21:9). The burning of captives in war was not unknown among the Jews (2 Sam 12:31; Jer 29:22). The bodies of infamous persons who were executed were also sometimes burned (Josh 7:25; 2Kg 23:16).
  4. In war, fire was used in the destruction of cities, as Jericho (Josh 6:24), Ai (Josh 8:19), Hazor (Josh 11:11), Laish (Jdg 18:27), etc. The war-chariots of the Canaanites were burnt (Josh 11:6, Josh 11:9, {Josh|11|13}}). The Israelites burned the images (2Kg 10:26; (pillars) of the house of Baal. These objects of worship seem to have been of the nature of obelisks, and were sometimes evidently made of wood. Torches were sometimes carried by the soldiers in battle (Jdg 7:16).
  5. Figuratively, fire is a symbol of Jehovah's presence and the instrument of his power (Ex 14:19; Num 11:1, Num 11:3; Jdg 13:20; 1 Kg 18:38; 2Kg 1:10, 2Kg 1:12; 2Kg 2:11; Isa 6:4; Ezek 1:4; Rev 1:14, etc.). God's word is also likened unto fire (Jer 23:29). It is referred to as an emblem of severe trials or misfortunes (Zech 12:6; Lk 12:49; 1Cor 3:13, 1Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7), and of eternal punishment (Mt 5:22; Mk 9:44; Rev 14:10; Rev 21:8). The influence of the Holy Ghost is likened unto fire (Mt 3:11). His descent was denoted by the appearance of tongues as of fire (Acts 2:3).
This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

what mentions this? (please help by turning references to this page into wiki links)

This article needs to be merged with FIRE (Jewish Encyclopedia).

Simple English

A large fire

[[File:|thumb|150px|A match on fire]] Fire is a chemical reaction that gives off light and heat. It is one of the most familiar examples of the chemical process of oxidation.[needs proof]


= Safety

= Fire is very hot. It should never be touched, for it may burn anything that gets too close. If touched with human skin, the skin may blister which can take some time to heal. If a fire occurs you should cover your mouth with a cold cloth because if you breathe in too much smoke you can faint.


Fire can be very useful if it is treated carefully. It has always been very important for people to be able to make fire, because people need its heat on cold days, or its light in darkness, or its heat for cooking.

Destructive Uses

If fire is not treated carefully, it can be very dangerous. A fire that got out of control once destroyed 17,400 km²,an area the size of New York City, in the United States[needs proof]. Forests can burn down if fires are not controlled. Every year, large areas of forests are destroyed because of fire, particularly in Europe. This usually happens in summer. Firefighters are people with special training to stop fires, or to keep a fire under control.

Fire needs three things to burn: oxygen, fuel, and heat. Fuels can be wood, tinder, coal, or any other substance that will easily oxidize. Once a fire is burning, it creates its own heat, which allows the fire to keep burning on its own for some time.


A fire can be stopped in three different ways, by removing any of the three things it needs to burn:

  • The fuel can be removed. If a fire burns through all of its fuel and extra nearby fuel is removed, the fire will stop burning.
  • The oxygen can be removed. This is called "smothering" a fire. Fires cannot burn in a vacuum or if they are covered in carbon dioxide.
  • The heat can be removed. The most common way to remove heat is to use water to absorb that heat, putting the fire out.


Fires are usually combustion reactions that take carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.[needs proof] The products are very commonly water, and carbon dioxide, although there are other examples that avoid this generalization, such as burning magnesium in air, which makes magnesium oxide. Fires can occur in many ways and there are many types of fire which, if not treated correctly, can cause total devastation. There are wood fires, gas fires, metal fires, and more.

Wood fires can usually be put out with water used to absorb the heat, but metal fires are too hot for water to absorb enough heat to put out the fire. If water is used to extinguish ("put out") a metal fire, the water will simply evaporate. For metal fires, sand can be used to cover the fire and choke it off from obtaining oxygen. A fire extinguisher can put out most fires.

Simple English Wiktionary has the word meaning for:

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