Causes of fire outbreak and its effects on man and its environment


Fire disaster has become a complex term in fire warming system response and its mitigation. Erickson (2000) noted that fire as an important element in life is one of the greatest discoveries of the early man. It has several advantages to man, but its disadvantages must not be overlooked. It could be seen from different bitter examples that what takes several years to build up can be destroyed by fire within seconds. Newton (2015) stated that this same invaluable friend (fire) could be dangerous and devastating if not well handled with care, he went further to say that it has claimed huge sum of money from countries and also valuable assets and cost lives.

What is fire?

According to the America Heritage Dictionary (2nd edition) fire is a rapid, persistent chemical reaction that releases heat and light, especially the exothermic combination of a combustible with oxygen.

Olojoba and Unuraye (2005) opined that fire is a rapid combination of heat, fuel and oxygen at their appropriate proportion or it is the interaction of combustible substances in oxygen at appropriate concentration or it is the interaction of combustible substance in oxygen at appropriate temperature resulting in the production of flame.

From the definition above, we can deduce that three elements must be present for fire to occur and these elements include; fuel heat and oxygen. These elements are termed elements of combustion and it is represented below diagrammatically as the triangle of combustion.

Element of combustion

According to Newton (2015) there are four (4) major classes of fire and they include;

  1. Class A fire: These are fire involving solid materials normally of an organic nature e.g. wood, paper, textile, furniture etc. This type of fire normally leaves residues.
  2. Class B fire: These are fire involving all flammable liquids or liquefiable solids e.g. petrol, kerosene, cooking oil, paints etc.
  3. Class C fire: These are fire involving all liquefiable combustible gases e.g. cooking gas, hydrogen sulphide, methane, etc.
  4. Class D fire: They include all fires involving metals like magnesium, potassium, copper, aluminum, sodium, etc.

Causes of fire outbreak

Premium Times Newspaper Tuesday September 29th 2015 spotted some of the causes of fire outbreaks which includes:

  1. Smoking in bed or beside flammable substances.
  2. Re-ignite cigarettes not properly extinguished.
  3. Faulty wiring and reckless use of electrical appliances.
  4. Children playing with matches.
  5. Careless use of candles.
  6. Storage of hazardous chemicals and other flammable materials around residential premises.
  7. The use of cheap and defective equipment.
  8. Pouring fuel or kerosene in generators or lamps they are still on.
  9. Falling asleep while cooking etc.

Effects of fire outbreak

Fire outbreaks have lots of effects on both man and its environment. Some of those effects include;

  1. Loss of life: It is on record that a lot of fire accidents claim lives which affect the population of a country and render most women widow and children fatherless.
  2. Loss of information: Fire outbreak that affects offices might lead to lost and destruction of confidential files.
  3. Loss of facilities: Most fire infernos leave many facilities destroyed and lots of properties destroyed.
  4. Accidents: As a result of smoke production during fire outbreaks, it may inhibit visibility and cause accidents.
  5. Liberation of gases: During fire outbreaks, gases that are dangerous to man and the ecosystem are liberated e.g. carbon dioxide, hydrogen oxide, etc.
  6. Destruction of natural vegetation: Fire disaster lead to the destruction of the natural vegetation of our environment.
  7. Destruction of plants and animals: Fire disaster lead to the destruction of animals and plants thereby resulting to their extinction.
  8. Air pollution: The evolvement of gases during fire outbreaks can lead to air pollution.
  9. Nutrient loss: As a result of inferno in forest Lands, most essential nutrients can be lost during the process.
  10. Greenhouse effects: Gases liberated during fire outbreaks can lead to green house effects.

Unuraye (2007) stated that the reduction in the production and destruction of facilities many persons are therefore thrown into the labor market as such incidents rub them of their jobs.

The service of fire fighters during outbreak of fire

According to Terri (2008) fire fighters are rescuers, extensively trained primarily to put off dangerous infernos that threaten civilian population and properties, to rescue people from car accidents, collapse and burning building and other such situation. The increasing complexity of modern industrialized life with an increase in the scale of hazard has stimulated both advances in fire fighting technology and a bordering of firefighters.  They sometimes provide Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The fire services or fire and rescue services also known in some country as fire brigade or fire department are some of the emergency services. Fire fighting and fire fighters have become ambitious around the world, from wild land areas to urban areas and on board ships.

Qualities of an efficient fire station

According to Park (2005) and Obomeokpere (2015) the following are the major attributes of good fire service stations;

  1. It must have a standard training school for its personnel.
  2. It must have adequate facilities and equipments including cars, offices, fire fighting equipments etc.
  3. It must possess a regular water supply
  4. It must have the ability to respond quickly to calls.
  5. It must have the ability to bring dangerous situation under control.
  6. It must have a functional communication gadget for effective communication.
  7. It must be able to maintain their duty vehicle regularly.

Prevention of fire outbreak

Premium Time Magazine 29 Tuesday 2015 publication highlighted the following as publication tips for fire outbreaks.

  1. Never leave cooking pots and pans unattended even for a shot while and chemicals in safe places.
  2. Store hazardous materials such as liquid and gases paints and chemicals in safe places.
  3. Never leave burning candles unattended and avoid placing them near air vent, plastic, carpet etc.
  4. Always put off kerosene lamps and generator before refilling its tanks.
  5. Never forget to turn off and unplug your electrical appliances after use.
  6. Avoid placing flammable substances near sources of heating like the store, fire place or furnace.
  7. Keep matches and other fire ignited means out of reach of children.
  8. Ensure proper wiring of your house by certified electrical engineers.
  9. Avoid falling asleep while cooking.


Principle of fire extinguishment

The methods of fire extinguishment are based on fee principles in accordance with the three element of combustion as depicted in the diagram below.

(Source: Obomeokpere, 2015).

The methods used to cutoff the element in the triangle of combustion are:

  1. Cooling
  2. Starvation
  3. Smothering.
  4. Cooling: Cooling is the reduction of heat below ignition temperature by application of water or cooling agent onto a burning substance.
  5. Starvation: This is the removal or limitation of fuel supply to fire e.g. shutting off a gas supply, draining of fuel from burning oil tanks throwing away combustible materials from a house boat.
  6. Smothering: Smothering is the cutting off or reducing the supply of oxygen to the fire. The application of smothering process can involve:
  • Covering burning cooking oil with a non-combustible lid.
  • Use of fire blanket
  • Use of dry chemical powder (DCP)
  • Use of foam.
  • Use of dry sand etc.,


With the data collected and my findings in this seminar look, one can conclude that lives can be saved, losses can be reduced and human suffering can also be prevented if accurate measure mention or enlisted in this seminar work can be adhered to.


Having investigated the cause and effects of fire outbreaks, therefore recommend the following measures to improve safety standard in the society.

  1. The federal and state government should equip fire station with fire engine, utility, vehicles, water, tankers, and fire hydrants.  
  2. There should be sufficient length of water losses and with functional telephone line including basic radio equipment for easy communication.
  3. Traders should be health educated on how to dispose of already smoke cigarette properly.
  4. Fire service stations should carry out periodical safety inspection in our society to check what could cause fire outbreak.
  5. All electrical wiring should be done with certified electrical engineer.


America Heritage Dictionary (5th ed.) (2011). Houghton Mifflin: William Morris.

Erickson (2000). Environmental Health and Safety (3rd ed.) Massachusetts: Ama Marw College Press.

Elliot (2000). Fire Prevention and Control (3rd ed.) Lagos: Macmillan.

Larry (1999). Fire Disaster and Preparedness. Ibadan: National Academic Press.

Larry, C. (2001). Incidence of Outbreaks in Nigeria, Lagos: Government        Press.

Obomeokpere, N. (2015). Public Utility and Environmental Issues, EHT 316 [Lecture Note]. Ofuoma-Ughelli: Delta State College of Health Technology, Department of Environmental Health.

National Fire Protection Association (2014). Cause and prevention of fire outbreaks, (15)(4), retrieved on 12th September, 2015 from

Olojoba,  A. O and Unuraye, L. O. (2005). Review of Occupational Safety and Environmental Health Management (pp. 124) Ughelli: Ama Ohoror Press.

Premium Times Magazine Tuesday September 29th 2015

Unuraye, L. O. (2007). Issues in Health Safety and Environmental Concepts and Approach. Ughelli: Multi Complex.

Vanguard Newspaper (2015, 18th April). Fire outbreaks in Ogbe Ijoh main market. Retrieved on 12th September, 2015 from

World Health Organization (WHO) (1999). Report on Evaluation of strategy of HFA 2009 vol 4. (global review). Geneva: WHO.

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