Chemical Substances and Fires

Issue 12 and Volume 87.

Chemical Substances and Fires FIRE is man’s most important external chemical reaction. The intelligent use of fire and heat has raised man from savagery to civilization. Only when fire is out of control is it a menace to society. In order to prevent the latter catastrophy, it will be necessary to discuss some of the fundamental chemical principles that control this reaction. We all know that the reaction of oxygen with a combustible substance (oxidation) gives off heat (exothermic reaction). This heat may be given off in several ways, but at least some of the heat of reaction goes to raise the temperature of the substance being oxidized. It is a general rule in chemistry that the rate of a reaction doubles every 18° F. rise in temperature. Thus if we have a slow oxidation going on at room temperature, about 70° F., and the temperature is increased to 88°…

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