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Carbonized Wood Ignition Determined in 4-Alarm Fire

Issue 6 and Volume 134.

Carbonized Wood Ignition Determined in 4-Alarm Fire features —Milwaukee Sentinel photo. “Pyrophoric” literally means “air burning.” It refers to the tendency of certain materials to take fire spontaneously upon exposure to air without any other specific ignition source. This isn’t quite the same way that spontaneous combustion takes place in hay, rags, or metal turnings, with which most fire fighters are familiar. In these cases, chemical reactions with little air present can build up surprisingly high temperature within a closely packed mass of material until the normal ignition point is reached and active combustion begins. A pyrophoric material, on the other hand, need never reach a high ignition temperature. It is in such a state of potential chemical reactivity that its mere exposure to air of normal temperature will begin the burning process. One such material is metallic sodium. Another is the silane gas used in the manufacture of some…

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