Nigel wants to find out what really happens in a house fire – by setting a house on fire. The science of fires is well known. What surprises Nigel is the speed at which a wooden structure is transformed into a blazing inferno.
The big thing that the science of fire teaches us is that the fire will always win. So get out.Nigel Latta
Nigel Latta Blows Stuff Up
Watch Series 1/Episode 5: Fire
Science ideas and concepts in Episode 5: Fire
In between the drama and humour, Nigel introduces a number of important science concepts. This episode explores:
- combustion is a chemical reaction that requires fuel, oxygen and heat
- fire is the visible effect of combustion
- smoke occurs when there is incomplete combustion
- heat energy is the result of moving particles.
Resources on the Science Learning Hub provide an in-depth – and safer – means to further explore these concepts. Check out the ideas and activities below or access the detailed . It is a Word document – usable as it is or easily modified to suit student learning needs. on fire
Fire requires fuel, oxygen and heat
Nigel explains that our homes are like giant petrol bombs. The synthetic materials in lounge furniture, curtains and carpets provide a fuel source similar to 35 litres of petrol. Oxygen is in the air. Once heat is added, our homes can burn very quickly.
Combustion is a chemical reaction that requires fuel, oxygen and heat. Fire is the visible effect of combustion. Our homes provide plenty of fuel and oxygen. Add heat in the form of a burning cigarette or cooking pot, and fire is the result.
Learn more about fire
The following articles provide information about the science of fire (combustion), how it behaves and how we can reduce its destructiveness.
What is fire?
Slowing the burning
Nigel comments on the thickness and darkness of smoke and how quickly it builds up. His advice is, “Get down, keep low and get out.”
Smoke occurs when there is incomplete combustion. Nearly 75% of home fire victims die from smoke inhalation rather than the fire. Smoke’s dangers come from toxicity, obscured visibility and the risk of flashovers.
Learn more about smoke
Read about the chemistry of smoke, its dangers and why some fires give off copious amounts of smoke whereas other fires have no smoke at all.
What is smoke?
This activity uses images and information to investigate smoke as a source of air pollution. It is suitable for upper primary level and above.
Sources and effects of air pollution
Heat energy and moving particles
Nature of science
Scientific investigations usually involve some form of measurement. Nigel uses the quirky, yet effective, flamingomometer heat detection array to measure the radiant heat coming from the burning house.
Nigel tells us, “All matter has heat because matter is made of molecules and heat is made when molecules move.”
Heat energy is the result of particle movement, and heat energy is transferred from one object to another. All heat energy is transferred by convection, conduction and radiation. Nigel shows us the effect of radiant heat with his melting ‘flamingomometer heat detection array’.
Find out what billions of colliding particles have to do with fires, the three ways a log fire can heat up the room and why plastic flamingos should not sit close to a fire.
Visit the New Zealand Fire Service website to access Get Firewise resources and to play the Get Out, Stay Out fire escape game.
Use literacy resources from the School Journal to learn more about fire safety.
Fire fighter! Part 4 Number 2 1992
Fire callout Part 2 Number 4 1996
111 – emergency! Part 3 Number 2 1992
Learn more about School Journal.