Ways That Fire Can Spread Around Your Building

One of the biggest threats to a building and the people inside it is a fire. Fires destroy everything in their path and can spread quickly through a building. It is important to be aware of the reasons fire spreads, so you can perform fire risk assessment to prevent it from happening in the first place.

In order for a fire to occur, three things are necessary:

  1. Heat – The temperature must be hot enough to cause ignition, such as a spark.
  2. Oxygen – this enables the fire to burn and is in ample supply as it is literally all around us.
  3. Fuel – Any liquid, gaseous or solid material which can fuel a fire.

As long as there is sufficient fuel and oxygen present and a heat source to cause an ignition, a fire will continue to burn. As it burns, large amounts of heat are produced which will flow from regions of high temperature to regions of low temperature. It is this transfer of heat which enables it to spread at varying rates.

What are the methods in which heat can be transferred?


The heat from a fire can be transferred via conduction and start a new fire somewhere else. Conduction happens as the heat from the fire is passed from molecule to molecule along the length of a material. Some materials are better at conducting heat than others: metals conduct heat easily and quickly and are called conductors, whilst some plastics are very poor at conducting heat and are called insulators.

Insulating materials are used as building materials to keep the heat inside buildings during cold weather and to prevent fires from spreading.


This type of heat transfer occurs in liquids and gases. Fires heat the air around them to a very high temperature. This hot air rises, flowing through ceilings and spreading the heat from the fire. This is the main way in which fires spread around houses so quickly. Once one room has a fire, hot air currents can travel through an entire house relatively quickly, igniting more fires.


Through radiation, heat doesn’t travel through any solid material, or through air or liquid currents. Instead, it travels in straight lines away from the fire, similar to the way the sun’s rays move away form the sun. The heat from the rays can heat nearby combustible material which can cause a fire. The closer the material is to the fire, the more heat it will absorb and the quicker a fire can start.

In some cases, the heat radiating from one burning building is enough to make a nearby building catch fire. In this way an unchecked fire can spread from house to house indefinitely.

Fire is a serious threat to safety in any building, so it is important you have fire safety equipment in place, such as fire and smoke curtains, as well as safety shutters. Manchester based Sheridan Doors can provide fire safety equipment for numerous building types to suit any needs.