How Does A Fire Spread?

To enable DB Fire Safety to evaluate the risk to people in your premises, I thought you would be interested to hear the way fire can spread. There are three ways this can happen; convention, conduction and radiation.

Convection: First of all, let's cover convection which is the most dangerous and causes the most deaths and injuries. When a firestarts in an enclosed space. such as, for instance, a residential care home, the smoke rises and is trapped by the ceiling.  The smoke has to go somewhere and will spread in all directions.  An ever-deepening layer will form and eventually cover the entire room space. Smoke will pass through any holes or gaps in the walls, ceiling and floor leaching out into other parts of the building. As you can imagine, the heat from the fire then gets trapped in the building and the temperature rises.

Conduction Secondly, conduction. Certain materials are perfect conductors of heat.  Metal shutters and ducting, can absorb heat and transmit this heat to adjoining rooms and corridors.  There is the possibility that combustible items in contact with the heated material will also catch fire.

Radiation Last of all, we have radiation. Radiation heats the air very much in the same way as an electric bar heater heats a room.  Any close combustible material will absorb the heat, it will then start to smoulder and eventually burn.


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As a result of a building fire, we hear that the casualties have been taken to hospital because of smoke inhalation. You might be thinking that this isn't so bad.  But this isn't the case because smoke contains toxic gases which are injurious to people. A building with modern fittings and materials generates smoke that is thick and black.  The smoke will obscure vision and will cause great difficulty in breathing.

With vision impaired, it will be very difficult for people to find the escape routes.  For this reason, it's essential that the means of escape, together with other fire precautions, are adequate to ensure that everyone can escape to a place of total safety before the fire and its effects take hold and trap them inside the building.


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To arrange a fire risk assessment, please contact Peterborough based DB Fire Safety Limited

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