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Image of a triangle showing water and fire and a caption that reads: Oxygen, Heat, and Fuel.Fire Science: Combustion
Combustion is the process by which something burns. Combustion requires three things: fuel (burnable material), oxygen, and heat. Combustion is a chemical reaction between a carbon-containing fuel and oxygen in the atmosphere. The equation for this chemical reaction is: 6 O2 + C6H12O6 ------> 6 H2O + 6 CO2. To start and continue, the reaction requires heat. The process of combustion can be simply written as fuel + oxygen + heat. These three requirements for combustion are often referred to as the fire triangle (see figure to the right).

The fire triangle illustrates the three key components that keep a fire burning. A fire only keeps burning if it has enough fuel, oxygen, and heat. Fuel is any substance that can burn. For example, gasoline, paper, candle wax, and trees all burn. Therefore they are all fuels. When a fuel burns it releases chemical energy. This energy can be seen in the form of light and felt in the form of heat. The hot light that results from the process of combustion is called a flame.

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