Appendix III: Review of Basic Fire Hazards

Industrial fire hazards are generally categorized into four groups: (i) Ignition Sources, (ii) Materials, (iii) Building Hazards and, most importantly, (iv) Personnel Hazards.

Ignition Sources:

All forms and types of energy can be considered a potential ignition source. Some frequent types of ignition sources found in industry are:

  • Open flames
  • Electrical wiring / devices
  • Smoking
  • Heat sources / Hot surfaces
  • Welding and cutting
  • Friction
  • Sparks and Arcs
  • Static sparks
  • Chemical reactions
  • Gas Compression


There are few materials that will not ignite and burn. Materials in a liquid, gas, or vapor state are typically more ignitable than solid fuels. Materials are rated by their combustibility and their ability to ignite and burn. Information is readily accessible to determine a materials-combustibility rating. Some common types of combustible materials found in industry are:

  • Wood
  • Cloth
  • Plastics
  • Fuels
  • Paints
  • Solvents
  • Cleaning fluids
  • Hydraulic fluids

Building Hazards:

Fire can spread rapidly through a building, causing major structural failure of roofs and walls. Depending on a building's design, fires can travel horizontally and vertically. Listed below are examples of how fire can travel throughout a building:

  • Horizontal Travel
    • Doorways
    • Hallways
    • Ceiling spaces
    • Floor spaces
    • Utility openings
    • Conveyor shafts
  • Vertical Travel
    • Stairways
    • Elevator shafts
    • Material shafts
    • Utility openings
    • Conveyor shafts

The building's structural materials will determine its ability to withstand a fire. Structural framing of wood is considered to have a limited resistance to fire. Steel members are subject to significant structural decreases at low fire temperatures unless they are protected by enclosures or treated with fire-resistive chemical coatings.

Personnel Hazards:

The primary fire hazards to personnel are escape routes to safety. The following considerations must be examined in determining the best methods of escape:

  • Travel distance to an exit
  • Illumination of exiting paths
  • Number and arrangement of exits
  • Identification of exits
  • Exit pathways
  • Exit doors
  • Exit capacities
  • Stairwells

Back to Table of Contents


Table of Contents

Getting Started
Survey Checklists

Reference Guide

Appendix I
Sources of Information & Assistance

Appendix II

Appendix III
Review of Basic Fire Hazards

Appendix IV
Facility Survey

Appendix V
Selected NFPA Reference Codes

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