What is the fire triangle?


Published: July 15, 2021

Fire triangle.

The fire triangle, also known as the combustion triangle, shows the 3 elements needed to create a fire.

Those three elements are:

  • Fuel -  combustible materials such as wood, petroleum and spirits 

  • Heat - can be from lighting a match, machinery which has heated up, or flammable materials close to heated devices

  • Oxygen - needed to sustain the combustion reaction 


The fire triangle is used commonly as a form of basic fire safety training, as it simply shows the 3 elements required for a fire to ignite, as well as how to stop a fire once it has broken out.

Fire triangle facts

  • The air feeding the fire only needs to consist of 16% oxygen in order to react with the heat and the fuel
  • Solid fuels must reach a critical temperature in order to ignite
  • Gases are the most hazardous and temperamental state, and have the propensity to combust immediately
  • Heat sources include the Sun, hot surfaces, electrical energy, friction and sparks

Why is the fire triangle important?

It is vital to be aware of the fire triangle, as understanding the basics of how fires occur allow you to keep your premises safe from fire.

Learning about the fire triangle is a good method of comprehending the 3 elements of fire, and is a component which acts as the foundations of firefighting education.

The basics of fire triangle learning is based upon the premise of keeping fuel sources and ignition sources separate from each other.

Fire extinguisher with triangle object.

What are the 3 stages of fire?

  • Incipient phase

This initial phase refers to the phase in which there is plentiful amounts of oxygen, and Co2, CO, SO2 gases are produced.

  • Free burning phase

The free burning stage is when materials or structures are being burned when there is adequate oxygen for them to do so.

  • Smoldering

The final stage is the phase of burning in which the flame dissipates, but the smoke and heat remain, and will completely fill a confined space.

How do you break the fire triangle?

To break the fire triangle, one of the 3 elements must be removed. This can be done by:

  • Cooling by water (not suitable for electric fires)
  • Starving the oxygen
  • Smothering the oxygen with a fire blanket

Further resources about workplace fire safety, including how best you can protect your Northamptonshire business can be found here:

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