Monday, 7 March 2016

Fire is a fantastic medium for learning and communication!

School Outdoor Learning provide resources, training and solutions to enable schools to fully engage with and utilise their outdoor environments.

How to Light and Use Fire Safely

Lighting, using and enjoying fire is a fundamental part of being in an outdoor environment whether it be for warmth, cooking on or simply enjoying during discussion, storytelling and review of activities. It can also form a valuable part of science based teaching and learning for pupils of all ages.

We recommend you locate a site and spend time designing and installing a safe environment for lighting fires together with a set of guidelines for effective and safe practice for pupils and staff. The following document is designed as a sample but can be tailored to your school site and the activities you may be doing with your pupils. Spend time modifying this to produce your own version.

Spend time designing and building a safe enclosure for your fire that will protect children from being harmed and any fire spreading or hot items escaping. We recommend a proper stone or log circle that will act as a barrier to any spread.
Tie back or tuck in any loose hair or clothing before lighting.
Ensure that you are not wearing any flammable clothing (plastic or nylons) before you light it.
You should have the following items easy to hand near to the fire:
·         Emergency bucket of water
·         First aid kit – including cooling gels and dressings for applying to any burns
·         Fire blanket – to smother an out of control fire or a person on fire
·         A bucket of sand for extinguishing or cooling down or suppressing the fire
If you are in an area where the ground is porous and dry there could be a risk of ground fire and the fire spreading underground to tree roots and other plants. If this is the case, consider placing paving slabs or aggregate in the base of the fire pit/circle to insulate against the heat.
A cauldron or other portable metal container can also be a safe, low cost and versatile means of creating fire outdoors.

The Science of Fire
The ‘Fire Triangle’ clearly shows the elements required to make a fire ignite and burn – Heat, Fuel and Oxygen.

Heat – the energy provided by ignition from a spark, flame or friction.
Fuel – material for burning such as paper, card, wood, coal or charcoal which supplies energy.
Oxygen – usually provided naturally from the air. More oxygen can be injected to feed the fire by blowing carefully in to the base or fanning gently.

The following steps, if followed, will result in a successfully lit fire – good for you and your students!
1.       Place tinder at the bottom on the fire base. Items such as dried leaves or grass, birch bark, thin dead wood, pine needles, wood shavings etc. You can also use man made products such as paper, cloth, cotton wool, newspaper. Fluff up the tinder to allow plenty of air into it.
2.       Onto this place kindling (small sticks or thin sections of wood) in a tripod/pyramid shape above the tinder so that it forms a small self-supporting structure.
3.       Build up with slightly larger sections of kindling – but still quite thin sticks (the width of your little finger) at this stage. Beyond this sections of slightly larger kindling and bark in long strips can work well.
4.       Light the tinder and allow it to alight the kindling. Gradually add larger kindling and ensure that it is burning well before you add fuel such as logs and larger sticks. Either add in a tripod configuration or lay logs in parallel with separate layers at right angles to each other to create space for air to move and aid the burning process. 
5.       Add fuel as required. Do this from a low position and to the side of the fire. Ensure that all materials are as dry as they can be to prevent too much smoke being created.

Removing any one or more of the 3 elements from the fire triangle will extinguish the fire.
·         Fuel can be removed by allowing it to be consumed or removing manually using tongs. Spreading out the embers can also be effective in reducing the heat.
·         Heat can be removed by dousing with water which creates steam. Be careful to do this gently as it can have an explosive effect, particularly if added too quickly. Do not pour water onto hot stones around the fire as this can cause them to shatter or explode.
·         Oxygen can be removed by smothering or enclosing the fire using sand or a fire blanket.

To prevent re-ignition, you will ideally stay with the fire until it has burned out. If this is not possible then spread out the hot embers as much as possible and use plenty of water pouring from the outside towards the centre. Scrape hot embers off logs with a poker or tongs. Poke holes in the ground with a stick to allow the water to penetrate the hot ground.

Useful Hints and Tips
Spend time collecting lots of good dry tinder and kindling. Spend time drying out all your materials if required for a few days before hand. Standing dead wood (i.e. the dead small branches from nearby trees) is useful as it is often dryer than dead wood found at ground level.

Adding Oxygen
It’s often useful to add in more oxygen. This can be done in quite a controlled way by blowing gently into the base of the fire. Do this from an upwind position and ensure that all loose hair and clothing is tucked in first. The alternative is to use a flat piece of wood or card (the size of a dinner plate at least) to gently fan the flames to create added oxygen.

Floating Embers
Be careful about small embers that can leave the fire and travel to land on people or other flammable objects and ignite them. Paper used to light the fire is often a cause of this hazard so ensure that it is scrunched up tightly before using as fuel.

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