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Road transport

Fire engines and firefighters

Firefighters tackling a blazeFirefighters tackling a blazeFirefighting is the job of extinguishing (putting out) fires. People who fight fires are called firefighters. The first thing firefighters do is to look for the origin of the fire (where the fire is coming from). They also search for trapped people and any damage to the building’s structure that could cause a collapse. A fire engine is a vehicle designed for firefighting operations. It transports firefighters to the scene, provides water with which to fight it and carries equipment such as ladders, breathing apparatus, first aid kits and rescue tools.

Using a deluge gun to put out a fireUsing a deluge gun to put out a fire

Firefighting with water

For a fire to burn, it needs to have heat, oxygen and fuel. In order to extinguish a fire, at least one of these needs to be taken away. One of the most common methods of firefighting is to spray the fire with water. As soon as the water hits the fire, it turns to water vapour, or steam. This steam fills the air, leaving little space for oxygen. Without oxygen, the fire cannot burn, and so it dies out. At the same time, water helps to cool down the site of the fire, reducing the heat in the air and stopping it from spreading.

In the 19th century, settlers on the American Plains lit small fires on their land to try to burn up any flammable material before a wildfire reached them. These fires were called “backfires”. But they often got out of control, causing just as much damage as a wildfire would have done. This led to the popular use of the word “backfired” to describe something that has not gone to plan.

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