How and Why Fires Burn: The Secret of Fire
By Khrishnav Parasuraman
While there are many myths that explain the creation of fire or use it in stories, only scientists and those who study fire are able to tell why fire burns and how it works. Here is one Greek myth about fire. One day, the gods took fire away from the people. But then Prometheus ( a hero) stole it back. In punishment, the gods chained him up. Every day an eagle would feed on him. That is the Greek myth. But that story still doesn’t tell why fire burns. It only tells how fire was created.
Some Greeks thought it was a basic element of the universe like air and water. “Now scientists use the word “element” to describe the most basic types of matter. Scientists now say that fire does not qualify.”
Fire gets its color from combustion. During combustion, the atoms rearrange themselves irreversibly. For a fire to burn it needs oxygen, fuel, and heat. So it would be almost impossible to start a fire on a planet like Mars or Venus because they don’t have a lot of oxygen.
There are many ways to light fires. One way is applying a lot of friction to a match. Another way is lightning.
Almost anything can burn. This usually creates the flame. Wood is partially made of carbon. So when lightning strikes it the carbon atoms quickly go to join the oxygen atoms. This is what creates the smoke when a fire burns.
When extra carbon atoms get hot they create colors in the fire.