Posted on 03. Jul, 2008 by The Gimcracker in Amazing, Science
I have been inspired by the 4th of July to post about fire-related phenomena, seeing as how millions of (probably drunk) people are about to shoot dangerous bombs into the sky. Remember the movie Backdraft? Can you believe that came out 17 years ago?!? I was pretty into that movie back in the 90s and I felt like revisiting the subject today.
Backdrafts were featured in the film by the same name. We all know what a backdraft is by now. All the oxygen is consumed and there are no longer flames but everything is still so hot that any new oxygen introduced to the fire will rapidly expand and splode real big. Lets turn to the video evidence.
I thought that was pretty cool. But then I learned of flashovers, which are indeed cooler – or hotter, depending on your preferred level of literalness. What happens is, in an enclosed room (similar conditions to a backdraft) a fire gives off hot smoke which radiates heat onto all the surfaces in the room. Once all of these surfaces get to around 1000 degrees, they expel flammable gases which ignite, along with every surface in the room. All at the same time. That’s tight.
Read more about flashovers and then feast on these yummy youtubez.
The flashover in this one happens at 1:15:
This one happens right away and the rest of the video is garbage:
But wait, let’s take it one step further. What happens when a flashover occurs OUTDOORS? An eff’n firestorm. That’s right. A storm made out of: fire. Is fire even a thing to be made out of? I’m starting to get confused and overwhelmed and scared.
Firestorms are rare as a dang two-headed kid. They happen usually in nature during wildfires. But we have managed to set buildings and stuff on fire in the past that are capable of producing them too. I want you to visit teh wicky on firestorms and think about them for a minute. Here is the first sentence: “A firestorm is a conflagration which attains such intensity that it creates and sustains its own wind system.”
Here are some firestorms that resulted from fires us humans made: The Great London Fire (1666), The Great Chicago Fire (1871), The Oakland Firestorm (1991), and the one created by the atomic bomb in Heroshima.
So we have this comparison: backdrafts
Yes, fire whirls. They exist. And they are coming to get you. According to Wikipedia, a fire whirl is a phenomenon in which a fire acquires a vertical vorticity and forms a whirl, or a tornado-like effect of a vertically oriented rotating column of air. You may wonder how this happens. Me too, but I figured it out on my own: Lucifer.
Just listen to the following sentence and then I’m done with my tirade on fire whirls:
“An extreme example is the 1923 Great Kant? earthquake in Japan which ignited a large city-sized firestorm and produced a gigantic fire whirl that killed 38,000 in fifteen minutes in the Hifukusho-Ato region of Tokyo.”
When you go to bed tonight I want you to think of “a gigantic fire whirl that killed 38,000 in 15 minutes” and I guarantee you will have dreams about fire, featuring scenes with Kurt Russell and Donald Sutherland.
I believe that was recorded in Mordor.
Wow, that looked really windy. And fiery angered evil.
So our final tally is backdrafts
I know they exist. I have seen them with my mind.
At first I was like, “Cool, a backdraft. That’s always cool.”
Then I was like, “It’s cool being a fireman for most of your life, until you’re that guy caught in the flashover.”
Then I was like “Firestorms are unreal. As in, not real. As in, that better be fake.”
Then when I got to the burnado, or whatever they’re called, I decided to stop working for the day.
Is that you?
What they need is an absolute zero machine. It would look like the ghostbuster’s trap. Attach it to some sort of hose and throw it in the middle of one of those flashovers and attach the other end of the hose to a battery farm that converts heat to energy. Then open it up and because of some sort of physics thing nature will try to equal the ?459.67 degree temperate out with the 1000+ degree temperature, but just keep sucking the heat through the hose and keep generating the absolute zero and then you will suck all of the energy out of the fire and store it in batteries to power the machine and small cities. It would be like a black hole that only effects fires. A fire worm-hole…
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