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How quickly can fire spread?

What causes fire

To get a better understanding of how quickly fire can spread, we have to first understand what fire is and also what causes it to grow and spread so devastatingly. Fundamentally fire is the product of chemical reaction, that reaction involves three main components, heat, fuel and oxygen. By removing any one of these components, this will stop the spread of fire in its tracks and extinguish it. If all three of these components are ever present, you can only expect that a fire will be sustained and likely continue to grow and thrive.

Once ignition has begun from heat reaching a temperature level high enough, a fire will spread in multiple different ways. These different types of fire spread can be broken down into the three main forms shown below.


This type of fire spread comes from the transfer of heat, often through materials.

Certain materials are better for conducting heat than others, for example metal structures like steel beams. a fire in a commercial building may come from fire being transferred through these metal beams and coming into contact with more combustible items, therefore leading to fire being spread through different rooms or areas within a property.


This type of fire spread is perhaps the most dangerous and common way that a fire can devastate a commercial building. Heat generated from a fire will always rise, in more enclosed areas such as small office areas, this heat will rise to the ceiling, becoming trapped, the heat then spreads very quickly into other spaces in a room. Any aspects of that room that are combustible have high potential to ignite, this will often result in a room becoming totally engulfed by flames in a very short space of time.


This fire spread is a result of electromagnetic waves that carry heat in all directions through a building. The heat can even transfer through windows. Electromagnetic waves will transmit heat until that heat reaches items that absorb it. This means the radiation can go from room to room very easily and ignite any combustible items in its pathway.

If people truly understood just how quickly a fire can engulf a whole room or even a whole building, they would be much more proactive in taking steps to heavily reduce the chances of fire spread at their premises. In worst case scenarios it can take as little as 5 -10 minutes for an entire building to be engulfed in flames, dependant on the size of the premises. This leaves very little time to combat the fire spread and most importantly, get all occupants out safely.

First step to take

As well as being a mandatory legal obligation, having an up to date competent Fire Risk Assessment is absolutely critical for reducing possible fire safety risks, it is important as the responsible person, you understand that by neglecting to address any possible flaws in your fire safety, lives are at risk.

To reiterate once again, If you have not had a licensed, competent, fire safety professional carry out a Fire Risk Assessment at your workplace, you are breaking the law and putting lives at risk.

For any advice or help with the Fire Safety Compliance in your commercial building, please don't hesitate to contact us today - 01604 696113.


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