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Reading the Fire
Before any firefighting can be done, the firefighters have to assess the fire to determine the best way to fight it to get quick and safe results. This is called "reading" the fire. This is done by looking at the color of the smoke, judging where it is coming from, testing the heat of the smoke with water and looking for soot on windows.
Once the fire has been read, the firefighters will plan their attack. There are many ways a fire can be put out, depending on the fire. Taking away the fuel for the fire is one of the best ways to kill it. For example, in a grass fire, the best way to stop it is by getting rid of the grass so the fire has nothing to burn. In this case, the fire department may call in a tractor to till a strip of land in front of the fire. This gets rid of the grass and the fire can go no farther.
One of the most common ways of extinguishing a fire is by spraying it with water. Water cools the area so that the fuel will not burn. It also smothers the flames so that it can not get oxygen. A fire cannot burn without oxygen.
Flapping is a less known technique of fire extinguishing. A flapper is a thick rubber mat attached to a long metal pole. The flapper is used to beat out fires. This type of strategy is used in forest fires and grass fires. A firefighter has to be careful when using a flapper. Too much pounding while flapping can spread the fire by giving it more oxygen.
Flame retardants are chemicals that are used to stop chemical reactions in fire. These types of retardants are made from organic halides. Many times, retardants are used to contain a fire, not put it out. For example, in forest fires retardants are sprayed on areas in a fire's path to keep it from burning the area.