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Discovery Magazine 7/1/2000

Fire, Fire, Fire

Fire comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes we see it as a huge forest fire, destroying everything in its path. Sometimes we see it on a tiny match, lighting a charcoal grill. But one thing is certain: whether it comes in small sizes or large ones, it is both useful and potentially dangerous.

What is this useful-but-dangerous thing known as fire? Fire has been on the Earth for a very long time. Every civilization has tried to understand and explain what makes fire do the things it does. What we have learned so far is that fire is a chemical reaction between three things—heat, fuel, and different types of gases such as hydrogen or oxygen. When these three components are present in the correct amounts, combustion occurs. (Combustion is just a fancy word for burning.) Generally, when things combust they form a flame like you see on the tip of a match. Sometimes, however, no flame appears. Hot coals glowing under a grill are a good example of combustion with no flame.

Fire (combustion) is one of the most essential chemical reactions in the entire Universe. Just look at Earth’s food chain. The Sun is a huge ball of fire. Plants get their energy directly from the Sun, and animals get their energy from the plants or other animals that eat the plants. Then humans eat the plants and animals. Without the fire of the Sun, plants could not grow and humans eventually would die of starvation. That makes combustion very important to our world.

The combustion of the Sun is very important, but fire on the Earth is vital as well. Did you know that 85 percent of the world’s energy comes from combustion? It is used to make car parts, heat homes, cook food, and produce thousands of other goods and services. It is an invaluable tool for industries and homes.

However, fire does not always help mankind. Occasionally it destroys lives and property. Every year, fires kill hundreds of people and destroy millions of dollars worth of property.

In James 3:6, the Bible says that "the tongue is a fire." It can be used to build people up, or it can be used to destroy them—just like real fire.

Fire fascinates young and old alike. It is extremely useful, powerful, and dangerous. God has given it to mankind to control and use. But if we are not careful, fire (and our tongues) can get out of control and destroy what is most precious to us.



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