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#32372 - 06/14/01 04:50 PM Fire sizes
Hyla Offline

Registered: 12/14/00
Posts: 544
Loc: San Francisco, CA
Today I came across the word "deflagration" - (noun form, naturally, of deflagrate - To burn or cause to burn with great heat and intense light - AHD). This prompted me to look up conflagration (A large destructive fire).

So - which one's bigger? I've always thought of conflagration as about as big as a fire can get, but perhaps I've just never come across a deflagration.

Does anyone actually use deflagration (I came across it in a fairly technical sense)? Is a deflagration not necessarily destructive, but a conflagration is, by definition?

Also noted that deflagrate exists, in both transitive and intransitive senses, but conflagrate seems to have burnt itself out over time.

#32373 - 06/14/01 04:53 PM Re: Fire sizes
Faldage Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/01/00
Posts: 13803
From the definition it sounds like deflagration is more about intensity than size.

#32374 - 06/14/01 04:59 PM Re: Fire sizes
tsuwm Offline
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Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
OED2 gives it as a Physics term, more in use in the 18th and 19th Cs.

1. trans. To cause to burn away with sudden evolution of flame and rapid, sharp combustion (e.g. a mixture of charcoal and nitre thrown into a red-hot crucible).
1727 Bailey vol. II, Deflagrate, to inkindle and burn off in a Crucible a Mixture of Salt or some mineral Body with a Sulphureous one. 1794 J. Hutton Philos. Light, etc. 208 When coal is deflagrated with nitre. 1876 S. Kens. Mus. Catal. No. 1369 The spark from this battery deflagrates a platinum wire a foot long.

2. intr. To burst into flame and burn away rapidly.

#32375 - 06/14/01 05:24 PM Re: Fire sizes
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
It is not a question of size, but of time. A whole bunch of sites made it clear that deflagration refers to the initiation of burning. Conflagration is the late stage when the burning process is going to completion.

#32376 - 06/14/01 07:06 PM Re: Fire sizes
wow Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 3439
Loc: New England, USA
deflagration > To cause to burn away with sudden evolution of flame and rapid, sharp combustion

Like magician's flash paper?

#32377 - 06/14/01 07:11 PM Re: Fire sizes
WhitmanO'Neill Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/13/01
Posts: 4189
Loc: Rio Grande, Cape May County, N...
Condeflagration?...as the larger consumes the smaller?

#32378 - 06/16/01 02:07 PM Re: Fire sizes
Alex Williams Offline

Registered: 01/05/01
Posts: 1814
Loc: Spam Factory
I always thought of conflagration as having the connotation of a very large fire, such as an entire city on fire. See also "firestorm."

#32379 - 06/18/01 04:40 AM Re: Fire sizes
wsieber Offline
old hand

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 1027
Loc: Switzerland
Most chemists are secret pyromaniacs, so the term deflagration is very familiar to me: it is a manner of burning which is just below an explosion in its intensity. It does not cause a shot noise, but rather a "swishing" noise. This is generally brought about by an oxydizing agent which is mixed with the combustible material, as mentioned in the example "nitre" plus charcoal. If the same mixture is enclosed in a shell and ignited, it causes an explosion.

#32380 - 06/18/01 01:13 PM Re: Fire sizes
Marianna Offline

Registered: 01/09/01
Posts: 427
Loc: Spain
I would understand a deflagration to be the initial stage, and possibly the origin, of a very large fire... something like an explosion. And, for me, a conflagration would be the large fire burning in a somewhat continuous way, until controlled.



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