We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Backdraft?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated Jan 21, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

One of the most dangerous situations firefighters can face is a rare but powerful effect called a backdraft. Although definitions of a backdraft vary somewhat, in general it is a sudden explosion of hot gases as fresh oxygen enters a smoldering airtight room. Professional firefighters are trained to recognize signs of a potential backdraft, but even the most experienced firefighter can be caught by surprise.

Fire requires both fuel and oxygen to continue burning, so if a fire breaks out in a closed area, it may use up the entire supply of oxygen before running out of flammable objects as fuel. The room would still be extremely hot, but there would be very few visible flames. Instead, a thick cloud of smoke, often yellow or brown in color, would fill the room. Firefighters recognize the presence of yellow or brown-colored smoke as a sign of incomplete burning. This is a classic warning sign of a potential backdraft.

Since the fire is starving for oxygen to continue burning, the air pressure inside the room can be noticeably different from the air pressure outside the room. The fire wants to draw in more oxygen through any available opening, which often results in puffs of smoke suddenly appearing and disappearing around the door or window frames. The difference in air pressure may also cause windows outside the room to rattle or vibrate. These are other signs of a potential backdraft firefighters are trained to observe.

If the door to a burning airtight room is opened suddenly, a fresh supply of oxygen is delivered straight to the smoldering fire. The heat of the room also heats up volatile gases, and the result is often a powerful explosion and instant flames. This is the dreaded backdraft, and it can injure or kill anyone entering the room. Thankfully, backdrafts are rare events, but it only takes one to restart a fire or cause more structural damage.

If a potential backdraft is suspected, firefighters can use tools to ventilate the room from the highest point possible, such as the top of a door. This allows the heated gases to escape without drawing in enough fresh oxygen to create combustion. Once the hot gases have been ventilated, the chances of a backdraft forming are reduced significantly. The fire may still reignite with additional oxygen, but a catastrophic explosion of gases is much less likely.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

Writer

As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.