One of the single most likely disasters to befall any of us is an accidental fire, and particularly one that results in a house fire. No matter how meticulously you’ve prepared, a house fire can wipe out your home, your possessions and all of your supplies in minutes.
Accordingly, it’s a good idea to be extremely aware of what will and won’t contribute to fire risk in and around your property. Knowing what’s what, it is easier to store things properly and eliminate potential hazards.
How about something innocuous like flour? Is flour flammable?
Yes, flour is a highly flammable. Because of its high surface area, flour can easily ignite and burn, and it’s incredibly flammable and violently combustible when it is hanging in the air like dust. Industrial accidents from flour dust are quite common.
Hard to believe that this seemingly innocent kitchen staple could potentially, in the wrong circumstances, cause a severe fire or greatly contribute to the spread of one that’s already started. Alas, it is true.
Flour has been the primary fuel of dozens of devastating fires throughout the 20th and 21st century.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you what you need to know about the fire hazard posed by flour and what you can do to mitigate it…
Does Flour Ignite at Any Temperature?
Yes, flour can ignite, but it doesn’t have a specific auto-ignition temperature. This is because flour isn’t a substance that will spontaneously combust under most normal circumstances.
However, if flour particles are suspended in the air as dust and exposed to a direct flame or heat source, they can ignite.
This happens when the heat energy from the flame or heat source is enough to raise the temperature of these particles above their flash point.
It’s important to note that this is a risk primarily in industrial settings where large amounts of flour are processed and there’s potential for flour dust to become airborne.
However, it isn’t out of the question that an accident with large quantities of flour- of the kind and volume that use preppers might keep for a SHTF situation- could contribute to a major hazard! More on that in a minute…
Does Flour React with High Temperature?
Flour is generally considered non-reactive to high temperatures. When subjected to extreme temperatures, flour will start to toast and smolder, undergoing a process known as the Maillard reaction.
This is a chemical reaction that causes “browning” in food, and gives food a toasty flavor. But to be clear, flour does not emit any hazardous byproducts or pose an increased fire risk at higher temperatures.
However, it’s worth noting that when flour is heated to a very high temperature, it can char and eventually catch fire, especially if there’s an open flame.
But under normal cooking and household conditions, your flour is safe and doesn’t present an elevated-temperature fire hazard.
Will Flour Make a Fire Worse?
Oh yes, flour can certainly exacerbate any accidental fire. If flour is exposed to an open flame, it is capable of igniting on its own.
The risk increases dramatically if the flour is airborne as dust, particularly likely in such cases as in a spill or in a production setting where large quantities of flour dust could potentially be in the air.
This creates an extremely hazardous combustion risk. In fact, under the right conditions, a flour dust blast can cause catastrophic damage, major injury or death, even leveling a building!
What’s the Best Way to Store Flour to Prevent Fire Risk?
Storing flour safely in your home doesn’t require any special precautions, only some common sense: Keep it away from all sources of intense heat and especially open flames.
If a large quantity of flour is spilled and a significant amount of it becomes airborne as dust, extinguish all potential ignition sources immediately and begin cleaning up the spill right away.
By taking these simple steps, you can help prevent a small mishap from turning into a major fire hazard. If you are keeping a large quantity of flour in storage, do what you can to protect the storage location from fire.
Fire extinguishers nearby are a must, and in larger settings, sprinklers are appropriate for control and dust remediation.
Is Flour Reactive with Other Substances?
No, not really for our purposes today. Indeed, flour is chemically reactive with lots of other substances, particularly those commonly found in the kitchen for baking bread and other food items.
For instance, when mixed with water and yeast, flour undergoes a fermentation process that results in dough rising. However, in terms of fire safety, flour isn’t particularly reactive in a hazardous way with other substances.
Its reactivity in this context is more about its ability to ignite under certain conditions, especially when airborne as we’ve previously discussed.
Despite this, it’s crucial to understand that flour, due to its potential to ignite and dramatically worsen or cause accidental fires, is a significant threat in and of itself in the right (or should I say wrong) conditions.
How Should You Deal with Flour Exposed to Fire?
If you’re in a situation where flour is threatened by fire or has already caught fire, it can be extinguished using any common firefighting agents like water, foam, or carbon dioxide.
However, extreme caution should be exercised if there’s a risk of flour becoming airborne as dust.
For example, if a fire were to knock over or collapse shelving holding large bags of flour, causing them to rupture and create a dust cloud, this could result in a sudden and severe combustion event.
Such an event could have potentially disastrous and lethal consequences, so if you suspect a potential airborne dust hazard due to flour, always reach a minimum safe distance from the blaze as swiftly as possible, and alert any responders if you have to.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.