Is fire a friend or a foe? – Essay, Paragraph for Class 9, 10, 11 and 12, Competitive Examination.

Is fire a friend or a foe?

The fire was certainly a friend to early man. Without fire, the only means people had of staying warm in cold climates was to wear extra clothing in the form of animal skins, or to huddle together in their caves under primitive blankets.

Historians suggest that fire was first lit in caves about 350,000 years ago by the Peking man. It is likely that fire was discovered by someone rubbing two pieces of wood or stone together, creating sparks that ignited dry material. The fire was placed in the middle of the cave to keep everyone warm and surrounded by stones to prevent it from spreading.

Early man also discovered that fire had another advantage. It allowed them to cook their food rather than having to eat it raw. Soon primitive cooking vessels or ovens were made.

Fire, then, was an invaluable friend to early man and it went right on being such a friend to man for a considerable period of time. The fire was the focal point of the family home, even after it moved from the center of the home to a side wall, around the 14th century. Not until the advent of gas in homes in the mid-nineteenth century and the later advent of electricity, did the open fire begin to be supplanted as sole provider of heat and cooking facilities.

Fire, however, can all too easily become a destructive force and an enemy to man, as man was to discover. Flames can very rapidly spread from where they are meant to be and set fire to other things. This was probably not such a problem for early cave-dwellers because there was not much inflammable material around in the cave and not many possessions to destroy.

However, as man became more sophisticated, the destructive power of fire became more important. One of the most famous fires in history is the Great Fire of London in 1666. The fire broke out in the early hours of 2 September 1666 in a wooden building. and heavy winds helped to spread the fire very rapidly. It burned for three days and destroyed 13,200 houses along with St Paul’s Cathedral. This showed what a fierce enemy fire could be to man and indicated the need for organized firefighting.

When fire becomes involved in crime, it becomes even more of an enemy to man. The crime of starting a fire deliberately in order to cause damage to property or loss of life is known as arson. We tend to assume that the Great Fire of London was a terrible accident, but a Frenchman, Robert Hubert, confessed to starting the fire deliberately and he was hanged.

The invention of the modern match by the English chemist John Walker in 1827 undoubtedly saw an increase in the number of fire crimes against people and their property because matches made fire much easier to start. Before that, people used to carry tinderboxes containing a piece of flint, a piece of steel and feathers or dry plant material. The flint was struck against the steel to create sparks which then ignited the feathers or plant material.

Fire is also associated with war. It was common for troops to set fire to enemy towns and villages after winning a battle. In the two world wars of the twentieth century, much destruction was caused by bombs being dropped on cities and causing conflagrations.

Fire was, and is, a friend to man as long as it is controlled. When it gets out of control or is used for hostile or illegal purposes, it becomes an enemy.

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