Spontaneous combustion and self-heating

Brian F. Gray*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


The term will be used here to refer to the general phenomenon of an unstable (usually oxidizable) material reacting and evolving heat, which to a considerable extent is retained inside the material itself by virtue of poor thermal conductivity of either the material or its container. Under some circumstances this process can lead to flaming combustion and overt fire, in which case it is properly called spontaneous ignition, which here is regarded as a special case of spontaneous combustion. This has been responsible for significant losses of life and enormous losses of property. Fire loss statistics from many sources show that spontaneous ignition is quoted as the cause in a much greater proportion of cases with multimillion-dollar losses than in smaller fires. Of course, one should also note that the proportion of “cause unknown” results follows a similar trend, probably due to the greater degree of destruction, and hence evidence loss, in larger fires

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSFPE Handbook of fire protection engineering
EditorsMorgan J. Hurley, Daniel T. Gottuk, John R. Hall Jr., Kazunori Harada, Erica D. Kuligowski, Milosh Puchovsky, Jose L. Torero, John M. Watts Jr., Christopher J. Wieczorek
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherSpringer, Springer Nature
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9781493925650
ISBN (Print)9781493925643
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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