Why Is It Called Tunnel Fire?

If you have ever been in an enclosed space and felt the overwhelming heat of a fire, then you know first-hand the overwhelming fear and confusion that can come with it. But what do we actually call a fire that takes place in a tunnel?

From the tragic railway tunnel fire in 1846 to more recent fires such as the 2017 Euro Tunnel fire in France, such an event can bring destruction and havoc – so why, then, do we call it a ‘tunnel fire’? In this article, we will take a closer look at why a tunnel fire is called such and explore some of the most catastrophic cases to date. So let’s dive right in, and find out why tunnel fires are so called – and just how dangerous they can be!

What is Tunnel Fire?

Tunnel fire is a type of explosion or a fire occurred in underground mines.

Tunnel fire often occurs due to accumulation of gases or simply from the burning of material in the tunnel.

Why is it called Tunnel Fire?

The main reason for the name tunnel fire is the location of the fire or explosion.

Since the fire occurs in an underground tunnel, it is called tunnel fire. Tunnel fires can be more destructive as the fire is trapped in the tunnels.

The trapped heat and gases acceleration the propagation of the fire, making it very dangerous and hard to extinguish.

Possible Causes of Tunnel Fires

Tunnel fires generally occur due to the accumulation of certain gases combined with combustible materials. The most common causes are:

Mechanical Failure

Mechanical failure of machinery in the tunnels can lead to sparks and flames.

For example, a short circuit or a friction in the equipment due to excessive wear and tear can ignite the gas and will cause tunnel fire.

Ignition of Gases

The accumulation of combustible gases inside the tunnel has a higher risk of catching a fire.

The gases can be ignited from sources like sparks from a passing train, the exhaust from the vehicles, welding arcs and even from a lighting source. It has been seen that the methane gas present in the tunnel can be highly flammable and explosive.

Combustible Material in the Tunnel

The presence of combustible materials such as coal dust in the tunnel also increases the risk of a fire.

The coal dust, when combined with air, can form a combustible mixture resulting in explosion or fire.

Role of Ventilation

The risk of a fire or explosion in the tunnel can be controlled by effective ventilation. The ventilation system is designed to reduce the concentration of gases in the air and also to dilute and sometimes prevent their formation. It also helps to direct the combustible gases away from sources of ignition.


Tunnel fire is a hazardous and destructive event that can cause both property and life loss. Effective ventilation and proper maintenance of tunnels is essential to reduce the risk of these fires. It is also important to keep combustible materials away from sources of ignition. Citation URL: https://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Tunnel_firehttps://www. brighthubengineering. com/process-instruments/66927-tunnel-fires-and-safety-measures/

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