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A history of Fire

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A history of fire

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420,000,000 BC — The first fire

Long, long before hominins roamed the Earth, our planet was little more than a clump of barren wasteland. Finally, at around 4 billion years after its formation, Earth began to sprout plant life.

The emergence of plant life induced a rise in oxygen levels. After oxygen levels exceeded 15%, conditions were adequate for a fire to start. All that was needed was a source of ignition.


Lightning was the main source of ignition before hominids roamed. As plants grew and oxygen levels rose, lightning would strike the Earth and begin the world’s first fires.

Early human

1,500,000 BC — The first human/fire interaction

The first human contact with fire has been an area of debate for many years. While the earliest evidence of human/fire interaction is around 400,000 BC, many scientists posit that fire would have been used to the advantage of Homo erectus in Africa around 1.5 million years ago.

Fires may have been conserved by adding slow-burning fuel, such as dung. This would have been used for light, heat and to ward off predators.

400,000 BC — The earliest evidence of habitual fire use

Scientists have obtained evidence of 400,000-year-old Homo sapiens using fire from deep within Qasem Cave in Israel. 

The evidence shows the repeated use of a single hearth and indicates that these primitive humans used fire to cook food.

It has long been thought that cooking our food turbocharged our mental development and was essentially the catalyst for evolving with larger brains.

7000 BC — Agriculture and warfare

Fire hurts. It is unsurprising then that humans eventually found a way to use it as a weapon. Early humans were creating fire sticks that could be used against other tribes during disputes.

Fire sticks were also great for agriculture. ‘Fire stick farming’ involved the use of fire sticks for clearing the ground, killing vermin and regenerating plant food sources.

Modern Era

1666 – The Great Fire of London

Perhaps the most notable fire in the past 500 years, The Great Fire of London tore through the capital, lasting just under five days and destroying over a third of the city.

But every cloud has a silver lining. The Great Fire of London actually cleansed the city of much of the vermin that carried the bubonic plague. As a result, the epidemic that had claimed the lives of 15% of London residents quickly faded away.

Today – Fuel and homely comforts

Nowadays, fire is mainly used to create energy. Burning fossil fuels has allowed us to generate electricity, which powers nearly every modern-day invention!

Fire is also used as a homely comfort. Beautiful fireplaces allow us to light and extinguish a fire at will. They provide us with warmth, comfort and a reminder of the millions of years of history that fire has been a part of.


Fire is an amazing thing. We’re proud to give customers the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of fires in the comfort of their homes. Brighten up your home with Rotherham Fireplace Centre.

Cave paintings of early humans celebrating fire Cave paintings of early humans celebrating fire


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