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Fire, like its real-life counterpart, is an immensely destructive force. In-game, entities on the map which are on fire flash red and yellow. In item lists, anything which is on fire will also be surrounded by double exclamation marks, like ‼THIS‼. Fire will burn grass, shrubs, logs, wooden furniture, wooden buildings and wooden roads, mined out lignite and coal, and bars of charcoal and coke. Except for dragonfire, fire won't burn rock, metal, trees, unmined lignite or coal, constructions made from wood (wall, floor, etc), or floor bars, vertical bars made from charcoal, or ignite floor fungus and cave moss in the caverns.
Fires burning in the environment (e.g. burning grass) start at a temperature of 10508 °U and quickly heat up to 10708 °U , while burning items rapidly heat up to 200 degrees above their ignition point (but stay slightly below that, because the surrounding air cools them a bit). Items experience rapid wear-based damage while burning, and continue to degrade until entirely destroyed. Fire-safety for any material is defined as being stable at a temperature of 11000 °U , though this doesn't actually work due to a bug.
A few ways in which fires can be started:
- Dragons breathe dragonfire, which can set things on fire, at anything hostile they see. The fire spreads out in a conical shape and burns anything it touches.
- A Fire imp can throw fireballs, which may set things alight.
- Magma can and will burn anything flammable it touches. However, any item set alight by this method will likely just be doused in magma until it is completely destroyed.
- Some titans, forgotten beasts, and demons can breathe fire/throw fireballs, too.
- Fire men and magma men, as well as other beasts composed of flame, have high fixed body temperatures, causing them to spread fires (and fun) in their path.
Note that it is currently difficult to safely start (and then control) a fire. Fire is most easily started by either magma or a fire breathing attack. An area enclosed by water, metal, stone or Z-level difference can be used to start a fire which can be used as a way of increasing FPS by removing objects or can be used as part of a complex trap, though this may lead to fun when something comes out burning which then sets the rest of the fort on fire. Players of modded DF can have fire-breathing (fire spell casting) goblin castes.
Fire does not spread up or down z-levels by itself. The only way for a fire to move from one z-level to another is if something mobile (such as a ‼Dwarf‼) catches on fire and then moves up or down. Digging channels, therefore, is one way to stop the spread of fire in fortress mode. Walls with trapped passages block the fire too. Trees and shrubs will not catch fire, but you can set them on fire in Adventure Mode.
One thing to note is that dwarves that burn to death do not leave remains and will produce ghosts even if buried in a coffin. Be sure to engrave a memorial to all dwarves that burn to ashes, unless of course you want a ghost infestation.