Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Surviving a fire by going underwater in the bath with a ball

  1. Jul 24, 2017 #1


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm wondering whether it's possible to survive most fires by filling the bath with water and a ballon with air (it doesn't matter if it comes from human exhalation), then go underwater and breath through the balloon. When I was a kid I used to breath in a ballon that I would fill with air by exhalation. I could hold for 10-15 minutes easily and would stop by boredom, I never felt like I was about to miss oxygen.
    I don't know whether this strategy has ever been tried before. Are you aware of any such case? It might be hard to stay underwater due to buoyancy. Also, I don't know how hot would the bath be when there's fire all over it (with and without water still flooding the bath).
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 24, 2017 #2
    Some home fires due to materials it burns or consumes can be 900-1100 F. (well known) in temperatures and if it happens you are in such a bath you could become human soup! Not sure this is smart, best is the wet towels/sheets and get out as best you can. Others may have other insights.
  4. Jul 24, 2017 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    No. A usual fire is far too hot. You would boil. And it very likely lasts too long.
    Probably because you cannot detect the carbon dioxide poisoning.
    I'd say this plan is a childish fantasy, not more.
  5. Jul 24, 2017 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    This surprises me, because I understood that it is the carbon dioxide which stimulates the need to breathe, not the lack of oxygen (or at least, much more than the lack of oxygen.) (I'm afraid I don't know any reliable reference for this - I'll try to find one.)

    But as for the OP remark, I'm amazed, unless he had an enormous balloon. My guess would be that, as a child he was not a very careful experimenter and was breathing in a little fresh air all the time in order to keep the balloon full while it was leaking stale air.
    Trying the experiment myself with a plastic bag (about 1 or 2 litre) rather than a balloon, I certainly noticed something within 1 minute and had to stop before 2 minutes (though I was not pushing myself beyond moderate discomfort.)
  6. Jul 24, 2017 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    If you breath used air again and again, the ##CO_2## level rises and the ##O_2## level sinks. I thought this would basically be the same as what happens if one gets altitude sick, but you may be right. In any case the oxygen level will drop too fast. Maybe if the balloon is big enough it will last the 10 minutes the OP told, or since he was bored, it eventually was far less. Btw, I forgot to mention, that the balloon is the first thing to explode or burn in a fire. With a filled bath tube the chances to escape are far, far, far better, if one drowns as many towels as possibly, wrap oneself in and run.
  7. Jul 25, 2017 #6
    One has heard of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
    The O2 content of a breath might diminish 2% ( relative guess ) from ambient, Co2 increase to about 4%.
    As long as the partial pressure of O2 in the 'bag" is above the partial pressure in the blood, the breather will receive by gas exchange some oxygen.
    I can see the OP doing what he did fairly easy as a kid.
  8. Jul 25, 2017 #7
  9. Jul 25, 2017 #8
    As mentioned above, the tub would turn into a soup pot. The water will be heated by radiant heat from nearby burning material and the tub itself will be heated by direct contact with flames and, again, radiant heat from flames not directly in contact with the tub. Additionally, when the floor burns away the tub will be supported on one end by piping that was not intended to support ~300 lbs. of water and the person's weight.

    Stay low, know your escape routes, don't worry about your modesty. An aunt and uncle were naked in the front yard way back when, but they were alive.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted

Similar Discussions: Surviving a fire by going underwater in the bath with a ball
  1. Survival test (Replies: 22)

  2. Survival of the fittest (Replies: 23)

  3. Surviving cannibals (Replies: 24)

  4. Dare to bathe sans soap! (Replies: 27)