AskDefine | Define firedamp

Dictionary Definition

firedamp n : a mixture of gases (mostly methane) that form in coal mines and become explosive when mixed with air

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. An inflammable gas (mostly methane) found in coal mines; forms an explosive mixture with air

Extensive Definition

Firedamp is a flammable gas found in coal mines. It is actually the name given to a number of flammable gases, including methane. It is particularly commonly found in areas where the coal is bituminous.
Firedamp is explosive at concentrations between 4% and 16%, with most violence at around 10%, and caused much loss of life in coal mines before the invention of the Davy lamp. Even after the safety lamps were brought into common use, firedamp explosions could still occur from sparks produced when coal contaminated with pyrites was struck with metal tools. The presence of coal dust in the air increased the risk of explosion with firedamp, and indeed could cause explosions itself.
The Tyneside coal mines in England had the deadly combination of bituminous coal contaminated with pyrites, and a great number of lives were lost in accidents due to firedamp explosions, including 102 dead at Wallsend in 1835.
Rather than the Davy lamp, Tyneside miners used a Geordie lamp, a similar safety lamp designed by George Stephenson.


Gases (other than air) in coal mines in England were collectively known as "damps". This comes from the German word Dampf (meaning "vapour"), and was probably introduced when German miners and mine engineers were brought to England in the 17th century to help in the development of deep mining.
Other damps included blackdamp (carbon dioxide and other gases), and the insidiously lethal afterdamp (carbon monoxide and other gases) produced following explosions of firedamp or coal dust.


See also

firedamp in Bulgarian: Гризу
firedamp in German: Schlagwetter
firedamp in Spanish: Grisú
firedamp in Esperanto: Grizuo
firedamp in French: Grisou
firedamp in Italian: Grisù
firedamp in Hungarian: Sújtólég
firedamp in Turkish: Grizu
firedamp in Walloon: Grizou

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

afterdamp, blackdamp, breath, chokedamp, cloud, coal gas, damp, effluvium, exhalation, exhaust, exhaust gas, fetid air, flatus, fluid, fume, malaria, mephitis, miasma, puff of smoke, reek, smoke, smudge, steam, vapor, volatile, water vapor
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