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It's very rare that fire is associated with anything good, despite being one of humanity's first inventions. But, to a normal person, fire isn't used much these days. Heat is still utilized, but fire itself is passe. Water manipulation can be used everyday, more so if you can separate the water from pollutants. Earth manipulation would be more like a rescue need, but still necessary, as you could use it to fix roads or, I suppose, stop earthquakes (maybe?). Air manipulation would be good in terms of energy for air turbines, and even to move pollution, or to keep planes flying (again maybe?). But what could fire be used for, aside from cooking?

Imagine: In a slum in a large city, missionaries come to help out the sick and tired. They give them water and help repair the roads. How might you use fire to help people out on a day-to-day basis?

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    $\begingroup$ I guess I should throw out my gas stove and buy an electrical one... $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Mar 13 '17 at 1:38
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    $\begingroup$ "It's very rare that fire is associated with anything good" except cooking, warming and making water drinkable? In many languages "fireplace" is a synonim of "house". $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Mar 13 '17 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ In the first/second world, Fire is often hidden away (inside car engines, furnaces or power plants), but is alive and very much well. Suggested reading, specifically about an interesting Fire god: Burning City by Niven and Pournelle. $\endgroup$ – Catalyst Mar 13 '17 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ @JulianCienfuegos English for one has the word hearth, which is both the floor of a fireplace and a symbol of home $\endgroup$ – Jeutnarg Mar 13 '17 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JulianCienfuegos for example in italian, "focolare" is the fireplace, but also indicates the house $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Mar 13 '17 at 17:55
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Some things off the top of my head:

  1. Fire can be used to cauterize wounds. Coming during a disaster, it can potentially be used to, for example, stop internal bleeding that no other technique can fix.
  2. Also during a disaster, it can be used to burn or melt through obstacles to get to people.
  3. If it isn't only fire manipulation, but also a fire sense, it could potentially be used to locate fires inside a disaster area, and maybe even the body heat of survivors buried under rubble.
  4. It can be used to clear areas of vegetation for building and farming. Not necessarily very environmentally-friendly, but commonly-used in the real world.
  5. I saw one scene in a movie ("The Gods Must be Crazy 2"), where a brush fire was bearing down on a group. One person grabbed a burning stick, carried it a few dozen yards away, then started a new fire. Once that fire had moved on, they moved into the area cleared by the new fire and were safe. Something like this could potentially be done to save people from some life-threatening fire, even a city fire if they can burn hot enough.
  6. Smoke signals have been used for long-distance communication in clear weather.
  7. The heat from fire can lift things into the air, and can create air currents that can blow away fog, smoke, pollution, or poison gas.
  8. Fire can be used to boil and thus sanitize water in areas where clean water is not readily available, either due to local conditions or a disaster.
  9. Fire can be used to sterilize surgical instruments.
  10. It can be used for light in areas where electricity is unavailable, either because a lack of power lines or because of a disaster.
  11. Fire is needed for creating pottery, bricks, and other ceramics.
  12. Fire is needed for metalworking.
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    $\begingroup$ Instead of smoke signals, could use flares(wonder if they could be shaped into symbols or letters). Also may be possible to just burn the (poisonous) gas. $\endgroup$ – Necessity Mar 13 '17 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ +1. Some other common 'good' uses for fire: 1. Cooking, 2. Heating, 3. Illumination during night, 4. Glassblowing, 5. Generating electricity (similar to what is done in most coal/gas/nuclear/solar power plants - warm water to get them turn a turbine), 6. Motor power (aside from internal combustion as in cars etc, see external combustion such as steam engines and Sterling engines), 7. Entertainment (fireworks and fire shows). $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Mar 13 '17 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ And above and beyond all said 'real-world' uses of fire, magical 'pyrokinesis' may conceivably be used for 1. Rapid construction (hardening cement blocks quickly), 2. Arts (Ice sculpting, aesthetic scarification, wood/metal decoration, performances etc. etc.) 3. Locomotion (powering hot air balloons, trains, steamships etc.), 4. Local weather control (melt away ice/snow, possibly create an 'anti-rain dome' around an area), 5. Mining and smelting, 6. Military uses (these doesn't have to be 'bad', e.g. an anti-missile role), 7. Survival and exploration of cold regions $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Mar 13 '17 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ #5 in the above is called a "firebreak", and is common when fighting forest fires. $\endgroup$ – GreySage Mar 13 '17 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ @G0BLiN: I was trying to come up with ideas that would help with the missionary scenario in the OP. Concrete doesn't just dry, it undergoes a heat-releasing chemical reaction with the water. Just heating it doesn't help that, from what I can find heating only helps when combined with a complex air-conditioning system, which wouldn't be available under the scenario the OP describes. In fact, from what I can find, increasing the temperature during the chemical reaction actually weakens the concrete. The rest I either covered in some way or don't seem relevant to the given scenario. $\endgroup$ – TheBlackCat Mar 13 '17 at 22:39
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So basically you want mages with elemental powers being useful in modern society, and your issue stems from fact that fire is mostly used for destruction, and has in many applications been replaced by more controlled alternatives.

This instantly gives us first idea how to use such powers for benefit of the mankind.

Fire-fighters

Fire is, and has always been a powerful destructive force. When controlled, it can be harnessed to provide heat and power, when uncontrolled, it can devastate forests and cities alike.

Ability to control fire would be tremendous asset for firefighters. Depending on how fine the control is, risk of fire spreading between buildings could be eliminated (this a very real problem, when fire is bad enough, job of firefighters is not to save burning building, but to prevent fire from devastating nearby buildings) or maybe even fire itself could be extinguished.

Forest fires would still pose massive logistical problem due to sheer size, but would be much easier to tackle. Fine enough control, and your mages could help with preventative controlled forest fires. Including making sure those controlled fires don't spiral out of control.

But this doesn't limit us just to preventing or extinguishing fire.

Power generation

At the most basic level, in thermal power plants electricity comes from turbines powered by steam. It doesn't matter what fuels the "furnace" - coal, gas or uranium, principle is the same - "furnace" heats water and makes steam, steam drives turbines. Same with ships. Yes, in a way, nuclear submarine and nuclear aircraft carrier are steam ships.

If your mages can create fire which doesn't need fuel and is easily controlled and maintained, they could easily break energy economy, solving pretty much all needs if their abilities are powerful or plentiful enough.

Basically, all the efficiency and cleanliness of nuclear power, without any of the risks. What's not to love?

Disclaimer: In case anyone questions: yes, nuclear power is clean, safe and reliable power source, beating every other source on at least 2 of those criteria. Single broken hydroplant dam kills more people than all nuclear incidents combined. Fossil fuels fuel greenhouse effect which may literally kill us all. Wind turbines don't work without wind - unreliable. Solar panels barely work in cloudy weather or in winter - unreliable. Geothermal comes close, but availability varies based on local geology so predictable but not widely reliable.

Neither of those is a very hands-on approach, like missionaries handing out clean water or blankets, but I assure you, that both would be very beneficial for modern (and in times before modern even more so) people, poor or rich alike.

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    $\begingroup$ A note for firefighting: ADDING fire can actually put out a fire, by depriving it of oxygen, if in a limited environment. Explosives are often used to stop oil well fires, and it's why opening a door in a house fire can cause it to go crazy. You just fed the monster a bowl of sugar, essentially. $\endgroup$ – Andon Mar 13 '17 at 3:54
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    $\begingroup$ Man I'd hate to be a low level fire mage stuck in a dead end job of constantly casting a fireball spell into a steam turbine 8 hours a day 5 days a week. $\endgroup$ – Tim Mar 13 '17 at 13:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Tim Have you ever seen The Legend of Korra? It depicts that exact scenario at the start of the series, except with lightning mages. Their 9-to-5 job at a power plant is to throw lightning bolts over and over at a big metal collector apparatus, to provide electrical power for the city. $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Mar 13 '17 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting approach to represent the validity of pro-nuclear power argument by the text layout... $\endgroup$ – Karl Richter Mar 13 '17 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ @KarlRichter Eh? I don't know what you mean here. Simply after calling nuclear power "clean" I realised it might not be so obvious to other people, so I decided to add paragraph about it. Purpose of small font it to make it clear that it's tangential to the topic, and not directly relevant to question. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Mar 14 '17 at 2:10
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Fire can be used to cleanse, no viruses or bacteria can withstand it. The great fire of London, cleansed the city of plague allegedly, though there are some differing views on that. At the very least, fire destroyed the medieval slums of London, allowing a huge building program with new regulations, see: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-36774166 . In your scenario, maybe being cruel to be kind? Fire can also be used to heat and forge metal, meld iron with carbon into steel, create any number of things from horseshoes to bridges. Control of fire is one of our superpowers, no animal can control it.

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  • $\begingroup$ So the London fire was an urban renewal project? Those League of Shadows rascals! $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Mar 13 '17 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe not intentionally but you never know.....😏 $\endgroup$ – Guy Metcalfe Mar 14 '17 at 9:59
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Fire is still used every day in our fossil fuel burning engines...at least until electric completely replaces it. It's used in coal burning power plants as well. In a slum, perhaps people cannot afford to pay their power bills, and so use wood-burning stoves? Someone I know used to have one in his flat, and would get wood from a free box outside a cabinet maker's warehouse. I hope this is helpful. :)

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    $\begingroup$ Think bigger: A local power plant powered by a magic flame which is never extinguished. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Mar 13 '17 at 9:57
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Solve climate change and poverty

I don't see any way that the magical power to generate fire obeys the laws of Thermodynamics. In that case, its not a bad assumption that the power of fire generation makes heat without consuming expensive fuel or generating carbon dioxide.

The applications of this are obvious and extremely wide-ranging. If fire mages can develop their powers to either

  • Generate permanent magical fires for power generation

  • Train enough people in fire magic to generate these fires around the clock

then some of, or even all of, world power demands could be met. If we can generate all the electricity we need through fire magic, what would that do?

Well, it would dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions to the point we don't have to worry about it any more; provide reliable electric power to improve the lives of the poorest people on Earth; prevent deforestation in third world countries by replacing firewood; which will in turn prevent habitat destruction and slow or stop the extinction of other animals; etc.

Sounds like Fire is the best power of all.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just a remark: You cannot solve global warming by adding an energy source from outside the energy cycle. The only reason why wind and solar power are (apart from production/recycling) 100% clean is because the energy that is "harvested" is already in the system and would have been there anyways. it is also the reason why you cannot stop global warming using nuclear power. Unless this magical power is feeding off of residual power of some kind, it still just adds energy. It is still a good temporary solution, and at least stops pollution and most accidents resulting from power generation $\endgroup$ – Doomed Mind Mar 13 '17 at 15:09
  • $\begingroup$ @DoomedMind I'm not sure your science is on point. Nuclear power most certainly can stop global warming. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 13 '17 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledon Water Vapor is also a strong green house gas. You put power in the cycle previously more or less bound, just like from fossile fuels, just without the CO2. Nuclear power plants produce huge amounts of warm water and water vapour from disposing of entropy. My science should be on point. Also look here: nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/vapor_warming.html $\endgroup$ – Doomed Mind Mar 13 '17 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ @DoomedMind Nuclear power really can lessen global warming, its just that the matter left over isn't very envirementally friendly and its damn expensive. Also fossil fuels give off the same amount of water vapour, so nuclear is more enviromently friendly. $\endgroup$ – Necessity Mar 13 '17 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Necessity let's not discuss that here ;) but you might check out my previous comment. $\endgroup$ – Doomed Mind Mar 13 '17 at 15:30
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Most modern technology is based off fire. In particular, heat, and its products.

We use fire to run boilers. Boilers are how we generate electricity from nuclear and combustion power sources. Boilers are even used by some solar power systems. Fire wizards could work in power plants, providing the energy needed without having to mine, process and transport the materials.

The sun is fire; hot plasma glowing in the distance. We use the sun to grow crops and maintain the biosphere. Artificial lights can be used to grow crops faster or in climates with the wrong amounts of sun. A fire wizard can provide light for crops at night. Incandescent bulbs are hot filaments in a vacuum.

Our cars and airplanes run on fire. They are internal combustion engines. A fire wizard can power a car or other transport without fuel. Fire wizard pilots would be able to fly an aircraft without the heavy load of jet fuel.

We use heat to generate many of the products of daily life; from metals to plastics. Chemical reactions run on entropic gradients, and fire wizards basically mess with entropy. Fire chemists who do extremely careful manipulation of how things "combust" could create completely different kinds of chemicals or massively increase yields.

If fire wizardry includes being able to draw heat out of things, such fine-grained cooling would permit faster computers or easier to build ones.


So this gives us a whole pile of jobs. If wizards are rare, centralized fire to run power plants. Spreading out to other jobs (as the number of wizards available goes up), we get wizards n chemical plant and foundaries and high value transportation, like aircraft or trains. If there are even more, fire wizards setting up artifical suns to provide crops with more hours of light and warmth. Eventually we get bus drivers and computer operators or even taxi drivers being fire wizards as the percent of the population reaches double digits.

You could imagine a modern like world where there is no traditional internal combustion engine; there are cable cars (run by boilers powered by fire wizards), light rail and busses (powered by fire wizards), and taxies; private cars are things that fire wizards own, or people who can hire a private fire wizard to drive.

Computers are as advanced as today if you are a fire wizard who can power it and draw waste heat out; otherwise, you get 80+ year old computing technology.

Medicine and ocean transport is run by water wizards, as well as chemical processing (with fire wizards). Air wizards handle non-water cargo transportation on blimps and giant kites (slower than fire wizard jets; most fire wizard jets do have air wizards for takeoff/landing, but faster than water wizard cargo ships). Air taxis in dense cities are popular, as they avoid traffic. Earth wizards handle construction, mining and civic infrastructure, plus work with the fire wizards in the smelting/processing industries.

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