To have a fire you need three things: oxygen, heat and flammable material, therefore the cold vacuum of space is the last place you would expect something to burn. I was, however, wondering if a very large damaged spaceship would change this.
Suppose for instance that an explosion has happened aboard a spaceship, which not only has damaged a fuel pipe inside the spaceship, such that anything close to the explosion has been soaked in flammable liquids and has caught fire, but which also has made a significant hole in the exterior hull of the ship.
If the hole is big enough, and if the ship has so much air that it will not be emptied too quickly, I assume that the pressure of the air inside the ship would be enough to blow several of the fuel-soaked and burning things near the hole out into space.
As these burning pieces of debris leave the damaged spaceship, I was, however, wondering if they would keep burning for a short period of time, or if the fire would die out as soon as they left the spaceship.
My first hypothesis was that the burning debris could keep burning, at least the first few seconds after leaving the spaceship, since oxygen needed for the burning debris to keep burning would be provided by the air flowing out of the spaceship, the temperature by the combined heat of the burning debris and the air – which would have been heated up by the fire inside the spaceship – (also keep in mind that since there are no matter in space, the only way for the air and debris to lose thermal energy is through radiation, which is not very efficient) and the flammable material by the leaked fuel in which the burning debris is assumed to be soaked.
My second hypothesis was however that the burning debris would stop burning the very second it flew through the hole in the spaceship – perhaps even before that because the expansion of the air leaving the ship would cause it to cool down very rapidly, such that the air surrounding the burning debris very quickly would absorb almost all the thermal energy of the debris, thus making the fire die out.
My question is, therefore, taking all this into account (and perhaps more factors that I have completely missed) is it likely that burning debris in the given situation, could keep burning for more than a few seconds in space -- at least long enough to justify using burning debris as a visual effect in games or animations -- or is burning debris in space simply unthinkable.