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Pyrolysis is the chemical decomposition of organic material caused by extended exposure to heat. When pyrolysis of wood occurs, the originally complex chemical compound degrades into more simple, but more volatile, chemical compounds. Further, the cracking and splitting of wood as it dries from exposure to heat increases the surface area exposed to oxygen, further aiding combustion. Pyrolysis explains why it may take years for a certain heat source to cause a fire.

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