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Fires can be started either by using an incendiary weapon such as a molotov cocktail, or by leaving a heat source on for too long. Fire will attract zombies to the location of the flames. The fire will burn down structures and will burn zombies/survivors to death. If the fire touches a wall or any other flammable structure, the structure may eventually burn down depending upon its composition; a brick, stone, or metal wall may catch fire and be damaged but go out on its own, whilst a wooden building is far more likely to be burned to ashes. The presence of rain or fog may also influence ongoing fires.
Generally, zombies take slightly longer to kill with fire than a survivor but are not immune to it. More importantly as it creates a lot of light and sound, fire will attract zombies; as such it can be used to create a (potentially expensive) distraction by igniting a building, or by setting fire to a group of zombies themselves. If players are able to avoid detection, the zombies should huddle up around each other as they burn, whilst occasionally attracting more to their mass, leading to a shambling clump of burning undead - and, ultimately, a pile of charred remains.
Once the fire is set, it is very likely that the fire will start spreading and will do so if there is something to spread on. The fire can spread on survivors, zombies, and structures, which in turn look for even more things to spread across. Once the fire has nothing to spread across for a few dozen in-game minutes, the fire will eventually die out.
In the event the player catches on fire, running (preferably out in the rain) will eventually extinguish the player. Fires can also be put out using the right mouse button and clicking extinguish. To fight a small fire, a container of water can be used, while an extinguisher should be used to combat larger fires. Even with these tools it is recommended to choose a campfire location away from anything that may spread a fire, in case a routine cookout goes out of control. Always remember to turn off/extinguish a heat source once you are done using it.