A fire tube steam boiler is a boiler where the combustion gases from the burner are channeled through tubes that are surrounded by the fluid to be heated. The boiler body is the pressure vessel and contains the fluid. In most cases, this fluid is water that will circulate for heating purposes or become steam for use in processing.
Each set of tubes through which the combustion gas passes, before making a turn, is considered a "step". Consequently, a three-step boiler will have three sets of pipes with the outlet located at the rear of the boiler.