4 Things to Know About Fire and Fire Extinguishers

Here are some helpful tips and suggestions about fires and the use of fire extinguishers. Need more? Talk to your local fire and police officials about safety training programs in your area. Remember – be safe and be smart.

Know the Right Extinguisher to Buy

There are eight types of fire extinguishers:

  • Water and foam — Class A fires only – they should not be used on Class B or C fires
  • Carbon dioxide — Class B & C fires
  • Dry chemical — Class A, B, and C fires (Ordinary dry chemical is for Class B & C fires only)
  • Wet chemical — Class K extinguishers for modern, high efficiency deep fat fryers in commercial cooking operations. Some may also be used on Class A fires in commercial kitchens.
  • Clean agent — Class B & C fires. Some larger clean agent extinguishers can be used on Class A, B, and C fires.
  • Dry powder — Class D or combustible metal fires only.
  • Water mist —  primarily for Class A fires, although safe for use on Class C fires
  • Cartridge-operated dry chemical —  Class B & C fires

Most household fire extinguishers should carry an ABC rating, making them appropriate for most household fires. Check the label on your fire extinguisher to see which rating it carries.

Know Your Fire Type

There are five fire classifications:

  • Class A — fires in ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, trash, and plastics.
  • Class B — fires in flammable liquids such as gasoline, petroleum oil and paint. Class B fires also include flammable gases such as propane and butane. Class B fires do NOT include fires involving cooking oils and grease.
  • Class C — fires involving energized electrical equipment such as motors, transformers, and appliances. Remove the power and the Class C fire becomes one of the other classes of fire.
  • Class D — fires in combustible metals such as potassium, sodium, aluminum, and magnesium.
  • Class K — fires in cooking oils and greases such as animals fats and vegetable fats.

Watch this brief video to learn a bit more about the classification of fire extinguishers from Edina, MN Fire Marshall Tom Jenson:

Know Where to Store Your Extinguisher

  1. Install fire extinguishers carrying an ABC rating on every level of the home and include the kitchen, basement and garage.
  2. Place the fire extinguisher by an exit so that you can leave if you notice the fire becoming too large for you to extinguish yourself.
  3. Do NOT keep your extinguisher near the stove. If a fire breaks out at the stove, you want to be able to grab your extinguisher from elsewhere.
  4. Make sure to tell all family members where the extinguishers are located.
  5. Inspect your extinguisher each month by checking the charge level. The dial should be at 100 percent or “full.” If it is below those levels, have the extinguisher recharged by a professional (usually listed in the Yellow Pages or ask your fire department).
  6. Replace your extinguisher if it cannot be recharged. Contact your local fire or sanitation departments regarding local laws on correct and legal disposal.

WHN TIP – Replace/Recharge! You should replace or recharge your extinguisher once it has been used, even if only a little material was released.

Know How to Use Your Extinguisher

  1. Train all family members – including responsible children – when and how to use fire extinguishers.
  2. Use a fire extinguisher only if:
    • The fire is small.
    • You know how to use a fire extinguisher.
    • The correct extinguisher is immediately at hand.
    • You have a clear exit path behind you.

In the following video, Edina, MN Fire Marshall Tom Jenson explains how to work a fire extinguisher using the acronym, “P.A.S.S.”

P……Pull the Pin at the top of the extinguisher.

A……Aim the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the flames.

S……Squeeze trigger while holding the extinguisher upright. If you release the handle, the
discharge will stop.

S……Sweep the extinguisher from side to side, covering the area of the fire with the
extinguishing agent. After the fire appears to be out, watch it carefully since it may re-ignite!

WHN TIP – Toxic? Dry chemical extinguishers are usually filled with mono-ammonium phosphate, which is a nontoxic substance. However, large amounts of this powder in the air can cause breathing difficulties. Leave the room after an extinguisher is used.

For More Information

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA): Fire extinguishers
The page has tips on using a fire extinguisher. The (NFPA) is a global nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.

Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association: Portable Fire Extinguishers and Types of Fire
The sections cover the types of fire extinguishers and the types of fires they are used for. The Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association is led by industry experts with decades of fire protection experience, representing the top global brands in commercial fire protection.

Photo Credit: Piotr Chrobot

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