Ready or Not #129: Types of Fire Extinguishers

Last week, I told you how important it is to have a fire extinguisher in the car, but you also want to have one in your house and garage, too.  I have a friend who was making home-made French fries. She left the stove for just a moment and the oil caught on fire.  It was sad that her kitchen was damaged, but what made it even sadder was that she had just finished painting and decorating the kitchen.  It had looked beautiful, but it was hard to see the beauty through the charred wood and the burnt Formica.

Our neighbor’s children accidentally started their garage on fire. Down the street, another neighbor lost their entire house because of a fire that started in their garage. Fortunately, nobody was hurt in any of these incidents, but there was a great deal of financial loss and also the loss of personal items that can never be replaced.

I went to a couple of web sites that give the basics about fire extinguishers and which one you need to buy for the different kinds of fires.  The first web site was www.fire-extinguisher101.com.  They explained that, “Fire extinguishers are divided into four categories, based on different types of fires. Each fire extinguisher also has a numerical rating that serves as a guide for the amount of fire the extinguisher can handle. The higher the number, the more fire-fighting power. The following is a quick guide to help choose the right type of extinguisher.”

  • Class A extinguishers are for ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood, cardboard, and most plastics. The numerical rating on these types of extinguishers indicates the amount of water it holds and the amount of fire it can extinguish.
  • Class B fires involve flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, grease and oil. The numerical rating for class B extinguishers indicates the approximate number of square feet of fire it can extinguish.
  • Class C fires involve electrical equipment, such as appliances, wiring, circuit breakers and outlets. Never use water to extinguish class C fires. The risk of electrical shock is far too great! Class C extinguishers do not have a numerical rating. The C classification means the extinguishing agent is non-conductive.
  • Class D fire extinguishers are commonly found in a chemical laboratory. They are for fires that involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, potassium and sodium. These types of extinguishers also have no numerical rating, nor are they given a multipurpose rating. They are designed for class D fires only. (www.fire-extinguisher101.com).

The web site www.hanford.gov/fire/safety/extingrs.htm talked about the different types of extinguishers that are out there for you to buy and what Class of fire they are able to fight and how they work:

“Dry Chemical extinguishers are usually rated for multiple purpose use. They contain an extinguishing agent and use a compressed, non-flammable gas as a propellant.

Halon extinguishers contain a gas that interrupts the chemical reaction that takes place when fuels burn. These types of extinguishers are often used to protect valuable electrical equipment since them leave no residue to clean up. Halon extinguishers have a limited range, usually 4 to 6 feet. The initial application of Halon should be made at the base of the fire, even after the flames have been extinguished.

Water.  These extinguishers contain water and compressed gas and should only be used on Class A (ordinary combustibles) fires. (Personally I feel these are the least effective.)

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguishers are most effective on Class B and C (liquids and electrical) fires. Since the gas disperses quickly, these extinguishers are only effective from 3 to 8 feet. The carbon dioxide is stored as a compressed liquid in the extinguisher; as it expands, it cools the surrounding air. The cooling will often cause ice to form around the “horn” where the gas is expelled from the extinguisher. Since the fire could re-ignite, continue to apply the agent even after the fire appears to be out.”

When using a fire extinguisher, always remember to P.A.S.S. – Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep.

Pull the pin at the top of the extinguisher that keeps the handle from being accidentally pressed.

Aim the nozzle toward the base of the fire.

Stand approximately 8 feet away from the fire and squeeze the handle to discharge the extinguisher. If you release the handle, the discharge will stop.

Sweep the nozzle back and forth at the base of the fire. After the fire appears to be out, watch it carefully since it may re-ignite!

If you have never felt the thrill of using a fire extinguisher to put out a fire, you have got to try it –it’s great.  Actually, it would be a good idea to get the family together and sacrifice a refillable fire extinguisher so that everyone will have a working knowledge of what to do and what they can expect.  That valuable experience will only cost you the expense of having to refill the extinguisher, but the experience gained will be very valuable.  Another way to gain fire fighting experience is to become CERT trained or to volunteer at your city’s volunteer fire department – and if you live in Salem City, Utah, they could really use you.

Now go get prepared – physically and mentally.

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