What you Ought to Know about Fire Extinguishers

Did you know on average a fire extinguisher contains only 10 seconds of extinguishing power?

It is vital to know what type of extinguisher you are using. Using the wrong type of extinguisher for the wrong type of fire can be life-threatening.

What Type of Fire is it?

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 multi-purpose rating – they are designed for class D fires only.

What type of extinguishers are available?

Water Fire Extinguishers: The cheapest and most widely used fire extinguishers. Used for Class A fires. Not suitable for Class B (Liquid) fires, or where electricity is involved.

Foam Fire Extinguishers: More expensive than water, but more versatile. Used for Classes A & B fires. Foam spray extinguishers are not recommended for fires involving electricity, but are safer than water if inadvertently sprayed onto live electrical apparatus.

CO2 Fire Extinguishers: Carbon Dioxide is ideal for fires involving electrical apparatus, and will also extinguish class B liquid fires, but has no post fire security and the fire could re-ignite.

Water – Red

Foam – Cream

Dry Powder – Blue

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – Black

How to inspect your Fire Extinguisher

• 1  You should read the operators manual that comes with your extinguisher to learn how to properly inspect and maintain your extinguisher. Extinguishers require routine maintenance.

•  2 Look at your fire extinguisher and see if it is a rechargeable or disposable. A rechargeable extinguisher can be refilled so you can use it over. A disposable must be thrown away after use.

•  3 Look over your fire extinguisher well, looking for dents, rust or any other damage. Make sure the extinguisher looks in good condition.

•  4 Check the seal that holds the pin in the extinguisher handle. Look carefully making sure there is no evidence of it being tampered with. Make sure there are no broken or missing seals or pins.

•  5 If your extinguisher has a gauge make sure you check the pressure, the needle should be in the “green”. Also make note of the weight. Is the extinguisher full? Does it need recharged.

•  6 Look at the pin, nozzle and name plate to make sure they are all intact. Most fire extinguishers are stamped with the last service date.

•  7 Check the inspection tag on your extinguisher. Make sure it has been serviced.


How to use the Fire Extinguisher?

Follow the “PASS” acronym and you will easily figure it out.


Pull the Pin at the top of the extinguisher. The pin releases a locking mechanism and will allow you to discharge the extinguisher.

Aim at the base of the fire, not the flames. This is important – in order to put out the fire, you must extinguish the fuel.

Squeeze the lever slowly. This will release the extinguishing agent in the extinguisher. If the handle is released, the discharge will stop.

Sweep from side to side. Using a sweeping motion, move the fire extinguisher back and forth until the fire is completely out. Operate the extinguisher from a safe distance, several feet away, and then move towards the fire once it starts to diminish. Be sure to read the instructions on your fire extinguisher – different fire extinguishers recommend operating them from different distances. Remember: Aim at the base of the fire, not at the flames!!!!


I hope you are never put in the spot that you would need to use a fire extinguisher but if so, I hope the above has helped understand the basics of fires.

2 Responses to What you Ought to Know about Fire Extinguishers

  1. Joao Pedro Mavungo says:

    I’ve liked this lesson cause I learned a lot concerning Fire Extinguishers.

  2. Joao Pedro Mavungo says:

    I’ve liked this lesson cause I learned a lot concerning Fire Extinguishers so normally all workers should understand how to handle them, because in case fire everyone is to be capable to extinguish.

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