When championing fire safety in your office, home, or
vehicle, owning the correct fire extinguishers for the task is essential.
Though you should only consider using a fire extinguisher when a blaze is in
the early stages—small and contained—they can be crucial in preventing
significant destruction, and managing dangerous situations. It is important to
be aware of the types of fires and units that are available so that you know
your home, office or vehicle is protected.
Types of Fires
There are 5 different classes of fire, each with its own
challenges. Knowing what kinds of fires are most likely to occur in your home or
business is important because different kinds of fires require different kinds
of fire extinguishers.
Class A Fires
Class A fires are fires in ordinary combustible materials,
such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and many plastics.
Class B Fires
Class B fires are fires in flammable liquids, combustible
liquids, petroleum greases, tars, oils, oil-based paints, solvents, lacquers,
alcohols, and flammable gases.
Class C Fires
Class C fires are
fires that involve energized electrical equipment.
Class D Fires
Class D fires are fires in combustible metals, such as
magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium, lithium, and potassium.
Class K Fires
Class K fires are fires in cooking appliances that involve
combustible cooking media (vegetable or animal oils and fats).
Types of Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers come in
many different forms,
because fires, and their causes, are diverse. The types of fire extinguisher
you will come across in the search for optimum fire safety may include:
Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers
Dry Chemical Extinguishers are used to interrupt the
chemical reaction in the fire triangle, and are most effective on Class
"B" and "C" fires.
Clean Agent Fire Extinguishers
Clean Agent Extinguishers are used to interrupt the chemical
reaction in the fire triangle, and are most effective on Class "B"
and "C" fires. These types of fire extinguishers include halon agents
as well as the newer and less ozone depleting halocarbon agents.
Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers
Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers remove oxygen from the fire
triangle and reduce heat with a cold discharge. These extinguishers are for
Class "B" and "C" fires.
Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers
Dry Powder Extinguishers separate the fuel from the oxygen
in the fire triangle and remove heat. These extinguishers are for Class
"D" or combustible metal fires only.
Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers
Wet Chemical Extinguishers remove heat and prevent
re-ignition by creating a barrier between fuel and oxygen elements. These
extinguishers are best in commercial cooking deep-fat fryers, but can be useful
in Class "A" fires.
Water Mist Fire Extinguishers
Water Mist Extinguishers are used to remove heat from the
fire triangle - used on Class "A" fires, but can be suitable for
Class "C" fires also.
Water and Foam Fire Extinguishers
Water and Foam Extinguishers are used to extinguish fires by
removing the heat from the fire triangle and separating oxygen from other
elements. Water extinguishers are for Class “A” fires only - they should not be
used on Class “B” or “C” fires.
Cartridge Operated Dry Chemical
Cartridge Operated Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers are used
to interrupt the chemical reaction in the fire triangle and are effective on Class
“A”, “B” and “C” fires. This agent also works by creating a barrier between the
oxygen element and the fuel element on Class “A” fires.
Extinguishers for the Office or Business
It goes without saying that the types of fire extinguishers you may need in
your workplace or office are likely to vary from the ones you would require at
home. The minimum rating for a single
extinguisher for Class A Hazards is 2-A.
NFPA10 - Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers 2013 Edition, fire extinguishers
shall be located so that the maximum travel distances shall not exceed 75
ft. When choosing extinguishers, you
should consider types of hazards you are protecting, travel distances, and
square footage of building. The hazards
of an area determine types and sizes of extinguishers needed, as well as travel
A commercial kitchen may require a combination of wet
chemical extinguishers and dry chemical extinguishers. Most commercial kitchens also have a fire
suppression system in the hood, which is to be activated before use of a Class “K”
Sensitive electrical equipment requires the use of a Clean
Agent extinguisher. Clean Agent
extinguishers are ideal for computer centers, data/document storage areas,
control rooms, laboratories, museums, art galleries, shops containing lasers,
CNC’s and any other expensive electrical equipment.
Three-dimensional fires, pressurized flammable liquids, and
obstacle fires require an extinguisher of 10 lb. or greater and a discharge
rate of 1 lb/sec or more. These are
considered high-flow extinguishers.
Purchasing the right selection of fire extinguishers for
your company, business, or office requires an
in-depth fire safety assessment
that considers all potential risks throughout the building or premises. It is important to consult a certified fire
professional to assess hazards and risks in an area. It is very
important to train your staff
regarding the various extinguishers available and how to properly use them, as
lack of understanding can lead to confusion and panic in emergency situations.
Extinguishers for the Home
Though homes differ in size and function, the risks are similar - focusing on
cooking, garage, material, and electrical dangers.
A good place to start with your home-based fire safety is
with a dry chemical extinguisher with at least a 2-A: 10-B: C rating. Fire extinguishers should be placed by exits
whenever possible. It is also a good
idea to have an extinguisher in your garage.
National Fire Protection Association
recommends that each house have an extinguisher for each floor - but no amount
of extinguishers can be ideal without the presence of a good fire safety plan.
Remember that fire extinguishers may be useless without an active smoke alarm
available to tell you that a blaze has taken place.
Extinguishers for Light Vehicles
Though manufacturers keep the user's safety in mind, many components within vehicles
are potential fire hazards. Having the right extinguisher on hand should help
you to deter excessive vehicle damage and fight the blaze.
There are numerous compact models on the market today that
are ideal for a personal vehicle, as their weight and size easily fit into most
cars in an unobtrusive manner. Next, because your vehicle presents numerous
fire hazards in the form of electrical wires, oil, gas, and upholstery, your
extinguisher must be capable of handling any possible mishap. The most common
extinguisher purchased for use in a passenger vehicle is a 2-1/2 lb.
extinguisher as they are light weight, fit well in a vehicle, and are easily
mounted in the floor board.
Ask yourself, do you have the right fire extinguishers
available to keep you safe in the event of an emergency? Do you understand which
types of extinguisher are appropriate for each blaze? Learning these things
could save your property, and your life.
Helpful Fire Extinguisher References For Further Research