Fire Extinguishers

With so many fire extinguishers to choose from, selecting the proper one for you home can be a daunting task. Everyone should have at least one fire extinguisher in their home, but it is just as important that you have the proper type of extinguisher.  The proper use of portable fire extinguishers can extinguish many fires while they are still small.  You should be aware, however, that you should call 911 without delay as soon as any fire is discovered. 

What is fire? Fire comes from a chemical reaction between oxygen in the atmosphere and some sort of fuel. There are four elements that must be present for a fire to exist:

1. Oxygen, to sustain combustion.
2. Heat, to raise the fuel to it’s ignition temperature.
3. Fuel, to support combustion.
4. A chemical reaction between the above three elements.

If you remove any one of the above four elements, you have extinguished the fire. The concept of fire prevention is keeping the 4 elements above separate. Not all fire are the same. Different fuels create different fires and therefore require different types of extinguishers. There are five classes of fire and each class of fire has it’s own type of extinguisher.

Class A
Class A fires are fires that involve ordinary combustable materials such as wood, paper, cloth, trash and plastics.

Class B
Class B fires are fires that involve flammable liquids such as gasoline, petroleum oils and paint. Class B fires also include flammable gases such as propane and butane. Class B does not include fires involving cooking oils and grease.

Class C
Class C fires are fires that involve 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
Class D fires are fires that involve combustable metals such as potassium, sodium, aluminum, and magnesium.

Class K
Class K fires are fires that involve cooking oils and greases such as animal fats and vegetable fats.

When choosing a fire extinguisher, you want to be sure that you choose the correct extinguisher. All extinguishers have a label that indicates which type of fire that they are designed to extinguish.  Extinguishers only contain a limited amount of extinguishing material and need to be used properly so that this material is not wasted.  After purchasing a fire extinguisher for your home, you need to be sure to read the instructions before it’s too late.  Although there are many different types of fire extinguishers, all of them operate in a similar manner.

Use this acronym as a quick reference:

P - A - S - S

Pull the Pin at the top of the extinguisher.  The pin releases a locking mechanism and will alow 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!!!!!


A typical fire extinguisher contains 10 seconds of extinguishing power.  This could be less if it has already been partially discharged.  Always read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher beforehand and become familiarized with its parts.

Once the fire is out, don’t walk away!  Watch the area for a few minutes in case it re-ignites.  Recharge the extinguisher immediately after use.