Picking the Right Fire Extinguisher
What’s at Stake?
Fire extinguishers are not a one type fits all piece of equipment. Different types of fire extinguishers are filled with different kinds of extinguishing agents designed to put out a specific type of fire or fires.
While operating a fire extinguisher is simple, in an emergency, even the simplest of tasks become difficult and if you accidentally choose the wrong type of extinguisher you put yourself and others in danger.
What’s the Danger?
Using the wrong type of extinguisher to fight a fire can cause the fire to grow rapidly, cause an explosion, create a hazardous atmosphere, or lead to shock and electrocution.
A water extinguisher used on electrical or oil fires may cause electric shock or explosion.
A Type B or C carbon dioxide extinguisher used on a chemical fire may cause violent explosions.
How to Protect Yourself
Choosing the correct type of fire extinguisher for the fire you are trying to put out is key. Ask your supervisor if you are not sure what kind of fire extinguishers you have in your work area. The following list is a guide to the different classes of extinguishers and the types of fires they put out.
- Class A Fire Extinguishers: paper, wood, rubber, cloth, and plastics.
- Class B Fire Extinguishers: flammable liquids including grease, oil, gasoline, and oil based paints.
- Class C Fire Extinguishers: electrical fires from circuit breaker panels, energized equipment, computers, and other electrical equipment.
- Class D Fire Extinguishers: industrial applications including fires fueled by flammable metals.
- Class K Fire Extinguishers: vegetable oils, animal oils, and other fats used for cooking. Used in commercial kitchens and restaurants with deep fat fryers.
Multipurpose Extinguishers – Some fire extinguishers are marked A-B-C or “multipurpose.” These combination extinguishers may contain either a dry chemical or an inert gas and may be used on all three classes of fires.
Learning the ABCD’s and K’s of fire extinguisher safety and knowing how to operate a fire extinguisher can help you protect yourself and others when a small fire breaks out.