fire extinguisher uses and types

Fire Extinguisher Uses And Types

Keeping a fire extinguisher in your home can prevent severe damage or injury, but not every fire extinguisher is suitable for all types of emergencies. Some fire extinguishers work better on common household fires, while some are more effective on chemicals or metals. 

Today, the professionals at Restorerz Emergency Services are here to inform you about the different fire extinguisher uses and types and will discuss the various classifications of fire extinguishers and how to use them best. 

Contact us today if you need a fire damage restoration company in Los Angeles!

Types of Fires and Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers differ by the type of fire retardant they contain. The different kinds of fire retardants are each meant for a specific type of fire and fuel source. Experts identify five types of fires and fuel sources. 

  • Class A fires include typical solid combustibles, like wood, paper, rubber, and cloth. 
  • Class B flames come from flammable liquids like gasoline, diesel, ethanol, and paraffin.
  • Class C fires include fires from gases like propane, methane, or butane.
  • Class D fires are fires that result from burning metal, like lithium, magnesium, or aluminum
  • Class K fires involve fires that result from cooking substances like oils and fats.

The above types of friends have different fuel sources, so they may require different substances to stop their spread. For example, water will not put out a grease fire, but wet chemicals will. Below are the most common types of fire extinguisher materials. 

Water Mist

Water mist extinguishers work well for Class A fires and may spray a continuous stream or mist spray. These types of extinguishers are not suitable for cold weather use and may contain extra wetting chemicals. Water mist extinguishers are best for objects that might be sensitive to larger streams of water, like furniture. 

Foam Spray

Foam spray extinguishers emit a buoyant foam substance instead of a liquid or gas. These types of extinguishers are suitable for Class A and B fires. Foam fire extinguishers are handy for Class B fires because the foaming agent can float on the liquid surface and stop the fire from reigniting. 

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide extinguishers contain a gaseous/solid mix of CO2. CO2 extinguishers work because the carbon dioxide displaces oxygen, preventing combustion from occurring. These types of extinguishers are best for Class B and C fires because they won’t accidentally spread the fuel source. They also work well for electrical fires. 

Clean Agent

Clean agent extinguishers contain pressurized gasses that work similarly to carbon dioxide extinguishers. Clean agent extinguishers often use a particular type of halogen gas that dissipates quickly, leaves no residue, and is safe for humans. Clean agent extinguishers are best for Class B and C fires and electrical equipment fires. 

Dry Chemical

Dry extinguishers contain a solid particulate agent—typically sodium bicarbonate or ammonium phosphate. These extinguishers are one of the most versatile types and are suitable for Class A, B, and C fires, so many people call them ‘ABC powder’ extinguishers. There are also special dry powder extinguishers specifically for Class D flames that can put out metallic fires.

Wet Chemical

Wet extinguishers contain a liquid chemical solution that consists of potassium compounds and water. Wet chemical extinguishers work best for Class K cooking fires but also work well on Class A fires. The highly basic liquid agent suffocates cooking fires without splashing oils or fats.

Below is a handy reference table summarizing the different fire extinguisher uses and types. 

  Water Foam Carbon Dioxide Clean Agent Dry Chemical Wet Chemical
Class A X X     X X
Class B   X X X X  
Class C     X X X  
Class D         Depends  
Class K           X
Electrical     X X    

Which Fire Extinguisher Is the Best?

It depends on what kinds of chemicals and fuel sources you have at the location of the fire. An ABC powder extinguisher or carbon dioxide extinguisher is suitable for a household because it can handle many different types of fires. 

If you have a lot of electrical equipment, a carbon dioxide or clean agent extinguisher would be the best choice. Homeowners that have several combustible solids, like papers or wood, might want to keep a water mist extinguisher on hand. 

How Do You Use a Fire Extinguisher?

Follow the PASS method for the best way to operate a fire extinguisher:

  • Pull the pin out near the handle to open the canister seal. 
  • Aim the nozzle low at the fire’s base.
  • Squeeze the trigger hard to expel the canister’s contents. 
  • Sweep the spray back and forth slowly until the fire goes out. 

The PASS technique should work for most fire extinguishers, except for some fires in industrial locations. 

Fire Extinguisher FAQ

Below are some common questions about fire extinguisher types, use, and maintenance. 

How Long Do Fire Extinguishers Last?

Fire extinguisher canister contents will not expire like food items. However, the canister can lose pressure over time, rendering the extinguisher ineffective. You will need to repressurize the canister after each use or at least once every 12 months. 

Am I Legally Required to Have a Fire Extinguisher?

The law requires employers and landlords to provide fire extinguishers in the workplace and shared locations in apartment buildings. However, residents and homeowners do not have to have fire extinguishers in their residences.

Where Should I Keep My Fire Extinguisher?

You should keep a fire extinguisher nearby potential fire and heat sources, like the kitchen, fireplaces, garage, or bedrooms. Fire extinguishers should be readily accessible so you can grab them within seconds of the fire starting. 

Can I Refill an Extinguisher Canister?

Yes, you can generally refill an extinguisher canister after discharging the contents. However, some fire extinguishers are one-time-use only. Hardware stores contain refill canisters for different fire extinguisher uses and types. 

24/7 Emergency Repair & Restoration Services 

Read our blog to learn what happens during the fire damage repair process. If you would like to discuss emergency damage restoration services, contact Restorerz Emergency Services online or give us a call today at (323) 997-4978!

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