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Fire Extinguishers

Helpful Tips To Purchase and Properly Use Fire Extinguishers

  • Be Fire Smart - Fire Extinguishers

    While larger fires should only be handled by professional firefighters, smaller fires can often be put out using a portable fire extinguisher. Because of this, it is recommended that every household have fire extinguishers conveniently placed throughout a home.

    What Kind of Fire Extinguisher Should You Buy?
    There are a number of different fire extinguishers that specialize in putting out different types of fires. They are labeled using a combination of letters and colored geometric symbols. For example, multi-purpose fire extinguishers that are recommended for use in the home are usually labeled as either a Class A-B or Class A-B-C extinguisher.

    The other types of fire extinguishers that are available include:

    • Class A extinguishers are labeled using a green triangle. They are designed to put out fires caused by combustible materials like paper, cloth, wood and plastics.
    • Class B extinguishers are labeled using a red square. They are designed to put out fires caused by grease, kerosene, gasoline and other flammable liquids.
    • Class C extinguishers are labeled using a blue circle. They are designed to put out fires that involve electrical equipment, wiring or outlets.
    • Class D extinguishers are labeled using a yellow star. They are most commonly found in factories and designed to put out fires caused by flammable metals such as magnesium, lithium or titanium.
    • Class K extinguishers are labeled using a black hexagon. They are most commonly found in professional kitchens and designed to put out fires caused by cooking oils and fats used in cooking appliances.

    Your local fire department can make recommendations if you have questions about what may be the best type of fire extinguisher for your home.

    How Do You Use a Fire Extinguisher?
    The best way to learn how to effectively use different types of fire extinguishers is by taking training courses when they are offered by your local fire department. However, there are general guidelines you can follow when using a multi-purpose fire extinguisher to put out a fire that is confined to a small area:

    1. Pull the safety pin, or remove the plastic pin retainer and then remove the pin completely and discard it.
    2. Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire, not the smoke or flames rising above it.
    3. Squeeze the handle (this may vary depending on the model) firmly, pressing it down all the way if possible.
    4. Sweep left-to-right, directing the stream of fire suppressant across the full width of the fire at its base until it appears to be out.

    If the fire is not immediately put out, or if the room fills with smoke, leave it immediately and call the fire department.

    How Do You Store A Fire Extinguisher?
    Fire extinguishers should be stored in plain sight so they can be accessed quickly if they are ever needed. Unless the manufacturer's instructions say otherwise, fire extinguishers should be stored upright and with their safety clips or pins in place. Some places fire experts recommend storing fire extinguishers around your home include:

    • In the kitchen
    • Near heating and cooling equipment
    • In the laundry room, or wherever your washer, dryer and clothes iron are located
    • In the garage, shop or wherever flammable gasoline and chemicals may be stored

    How Do You Maintain A Fire Extinguisher?
    All fire extinguishers need some inspection and maintenance to ensure they are still operating properly. If your fire extinguisher is under- or over-inflated, have it charged according to the instructions on its label or replace it. A complete inspection of the extinguisher should be performed by a professional once a year as well.

    Some additional fire extinguisher care and maintenance tips include:

    • Keep it clean and dust it off regularly without disturbing the safety clip or pin.
    • Make sure the canister is dry and free of dents and surface rust.
    • Make sure the rubber/plastic nozzle is free of cracks or discoloration.
    • Ensure the safety clip or pin is in place and keeping the handle from being accidentally squeezed and accidentally discharged.
    • Do not operate the extinguisher to test it. Doing so will decrease the pressure inside it and cause it not to work later on.