Menu

Portable Fire Extinguishers

Sub-Menu

Portable Fire Extinguishers

Everybody has seen fire extinguishers. Many people have them in their car, at home, or at work, however, not everyone understands them or knows how to operate them.

It is important to have a working knowledge of fire extinguishers.  This knowledge could save your life or those you love.  The operator should be familiar with the extinguisher so it won’t be necessary to read directions during an emergency.  Fire extinguishers are not designed to fight a large or spreading fire.  Even against small fires, they are useful only under the right conditions.  An extinguisher must be large enough for the fire at hand.  It must be available and in working order, fully charged.

Buy Extinguishers Carefully

A fire extinguisher should be “listed” and “labeled” by an independent testing laboratory such as FM (Factory Mutual) or UL (Underwriters Laboratory).  The higher the rating number on an A or B fire extinguisher, the more fire it can put out, but high-rated units are often the heavier models. Make sure you can hold and operate the extinguisher you are buying.

Remember that extinguishers need care and must be recharged after every use.  Ask the dealer about the extinguisher and how it should be serviced and inspected.  A partially used unit might as well be empty.  You may need more than one extinguisher in your home, for example, you may want an extinguisher in the kitchen as well as one in the garage or workshop.

Each extinguisher should be installed in plain view near an escape route and away from potential fire hazards such as heating appliances.

Types of Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are labeled according to the type of fire on which they may be used.

Fires involving wood or cloth, flammable liquids, electrical, or metal sources react differently to extinguishers.  Using one type of extinguisher on the wrong type of fire could be dangerous and make matters worse.

Traditionally, the labels A, B, C or D have been used to indicate the type of fire on which an extinguisher is to be used.

Type A Label
A Type A label is in a triangle on the extinguisher. This extinguisher is used for ordinary combustibles such as cloth, wood, rubber, and many plastics. These types of fires usually leave ashes after they burn.

Type B Label
A Type B label is in a square on the extinguisher.  This extinguisher is used for flammable liquid fires such as oil, gasoline, paints, lacquers, grease, and solvents.

Type C Label
A Type C label is in a circle on the extinguisher. This extinguisher is used for electrical fires such as in wiring, fuse boxes, energized electrical equipment, and other electrical sources.  Electricity travels in currents.

Type D Label
A Type D label is in a star on the extinguisher. This extinguisher is used for metal fires such as magnesium, titanium, and sodium. These types of fires are very dangerous and seldom handled by the general public.

When to Fight a Fire

You should fight a fire with a fire extinguisher only when all the following are true:

  • Everyone has left or is leaving the building.
  • The Fire Department has been called.
  • The fire is small and confined to the immediate area where it started such as in a wastebasket, cushion, small appliance, stove, etc.
  • You can fight the fire with your back to a safe escape route.
  • Your extinguisher is rated for the type of fire you are fighting and is in good working order.
  • You have had training in use of the extinguisher and are confident that you can operate it effectively.

There is a simple acronym to remember when operating most fire extinguishers, P A S S, which stands for:

Pull the pin at the top of the cylinder. Some units require the releasing of a lock latch or pressing a puncture lever.

Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.

Squeeze the handle fully to release the contents of the extinguisher.

Sweep the contents from side to side at the base of the fire until it goes out.

Remember, if you have the slightest doubt about whether or not to fight the fire – DON’T, instead, get out, closing the door behind you to slow the spread of the fire.