The Basics of Fire Extinguishers

Imagine you are at work and a fire suddenly appears to the left of you. Thankfully to the right of you is a fire extinguisher. Do you know how to use a fire extinguisher? Do you know if the extinguisher is the right one for that certain type of fire? If the answer is no, you are not alone. It is a common problem that a lot of people face. They know that having a fire extinguisher is a great piece of equipment but the lack of knowledge about what type and how to use it is concerning. However, the National Fire Protection Association has recently put out some guidelines about fire extinguishers and how you can grow your understanding about them.





A question you need to ask yourself is what kind of fire am I fighting? There are commonly three classes of fires. Class A fires, which can be started using wood, paper, cloth, rubber and certain plastics, Class B fires (oils, gasoline, some paints, lacquers, grease, solvents and other flammable liquids) and Class C fires (electrical fires, including fires in wires, fuse boxes and energized electrical equipment). Each class of fire has a specific type of extinguisher that should be used to fight each class of fire.


When it comes to the extinguishers themselves, remember that there are three commonly used fire extinguishers. There are air-pressurized water, carbon dioxide and multi-purpose/dry chemical.





Air-pressurized water extinguishers are to be used only on Class A fires. Never use this type of extinguisher on flammable liquid fires, as it may make the fire spread, or electrical fires, as it may cause you to be electrocuted.


Carbon dioxide extinguishers put out fires pushing away the oxygen supply to the fire. Be aware that pieces of dry ice will shoot from the device. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are meant for use only on Class B fires and Class C fires.


Multi-purpose/dry chemical extinguishers coat the fuel element with a layer of fire-retardant chemical. Although this extinguisher is mostly used for Class B and C fires, they may be marked as multi-purpose for use in all three classes of fires.


All fire extinguishers will be marked clearly with labeling informing you about what class of fire it can be used on.


Now that you know what type of extinguisher to use, you need to learn how to properly use one. To use a fire extinguisher, The National Fire Protection Association recommends remembering the acronym “PASS”:


  • Pull the pin and hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointed away from you, then release the locking mechanism.

  • Aim low – point at the base of the fire.

  • Squeeze the lever slowly.

  • Sweep the nozzle in a side-to-side motion.


With these helpful tips from The National Fire Protection Association, you now have the knowledge to be prepared incase of a fire at your home or workplace.


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