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Know Your Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are a valuable tool when it comes to protecting your home or business from fire. An readily accessible fire extinguisher and quick action can put out a small fire before it can seriously damage your property. However, not all fires are the same, and neither are extinguishers.

To safely extinguish a fire, it is important to use the right extinguisher for that particular fire type. For example, you wouldn’t want to use a pressurized water extinguisher on an electrical fire due to risk of spreading the fire. Read on to learn about the different classes of fire, and the extinguisher type for each.

Fire Classifications

Fires can be divided into five classes:

  • Class A - Most common fires resulting from everyday combustibles in your home or office such as paper, wood, cloth, plastic, and trash.

  • Class B - Fires resulting from combustible liquids like gasoline, paint, and oil, and some gases including propane and butane.

  • Class C - Electrical fires caused by shorts and faulty outlets, wires, and other electrical equipment.

  • Class D - Less common chemical fires caused by combustible metals including magnesium, sodium, aluminum, and potassium.

  • Class K - Common fires in kitchens due to cooking oils, grease, and fats.

Extinguisher Types

Since fires can be caused and fueled by a variety of sources, different types of extinguishers must be used to safely extinguish the flames. The extinguisher types include:

  • Air Pressurized Water (APW) - This common extinguisher sprays water and is ideal for Class A fires that are fueled by paper, wood, plastic, and other everyday items. Never use an APW extinguisher on Class B, C, or D fires because it could actually spread the fire rather than extinguishing it.

  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) - These extinguishers spray CO2, which is non flammable and displaces oxygen which extinguishes fire. These are to be used with Class B and C fires only, and are ideally located in offices, computer rooms, mechanical rooms, and industrial areas.

  • Dry Chemical - According to FEMA, dry chemical extinguishers eliminate fires by, “interrupting the chemical reaction of the fire triangle.” Multipurpose extinguishers use ammonium phosphate and are effective against Class A, B, and C fires, making it one of the most versatile and commonly used extinguishers in homes, businesses, schools, and healthcare facilities.

    Basic dry chemical extinguishers on the other hand use sodium bicarbonate and are only effective in Class B and C fires. Basic dry chemical extinguishers or typically found in labs, kitchens, and garages.

  • Wet Chemical - These extinguishers use potassium acetate to put out Class K fires caused by cooking oils, fats, and grease. They are ideally located in places where food is prepared, such as your kitchen at home, or restaurant kitchens.

Now that you know more about the different fire types and accompanying extinguishers, be sure that your home and business is stocked with the appropriate extinguishers in case of a fire. Quick action with a fire extinguisher could mean the difference between minimal fire damage and complete destruction of your home or office.

If you have experienced fire damage, contact the fire damage restoration experts at ServiceMaster of Florence, or ServiceMaster of Columbia. We have the knowledge, tools, and experience to address the damage caused by soot, smoke, and other fire related issues.


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