Before Fire Prevention Month (October) ends, we want to share some information on fire extinguishers. Portable fire extinguishers apply an agent that: either cools burning fuel, removes oxygen, or stops chemical reactions, so the fire cannot continue to burn. Along with heat, these four elements must be present at the same time to cause a fire to exist.
All fire extinguishers must be approved by a recognized testing laboratory to be in compliance with correct standards for appropriate types of fires. They are then labeled and
given an alphabetic-numeric class, based on type and size of fire they are extinguishing.
Fire extinguishers work much like a can of hair spray. They contain pressurized water, CO2 (carbon dioxide), or dry chemical. To help understand the type of extinguisher you need, here are types of fires:
- Type A: Fires in paper, cloth, wood, rubber, and many plastics require water-type extinguishers. Never use water to extinguish flammable liquid fires or electrical fires.
- Type B: Fires from flammable liquids such as oils, gasoline, some paints, lacquers, grease and solvents need the carbon dioxide-type extinguishers.
- Type C: Fires of electrical equipment such as fuse boxes, energized electrical equipment, computers or others with electric sources need to be extinguished with ones that contain dry chemicals. (Electrical equipment must be unplugged before using water-type extinguishers.)
Multi-Purpose fire extinguishers contain dry chemicals and are suitable for type A-B-C fires.
They come in a red container and weigh from 5 to 20 pounds. When choosing a proper fire extinguisher for your particular needs, remember to select one that isn’t too heavy for the person who would be using it. There are other types of fire extinguishers for different needs, such as restaurants or industrial fires.
Portable fire extinguishers are good for containing small fires; however, we must have a good fire exit plan and know when to leave. To use the fire extinguisher properly, keep PASS instructions in mind:
Pull the pin.
Aim low. Point to the base of the fire.
Squeeze lever slowly and evenly.
Sweep nozzle from side to side.
Fire extinguishers should be checked monthly. Be sure the pressure is fully charged, by inspecting the gauge needle, which should always be in the green zone. Gently rock extinguisher from top to bottom to ensure powder isn’t packed.
Remember to be ready to make your exit if the fire is not quickly contained. If you have questions on the operation of your extinguisher, most local fire departments will be glad to give you instructions on its correct use.