While fire extinguishers can save lives and property, many Americans are not properly trained and educated on how or when to use them. Before you need to use a fire extinguisher, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the type of extinguisher it is and read the instructions on the label.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
There are five primary types of extinguishers, each designed for a specific type of fire. If used incorrectly, a fire extinguisher can cause the fire to spread, re-ignite, or even explode. However, most home improvement stores carry multipurpose fire extinguishers that cover Class A through Class C fires.
Class A Fire Extinguisher – For use with cloth, wood, rubber, paper and plastic. Commonly found in homes and businesses.
Class B Fire Extinguisher – For use with flammable liquids, such as grease, gas, alcohol. oil and oil-based paints. Commonly found in homes and businesses.
Class C Fire Extinguisher – For use with electrical equipment, such as appliances, tools or other items that are plugged into an electrical outlet. Commonly found in homes and businesses.
Class D Fire Extinguisher – For use with flammable metals. Commonly found in factories.
Class K Fire Extinguisher – For use with fats, animal oils and vegetable oils in cooking appliances. Commonly found in commercial kitchens and restaurants.
When to Use a Fire Extinguisher
Fire extinguishers are only meant to be used for small, contained fires, such as a fire in a pot on the stove or a wastebasket. Once you have sounded the fire alarm and/or alerted others, and confirmed you have a safe escape route, you may use a fire extinguisher to dowse the fire, provided you can maintain a safe distance from the fire’s toxic fumes.
If you are unsure about the size of the fire, your escape route, or exposure to fumes, do not attempt to use the fire extinguisher. Instead, alert others, leave the building and call 911.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
When using a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym P.A.S.S.
- Pull the pin.
- Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side to side at the base of the fire.
What to Do Once the Fire is Out
Since the extinguishing material in most fire extinguishers is a dry chemical similar to sand, you can usually clean up most of the residue with a vacuum cleaner. Once the loose residue is picked up, you may need to use a damp cloth to scrub stubborn residue. If it’s a sodium or potassium bicarbonate fire extinguisher you may need to use a vinegar and water solution. Just make sure to wear gloves because the chemicals can damage your skin.
For additional tips, check out our Dos and Don’ts after Fire Damage and Next Steps After a Fire. We are also available for fire restoration and odor removal in Albany, Saratoga, Glens Falls and throughout the Albany Capital Region and Adirondacks. Call 877-MACFAWN for 24/7 emergency service or contact us online.