Understanding the Different Types of Fire Extinguishers

Although no homeowner wants to think about the possibility of a damaging fire, having a plan in place is one of the most effective ways to ensure tragedy doesn't strike (and if it does, you have the means to stop it as soon as possible). While smoke alarms and heat detectors should be installed throughout the home, it is also important to familiarize yourself and any other individuals living in your house with the different types of fire extinguishers, how to use them, and the kinds of fires they are for.

Types of Fires

Before analyzing fire extinguishers, make sure you are able to distinguish between the different classes of fires.

  • Class A: A fire caused by combustible materials like wood, paper, cloth, or trash.
  • Class B: A fire caused by flammable liquids. These can range from gasoline and paint to propane.
  • Class C: A fire involving electrical equipment and appliances.
  • Class D: A fire caused by the combustion of certain metals like potassium, sodium, or magnesium. These are extremely uncommon in homes unless these elements in their purest forms are stored somewhere inside.
  • Class K: A fire caused by the ignition of cooking oils or greases (these will most likely occur in the kitchen).

Water & Foam

This type of extinguisher works by removing heat from the fire and cutting off its fuel source, oxygen. The foam actually separates the oxygen particles from the rest of the burning material. This device should only be used on Class A fires, and should never be used on Class K (grease) fires.

Dry Chemical

As one of the most commonly used devices on fires, dry chemical extinguishers are effective with Class A, B, and C fires, making them extremely versatile and useful in the home. Their efficacy is due to their ability to isolate the chemical components of the fire to halt the burning process.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide extinguishers also cut off the supply of oxygen to a fire. Eliminating the fire's power source is the most sure-fire way to stop the spread of smoke and flames. This device is best utilized with Class B and C fires, as it is generally ineffective with wood and paper-based fires.

Wet Chemical

A newcomer to the extinguisher industry, wet chemicals are used on Class K fires as a modern approach to tackling a challenging grease fire in large kitchens. They work by lowering the exterior temperature of the fire and creating a barrier between oxygen particles and the grease or animal fat it is reacting with. This chemical reaction prevents the possibility of re-ignition.

Before purchasing or installing any fire extinguisher in our home, make sure to recall the above information to ensure your family is as safe as possible. For more information, contact a local fire servicing company.