Understanding the Classes & Choosing the Right Fire Extinguisher

Fire Extinguisher

When it is time to protect your loved ones from the fear of fire, many people may decide to purchase a fire extinguisher. Now unless you are an expert in this area of fire safety, most would need instruction on properly selecting the product that will protect your home. A fire extinguisher is your first line of defense in putting out a small blaze. Quick action on your part could prevent the fire from spreading and causing serious damage. Just as important as quick action, it is also important to use the right type of extinguisher. Learn more about different classes of fires and how to choose the right fire extinguisher.

How Fire Extinguishers Work

Fire is a fierce chemical reaction that results in light, heat, flames and smoke. In order to burn, a fire requires three things: oxygen, heat and a fuel source.

Portable fire extinguishers are designed to displace one of these requirements. This includes cooling the fuel source, separating the oxygen from the fuel, or stopping the chemical reaction altogether.

Different Classes of Fires

  • Class A fires (ordinary combustibles) involve the burning of paper, cloth, plastic, wood and other ordinary materials.
  • Class B fires (flammable liquids) occur when oil, gasoline, grease, paint and solvents ignite.
  • Class C fires (electrical equipment) happen when faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, malfunctioning computers or other electrical equipment start a fire.
  • Class D fires (metal) involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, sodium or potassium. These fires are limited to laboratories with these dangerous substances on hand.
  • Class K fires (cooking) ignite in kitchens using hot grease and oil to cook food.

Fire Infographic

Different Types of Fire Extinguishers

Each class of fire has a corresponding type of fire extinguisher designed to put it out. Look for the following options when shopping for the right style for your home or business:

  • Air-pressurized water extinguishers for Class A fires: Because it’s so inexpensive and readily available, water is commonly used to put out ordinary Class A fires. These extinguishers are usually silver colored and stand 2 to 3 feet tall. Some versions have a detergent inside to make the water foam and be more effective at cooling and smothering the flames.
  • Carbon dioxide or dry chemical extinguishers for Class B and C fires: Water is not effective for putting out fires caused by flammable liquids or electrical equipment. In fact, water could make matters worse. That’s why you need a CO2 or dry chemical extinguisher for Class B and C fires. The CO2 displaces the oxygen, and its coolness brings the temperature down so the fire can no longer burn.
  • Multipurpose or “ABC” extinguisher for Class A, B and C fires: In most cases, this is the type of fire extinguisher you want to have on hand. A single canister can handle the three most common types of fires: Class A, B and C. Multipurpose fire extinguishers are comprised of dry chemicals that coat the fire with a retardant power, choking it of oxygen. The dry chemicals also interrupt the chemical reaction required for the fuel source to burn. These fire extinguishers are the signature red color you’re most familiar with and weigh between 5 and 20 pounds.
  • Dry and wet chemical extinguishers for Class K fires: Commercial kitchens are required to have Class K fire extinguishers on hand. Because of the high temperature of cooking oils, flames in a deep fryer may continue to blaze, even when you attempt to use a Class B fire extinguisher on the flammable liquid. The smothering agents inside Class K fire extinguishers vary from potassium bicarbonate in dry chemical versions to a fine mist in wet chemical extinguishers.

Extinguisher Infographic

Arming your home or business with the right fire extinguisher could help you quench the flames before they wreak havoc on your property. ABC multipurpose fire extinguishers are your best bet if you own a home or run a business with ordinary combustibles on site. Commercial kitchens also need Class K fire extinguishers.

If the fire gets the better of you and causes extensive damage, you may need professional fire remediation to get things back to normal. Contact Rainbow Restoration® if you need help getting back on your feet after a fire.


Other Related Blog Posts:

Fire Explained: What is it and How Does it Spread?

Spark of Disaster: How To Prevent Electrical Fires