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Fire Extinguisher Safety and Your Home

Last updated on November 4, 2019 at 10:17 am

Buying a fire extinguisher for your home is one of those things you hope you never have to use. But, you don’t want to be confronted with a kitchen fire, appliance malfunction, or something else and not have the right tool handy.

Did you know? Fire extinguishers are divided into four categories, based on different types of fires. Categorizing fires by “flames=fire” is not sufficient.

Firefighting Fact! Each fire extinguisher has a numerical rating that serves as a guide for the amount of fire the extinguisher can handle. The higher the number, the more fire-fighting power.

Let’s talk about the different classifications of extinguishers:

Class A: These extinguishers are for the ordinary combustible materials like wood, cardboard, paper, and most plastics. The numerical rating indicates how much water it holds. A Class A extinguisher is identified by a green triangle.

Class B: You’ll need one of these if a fire involves flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, grease, or oil. The numerical rating on a Class B extinguisher indicates the approximate number of square feet of fire it can extinguish. These types are identified by a red square.

Class C: Got a fire that involves electrical equipment like a toaster, wiring, circuit breakers, or outlets? Then you’ll definitely need a Class C extinguisher. Never use water to put out an electrical fire! These bad boys don’t have a numerical value and they’re identified by a blue circle. They contain an agent inside that is non-conductive, meaning there’s no risk of electrical shock if you use it to put out an electrical fire.

Class D: Every mad scientist will want one of these! Used for chemical fires that involve combustible metals like magnesium, titanium, potassium, and sodium, a Class D extinguisher doesn’t have a numerical rating and are identified by a yellow decagon.

Class K: If things get out of hand in a restaurant or cafeteria kitchen, you’ll find one of these fire slayers nearby. Designed for fires that involve cooking oils, trans-fats, or fats in cooking appliances, this type is identified by a black hexagon.

Then there are the different types of extinguishers:

Dry Chemical Extinguishers

These tough guys are filled with foam or powder and pressurized with nitrogen and can put out fires of multiple classes. 

Class BC: Each of these will contain either sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate. This type leaves a mildly corrosive residue which needs to be cleaned immediately to prevent any damage to materials.

Class ABC: This is what I’ve got in my own home because it covers a variety of fires. These are filled with monoammonium phosphate, a yellow powder that will leave a sticky residue. This residue may damage electrical appliances, but if your toaster resembles a fireball then you may have other problems.

Water Extinguishers

Also known as APW extinguishers (air-pressurized water), use these for Class A fires only. If you’re not sure the fire you’re facing is solely a Class A then don’t use one of these. If the fire is due to grease, electrical, or chemicals this type of extinguisher will make flames spread.

But I’ve heard about CO2 extinguishers too. Where do they fit in?

Glad you asked! CO2 or carbon dioxide extinguishers are used for Classes B and C fires. They contain carbon dioxide, a non-flammable gas, and are highly pressurized. How highly pressurized? So much so that it isn’t uncommon for bits of dry ice to shoot out of the nozzle. The perk to using a CO2 extinguisher instead of a dry chemical extinguisher is the lack of harmful residue, making it a good choice for a flaming computer, stereo, or TV.

The information above is far from finite. There are new developments being made every day so check with your local fire department for more information and advice.

Fire extinguishers can be life-savers but the safety of you and your family is the most important thing. If a fire gets too big for you to handle don’t try to be a hero. Move to a safe location and call 911! We’ll be there to help you get back on track.

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