Types of Fire Extinguisher and When to Use Them
When attempting to tackle a small fire you need to make sure you select the correct fire extinguisher for the correct type of fire.
Different ignition sources can cause different types of fires; take a look below at the different types of fire extinguisher and the fire type they should be used on.
Please note: only attempt to tackle a fire if it is no larger than a waste paper basket fire and if it is blocking your only means of escape. Otherwise, make sure you evacuate the building as quickly and as safely as possible.
Water Extinguisher – Red Label
This fire extinguisher is filled with water; the water is used to cool the base of the fire and to reduce the decomposition of the ignition source. Water extinguishers should never be used on electrical equipment or burning fat such as a chip pan fire.
When using the water extinguisher you must point the nozzle at the base of the fire and move along the bottom until all of the fire is out.
Powder Extinguisher – Blue Label
This extinguisher uses dry powder to interrupt combustion by cooling the fire and stopping the chemical reaction that creates it. This fire extinguisher can be used on all common fires created from solid objects, electricity and liquids such as oils, paints, grease and fat. Do not use the powder on a chip pan fire.
When using the powder extinguisher you need to aim for the base of the flame and move from front to back. This extinguisher isn’t as effective at cooling compared to water so keep an eye on the fire reigniting. Be careful when you use it inside in a confined space because there may be a danger of inhaling the powder. When using the extinguisher outside the wind may also blow the powder away, therefore, making it ineffective.
Foam Extinguisher – Cream Label
This fire extinguisher releases heavy water based foam that forms a film over the flame and smothers the oxygen from the fire and its ignition source. The extinguisher can put out fires involving solids and liquids such as petrol and paint. Do not use this extinguisher for chip pan fires.
Be careful when trying to tackle a fire caused by an electrical appliance; it is only safe to use on appliances that have been tested to 35kV and you need to be at least 1m away from the flame.
When you are putting out a fire caused by a solid you can go ahead and point the nozzle above the fire; if the fire is a liquid point in front of the fire and let the cream flow over the flame.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguisher – Black Label
This extinguisher is designed to suffocate the fire by overriding the oxygen in the atmosphere. You need to be careful when doing this because as the CO2 disappears as the fire may ignite again.
The extinguisher is designed for electrical equipment but can also be used on flammable oil, paints and fats. You need to be careful when using this extinguisher in a small space as it can deprive people of air if used in a small space.
Once again do not use it on chip pan fires. The horn can also get very cold and ice can form on the horn if it isn’t frost-free; you don’t want your hand sticking to it.
Wet Chemical Extinguisher – Yellow/Canary Label
Wet chemical extinguishers are used for fires involving cooking oils and solids such as wood, cardboard and paper. The extinguisher releases a solution of potassium acetate that sprays a mist over the fire. The mist cools the fire and the salt from the potassium reacts with the oil which turns it into soap. When putting out a fire make sure you use the entire wet chemical to ensure the fire is out. When applying the chemical spray; administer the solution in circular movements over the fire carefully and slowly to avoid any splashes.
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