You might think that fighting a fire using a fire extinguisher is easy – that’s not always the case. As well as knowing how to operate an extinguisher properly, you also need to make sure that you are using the right type of fire extinguisher for the type of fire in question.
Categories of fire extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are divided into 5 categories, based on the type of fire they’re designed to fight:
- Class A – Used for normal combustible items such as cardboard, plastics, wood and paper. These extinguishers are marked with a green triangle. The number rating on each extinguisher indicates how much water it contains and the amount of fire it can extinguish.
- Class B – Used for combustible or flammable liquids such as grease, oil, kerosene and gasoline. The numbers indicate how many square feet of fire can be extinguished and this extinguisher is marked with a red square symbol.
- Class C – Used for electrical fires involving outlets, wiring, appliances or circuit breakers, these extinguishers have no number rating, but the ‘C’ stands for ‘non-conductive’. Water must never be used on a Class C fire due to the risk of electric shock. Marked with a blue circle symbol.
- Class D – usually found in chemistry labs, used for combustible metals such as sodium and potassium. These have no rating and are only designed for Class D fires, marked with a yellow decagon symbol.
- Class K – Used for fires involving trans-fats and cooking oils, these are usually found in commercial kitchens or restaurants and marked with a black hexagon.
Types of fire extinguisher
In addition to these categories, there are three different types of fire extinguisher:
- Water extinguishers are for Class A fires only – they will make electrical, combustible metal and grease fires worse
- Dry chemical extinguishers can be used for Class A, B or C fires and are filled with powder or foam
- Carbon dioxide extinguishers are used for class B or C fires but are not recommended for Class A fires. These are recommended for use on electrical devices as they don’t leave harmful residue
Injuries caused by fire extinguishers
Used without care, fire extinguishers can cause injury, either burns caused by using the wrong type of extinguisher, electric shock or even injury caused by pointing the nozzle at another person. If you have been injured by a fire extinguisher, call Accident Advice Helpline today on 0800 689 0500 or 0333 500 0993 from a mobile phone and see how we can help you with your claim for compensation.
Date Published: March 3, 2014
Author: David Brown