Different Types of Fire Extinguishers and Their Uses

Safety Team
Updated Oct 10, 2019
1 min read
Using the wrong kind of fire extinguisher can be dangerous. Here's what to know about different types of fires and the types of fire extinguishers that are recommended for home use.

Fire extinguishers are an essential part of any fire safety plan. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration legally requires them to be made available in all workplaces, and the National Fire Protection Association recommends that you keep fire extinguishers in your home, too.

How Fire Extinguishers Work

There are three components to a fire: oxygen, heat, and fuel. This is commonly referred to as the fire triangle. The fuel can be any type of flammable material that, when introduced to enough heat to reach its ignition temperature, catches fire. Oxygen creates continued combustion to keep the fire going.

All three elements of the fire triangle are required to sustain a fire. A fire extinguisher works by removing at least one of these elements, putting the fire out.

The 5 Classes of Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers aren’t one size fits all; in fact, there are five different fire extinguisher ratings: A, B, C, D, and K. Each rating denotes the type of fire the extinguisher can be effectively used against. Use this guide to determine which class of fire extinguisher you should purchase to keep your home or workplace safe.

Class A fire extinguishers

Class A fire extinguishers are used for ordinary combustibles, such as paper, wood, cloth, and some types of plastic. These extinguishers typically use water or certain types of dry chemicals to either absorb heat or coat the fire.

Class B fire extinguishers

Fires that originate from flammable liquids and gas can be extinguished by a class B fire extinguisher. This is the type of extinguisher you’ll want to use on a fire caused by oil or fuel.

Class C fire extinguishers

Class C fire extinguishers are effective against electrical fires from live wires, panels, and circuit breakers. The extinguisher works by releasing materials that stop the conduction of electricity.

Class D fire extinguishers

Class D fire extinguishers are used on combustible metals. These include magnesium, sodium, aluminum, and titanium.

Class K fire extinguishers

Commonly used in restaurant kitchens, class K fire extinguishers can effectively put out fires caused by cooking fats, greases, and oils. They use a process called saponification by releasing an alkaline agent to create a foam that traps vapors and puts the fire out.

Fire Extinguishers in Your Home

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA.org) recommends an extinguisher for every floor of your home. Extinguishers stored in the bedroom or bedroom closet will be readily available. Extinguishers should be placed in areas that are prone to fires, such as the kitchen, furnace area, garage and workshop. To help you find the right extinguisher, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 fire extinguishers .

 Do you know how to use a fire extinguisher?

Familiarize yourself and your entire family, including children, with how to use a fire extinguisher before an emergency occurs. Know where the extinguishing agent is released and practice aiming it at a source. Just don’t pull the pin or squeeze the lever, as this will break the seal and cause the extinguisher to no longer be usable. Once you’re done practicing, note the expiration date on each fire extinguisher in your home and make a note in your calendar to replace them. 

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