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Fire Extinguishers and Safety



     Fire extinguishers are often the first line of defense when it comes to fighting fires.  Everyone should have at least one fire extinguisher at home, but it's just as important to ensure that you have the proper type of fire extinguisher.  It is recommended to have one for the kitchen, the garage and the workshop.

     Although there are many different sizes, shapes and types of fire extinguishers, the most common extinguisher uses a dry chemical powder to smother the flames.  Some other extinguishing agents are wet chemicals, carbon dioxide and pressurized water.  Many extinguishers can be used on different types of fires and will be labeled with more than one designator.

Extinguisher Classifications

     Classifications of extinguishers are determined according to their intended use on the five classes of fires; A, B, C, D, & K.  In addition to the letter classification, extinguishers also receive a numerical rating.  The number preceding the letter designates the potential size fire the extinguisher can be expected to put out.  It is vital to know what type of extinguisher you are using.  Using the wrong type of extinguisher for the wrong type of fire can be life-threatening.

  • CLASS A-  Ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper and cloth

  • CLASS B-  Flammable liquids such as oil, gasoline and certain paints

  • CLASS C-  Electrical fire such as overheating or arcing wires

  • CLASS D-  Combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium and sodium

  • CLASS K-  Food products such as certain cooking oils and animal fat

The general operating instructions of a fire extinguisher follow the acronym P.A.S.S.

  • P- PULL (the pin)

  • A-Aim (at the base of the fire)

  • S-SQUEEZE (the handle)

  • S-SWEEP (back and forth)

Remembering this will assist anyone with the use of an extinguisher.


How to Fight a Fire Safely



  • Have an escape route.  Have an exit behind you before attempting to extinguish a fire.  Stand several feet away from the fire and only move closer when the fire starts to diminish.

  • Remember to aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire and make a sweeping motion while extinguishing.

  • Watch the area after extinguishment to ensure the fire does not reignite.

  • Know if your extinguisher works.  Inspect extinguishers once a month for dents, leaks or other signs of damage.  Assure the pressure is at the recommended level.  On extinguishers equipped with a gauge, the needle should be in the green zone - not too high and not too low.

  • Know how to use your fire extinguisher.  There's not enough time to read instructions when a fire occurs.



  • Try to extinguish a large or rapidly spreading fire.  Only use a fire extinguisher when the fire is in its early stages.  Remember, a fire can double in size within two or three minutes.  If the fire is already spreading quickly, evacuate and call the fire department.  Do not inhale smoke!  Seven out of ten fire-related deaths occur from breathing poisonous gases produced by the fire.

  • Let the fire get between you and your exit.  Remember, always have an exit behind you.

  • Try to fight a fire if you don't know what is actually burning.  Using the wrong type of extinguisher for the material burning will be not as effective, totally ineffective or possibly hazardous.  Some materials will react negatively with some extinguishing agents which could cause an explosion or produce highly toxic vapors.


Basic Fire Escape Planning and Tips


  • Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan.  Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes.  Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors.  If you live in a multiple story building, consider having an escape ladder.  Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm.

  • Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible. 

  • Install smoke alarms in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.  Remember to replace your smoke detector batteries every year when you turn your clocks back.

  • Everyone in the household must understand the escape plan.

  • Choose an outside meeting place a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they've escaped.

  • Make sure your house numbers are visible and lit at night for emergency personnel.

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