Fire Extinguisher Guide

by Curtis Worthington
Fire Extinguisher Guide

Your Guide to Choosing the Correct Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishers are potentially required if your premises is used for non-domestic activities, with the workplace being the most popular areas to find them. However, most people are unfamiliar with how they can effectively use them. In this article, we’re going to take a look at them in a little more detail, including how and when you should use them, the varying fire classifications and identifying the different fire extinguisher types.

There are in fact several different types of fire extinguisher, each one designed to tackle one or more type of fire. Using the wrong kind can be completely ineffective, and even dangerous, so it’s important to understand which extinguisher to use and when.

Know your fires: Fire Classification
class a firesclass a fire symbol             class c firesclass c fire symbol      class d firesclass d fire symbol      electrical fire symbol      class f firesclass f fire symbol

First, let’s take a look at the different types of fire that you might encounter. They’re known as fire classes, and all fire extinguishers will detail which type they’re appropriate for.

Class A Fires

Class A fires are generally the most commonly encountered, and involve most kinds of solid combustible material. This includes everything from wood to paper and textiles. A water or foam fire extinguisher is perfect for fighting Class A fires and both are also extremely cost effective.

Class B Fires

Class B fires are those that involve flammable liquids. This particularly includes fuels such as petrol and diesel, but also things like paints, oils and alcohol. The recommended choice for Class B type fires would be a foam extinguisher.

Class C Fires

Class C fires are those that have been caused by flammable or combustible gases such as those used for fuel including methane, propane or natural gas. The recommended choice of extinguisher to use on Class C fires would be powder.

Class D Fires

Class D fires are fairly uncommon in most instances, and are found usually in industrial situations, but this class refers to fires that are the result of flammable metals like magnesium. The recommended choice of extinguisher to use on Class D fires would be the specialist dry powder extinguishers such as those found here.

Electrical Fires

Electrical fires are fires involving electrical appliances or a form of electrical equipment is involved. They can occur in many places - the workplace being one where computers, monitors and electrical cabling could be involved. The best solution in this instance would be to use a CO2 fire extinguisher.

F Class Fires

The final type of fire is the F Class, which refers to any fire that involves cooking oils and fats. These are common in commercial kitchens but can occur in residential kitchens too. These fires can burn at a much higher temperature such as those found in a deep fat fryer and thus requiring specialist extinguishers. The solution here is the wet chemical extinguishers.

Continue reading: Fire Extinguisher Types

We’re going to take a look at each of the main types of extinguisher, and which types of fire they should be used on.

Water fire extinguisher colour code UK Red

Water fire extinguishers are fairly versatile, and there are in fact a couple of different types. Standard water jet extinguishers are designed to deal with Class A fires only. They’re a cheaper option that can deal with common fires such as those that have taken hold on wood, paper and textiles. They must not be used on electrical fires, as the water can conduct electricity and pose a further risk. Water mist or water fog extinguishers are the most versatile type, and are suitable for use on Class A, B, C and F fires, along with electrical fires, as the fine mist does not conduct electricity. However, you should always consult the symbols on the canister itself. >Buy water fire extinguishers

Foam fire extinguisher colour code UK Cream

Foam extinguishers are a very effective option for both A and B class fires, which makes them a good option for many environments. Foam extinguishers work by smothering the fire and cools via the water content which helps to prevent it from reigniting. >Buy Foam Fire Extinguishers

CO" fire extinguisher colour code UK Black

CO2 fire extinguishers are easily recognisable by their slimline shape and work by displacing the oxygen in the air to suffocate the fire. They are designed to work effectively on flammable liquid fires, but they are also the go to choice for use on electrical fires as they won't harm the electrical equipment and they leave no residue behind. >Buy CO2 Fire Extinguishers

ABC Powder & Specialist Dry Powder
Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher Colour Code UK Blue

Powder extinguishers are another very versatile type, being effective on all but Class F. They’re often known as ABC Powder extinguishers because they’re widely used on Class A, B and C. They work by creating a barrier between whatever is burning, and the oxygen in the air. The downside of powder extinguishers is due to the powder itself as this shouldn't be inhaled, which means these extinguishers shouldn’t be used in confined spaces. It can reduce visibility and can also be difficult to remove. The Specialist dry powder extinguishers are a variant of powder specifically designed for flammable metal risk. >Buy ABC Powder Fire Extinguishers   >Buy Specialist Powder Fire Extinguishers

Wet Chemical
Wet Chemical Fire Extinguisher Colour Code UK Yellow

Wet chemical extinguishers are often found in commercial kitchens, as they are designed almost exclusively for use on cooking oils and fats such as those found in deep fat fryers (F Class). They can also be used on Class A fires, though in most situations a more effective extinguisher will be available. >Buy Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers

Latest Fire Extinguisher Colours UK 2018:

  • Water: Red
  • Foam: Cream
  • Powder: Blue
  • CO2: Black
  • Wet Chemical: Yellow

Which fire extinguisher is suitable for all fires? 

We'd recommend the ABC dry powder fire extinguisher as this is a very efficient, multi-purpose extinguisher which can be effectively used in the majority of fire situations.

Which fire extinguisher for the home?
A variety of extinguishers are commonly used in the home depending on the situation. The main types of extinguisher to use would be:

  • Water
  • Dry Powder
  • Foam
  • CO2
  • Wet Chemical

Which fire extinguisher for electrical fires, such as a computer in the office?

The CO2 fire extinguisher is suitable for use on fires involving electrical equipment.

Which fire extinguisher for petrol?

AFFF foam fire extinguisher

Which fire extinguisher for material?

Water fire extinguisher

Which fire extinguisher for waste paper or cardboard?

Water fire extinguisher


British Standards EN3 requires all extinguishers to be colour coded to what percentage of the extinguisher?

A minimum of 90% of the extinguisher body must be red

A concession was made in the latest standard for a small zone of colour to be available on the body of the extinguisher to further help identify the contents of the extinguisher. A colour zone of up to 10% of the surface area of the extinguisher (with a minimum of 3%) can be positioned on the top half of the front of extinguisher body and be visible from 180 degree angle.

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Furthermore: Using a Fire Extinguisher

We’ve talked a lot about the types of fire extinguishers available and what they’re used for but do you know how to use one? You may have one at work, in the home or even in your car, but knowing how to use one is another matter.

All extinguishers will have a guide on how to use that particular product, but in an emergency situation it’s always beneficial to have prior knowledge of how an extinguisher works. Most are used in a very similar way, and standards have been adopted. However, appropriate training is always advised in the event of using an extinguisher.

Once you’ve decided that you are using the correct extinguisher for the type of fire, you’ve checked that it is pressurised (if a dial is present the needle should be in the green), and you’ve determined that the fire is small enough to be tackled, you can begin. PASS is the acronym used to remember the process.

  1. Pull the pin from the handle, this will then break the seal enabling you to use it
  2. Aim the nozzle of the extinguisher at the fire’s base
  3. Squeeze the lever slowly
  4. Sweep from side to side to extinguish the fire

Always ensure you stand a safe distance away from the fire. If the fire is still burning after partaking in the P.A.S.S method you should immediately evacuate and contact the fire brigade.

With this knowledge to hand, you’ll be able to act quickly and efficiently should a fire break out at your home or work.

Handy Printable Guide: Fire Extinguisher Usage Chart

fire extinguisher guide

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