ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Fire Extinguishers

Updated on March 19, 2009

A fire extinguisher is a portable or wheeled container filled with materials that may be used to fight fires. Many buildings, especially those that are not fireproof or are not equipped with sprinkler systems, are required by law to have fire extinguishers available.

The most common fire extinguishers contain water, carbon dioxide, carbon tetrachloride, or dry sodium bicarbonate. These substances extinguish fires by cooling the burning materials, by depriving the fires of oxygen, or by a combination of both methods. The kind of extinguisher that is used to fight a fire depends largely on the nature and size of the fire.


Water fire extinguishers put out fires primarily by cooling the burning materials. In addition, the fire is sometimes deprived of oxygen for a short time by the blanket of steam that is formed when the water comes into contact with the fire. Certain chemicals are sometimes added to the water to make it penetrate the burning materials more thoroughly. In some extinguishers other chemicals are mixed with the water in order to form a foam that cools the burning materials and at the same time smothers the fire.

The water is pumped out of the extinguisher by hand or is forced out by a compressed gas. In the common soda-acid extinguisher the stopper in a bottle of sulfuric acid falls off when the extinguisher is turned upside down. The acid released from the bottle reacts with a water solution of sodium bicarbonate to form carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide forces the water out of the extinguisher.

Water extinguishers should not be used on electrical fires because of the danger of electric shock to the operator. This is especially true of soda-acid extinguishers, since the soda and the acid increase the electrical conductivity of the water. In addition, water extinguishers should not be used on large chemical, oil, or gasoline fires, because water might spread the fire and make it worse. However, water in the form of fog may be used to fight oil fires.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide extinguishers put out fires by covering them with a blanket of carbon dioxide, which deprives the fires of oxygen. Carbon dioxide extinguishers contain liquid carbon dioxide under great pressure. When released, the carbon dioxide turns into a gas and is directed at the fire through a short hose, which is attached to a long cone. Because carbon dioxide is blown away by wind, it is usually of little use in the open air. However, carbon dioxide extinguishers are one of the best means of fighting small indoor fires, particularly electrical or chemical fires.

Dry Extinguishers

In one dry extinguisher a powdery mixture of sodium bicarbonate and other substances is shot out by an expanding gas. The heat of the fire causes the bicarbonate to release large amounts of gaseous carbon dioxide (CO2), which blankets the fire. The most CO, is produced at the places of greatest heat, making this procedure highly effective. The other solid particles, whose grain size is carefully controlled, cool the burning material and provide it with a solid blanket. Such extinguishers are effective in fighting burning liquids and electrical fires.


Applied to fuel fires by either mixing and expanding with air in the branch pipe (aspirated) or forming a frothy blanket over the fuel (non aspirated), preventing oxygen reaching it and suffocating the fire. Unlike powder, foam can be used to extinguish fires without flashback.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)