ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Fire Extinguisher Types

Updated on May 8, 2010

A fire extinguisher is a portable device contain­ing a liquid or powder that is discharged on a fire to extinguish it in its early stages. The size and weight of the extinguisher permit it to be easily carried or wheeled to the scene of a fire. Basically, an extinguisher consists of a container, an extinguishing agent, a pressure-producing de­vice or agent, and a discharge orifice or hose and nozzle. Modern extinguishers also incorporate an operating control valve.

Types of Extinguishers

The water-filled leather buckets that householders kept in former times were the first portable fire extinguishers. Another early type of extinguisher was the "squirt," a pumplike device consisting of a cylinder and plunger to discharge water. There were also "fire annihilators" that were simply large con­tainers of water designed to burst when thrown on a burning object, some with internal charges of gunpowder that scattered the water when they exploded.

The oldest modern portable extinguisher is the soda-acid extinguisher, invented in about 1837. It consists of a metal cylinder, usually of 2.5-gallon (9.25-liter) capacity, filled with a solu­tion of bicarbonate of soda and water and containing a stoppered bottle holding acid. When the extinguisher is inverted, the acid flows from the bottle at a predetermined rate and is mixed with the water solution to form a gas; this creates pressure to expel the' liquid through a small handheld hose. While the soda-acid extinguisher is gradually being supplanted by other types, it is still the most commonly found type of extin­guisher.

Newer types of extinguishers and extinguish­ing agents have been developed for specific kinds of fires. A major development was the intro­duction in about 1960 of a multipurpose dry-chemical extinguisher, which for the first time provided a device effective on all types of fires except those involving combustible metals.

Uses of Extinguishers

As a means of indicating what extinguishers and extinguishing agents are suitable, fires have been classified according to the principal material burning.

  • Class A fires involve ordinary combustibles, such as paper, wood, and cloth. They are ex­tinguished by the heat-absorbing effects of water or water-based liquids, or by coating with cer­tain kinds of combustion-retarding dry chemicals. Extinguishers for this purpose include pump tanks and stored-pressure devices, containing water or water with an antifreeze chemical. The pump tank is operated manually; stored-pressure devices are operated by the force of air stored under pressure. The soda-acid extinguisher and the multipurpose dry-chemical extinguisher, which uses an agent with a monammonium phosphate base, are both effective on Class A fires.
  • Class B fires involve flammable and combus­tible liquids, greases, and similar materials. They are most readily extinguished by excluding air, inhibiting the release of combustible vapors, or interrupting the combustion chain reaction. Ex­tinguishers for this purpose include the "regular" dry-chemical types, employing agents with a sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, or potassium chloride base, and the multipurpose dry-chemical type, using monammonium phos­phate, discharged by an expellant gas. Other ex­tinguishers for Class B fires include the carbon dioxide type, in which the carbon dioxide is stored under pressure as a liquid and discharged as a gas; the foam type, which uses aluminum sulfate mixed with a sodium bicarbonate water-based solution to generate pressure; and the bromotrifluoromethane type, which operates on the same principles as the carbon dioxide type.
  • Class C fires involve energized electrical equipment, and they must be extinguished with a nonconductive agent to avoid shocking the user; this rules out the use of water. Dry-chemical, carbon dioxide, and bromotrifluoro­methane extinguishers are useful. In fighting an electrical fire the first step is to cut the power, if possible; in this way the Class C fire is con­verted into a Class A or B fire.
  • Class D fires involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, sodium, potassium, titanium, and zirconium. These fires require a smothering and heat-absorbing extinguishing agent that does not react with the burning metals. Agents of this type include liquids, such as trimethoxyboroxine, and powders, such as screened graphitized coke, which are applied by pressurized extinguishers or handscoops.


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)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)