What type of fire extinguisher should you use on each type of fire
Using a fire extinguisher is something that no one wants to experience,
because that would mean there is some kind of fire taking place. In the
unfortunate event that a fire extinguisher is needed, it is important to
know what kind of extinguisher you should use for different kinds of
According to BS EN 3 guidelines, every fire extinguisher needs to be red in colour. However, there is a 5 percent zone allowed that can be colour coded so that you can tell the difference in the contents of a specific fire extinguisher. This plays an important role as there are certain chemicals that should be used to put out certain types of fires. Before going over the contents and coding of the different types of fire extinguishers, it is also important to know the different classifications of fires. The classifications are broken down into the types of materials that are on fire, and are classified by letters ranging from A to F.
CLASS A- Solids. Includes materials such as wood, plastic, and paper.
CLASS B- Flammable Liquids. Examples:Oil, Paraffin, Petrol.
CLASS C- Flammable Gases. Examples:Methane, Butane, Propane.
CLASS D- Metals. Examples:Magnesium, Titanium, Aluminum.
CLASS E- Electrical fires.
CLASS F- Cooking oil and fat. Example:Grease fires.
A red colour coding indicates that the contents of the fire extinguisher is water. These are the cheapest fire extinguishers you will find, and the most popular. However, these fire extinguishers should only be used on Class A fires. Using one of these extinguishers on an electrical fire will only make things worse, and could worsen or be virtually ineffective against other types of fires.
Fire extinguishers coded with a cream colour indicate that it is a foam fire extinguisher. While it is a little more expensive than a water extinguisher, it can also be used on more classes of fires. These extinguishers will be effective against both Class A and B fires, and if mistakenly used on an electrical fire will be much safer than using water.
A fire extinguisher that has a blue colour coding contains dry powder. These types of extinguishers are especially effective against Class B fires, but can be useful to help exterminate fires that fall under Classes A and C as well. It is for this reason a dry powder fire extinguisher is known as a "multi-purpose" extinguisher. Keep in mind that although this can be an effective tool to help put out fires resulting from gas, it is always important to turn off the gas supply prior to trying to put out the fire. Any time the gas supply is not isolated first, it can lead to a dangerous situation. For metal fires that fall into the Class D category, there are special powders available that will be useful in putting out the fire. Dry powder extinguishers while being effective can also leave behind quite a mess. They also have a tendency to damage machinery and other objects, and can blur your vision when being used indoors.
Extinguishers that come with a black colour coding indicate that it is a carbon dioxide, or CO2, extinguisher. This is the recommended method of fighting Class E electrical fires, and it is also highly effective against Class B liquid fires. The thing to remember about this type of fire extinguisher is that it provides no security for after the fire is out, meaning that the fire could start again. A carbon dioxide extinguisher with a wet chemical is a special extinguisher that is made for putting out Class F fires. There is also a specialist fire extinguisher for use against Class D metal fires such as sodium, lithium, and manganese, when the metal is in the form of turnings or swarf.
Any fire extinguisher that has been green colour coded is a Halon fire extinguisher, and has been deemed illegal except for use by the military or law enforcement. By knowing how the colour coding relates to the chemicals that are present in a particular fire extinguisher and how each of these relates to being able to extinguish different classes of fires you can better prepared to have the proper fire extinguisher on hand for the type of fire that could occur in your home or business. Using the proper extinguisher for the type of fire that is present will not only help in getting the fire under control, but will also be a factor in making sure it will be done safely.