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Fire safety tips: how to use a fire extinguisher

Updated on September 12, 2015
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Erin Shelby is a freelance writer. She blogs at


Facing a fire in your home can be the most terrifying experience of your life. No one plans for these things, but accidents happen– a stray cigarette, a candle tipping over or a cooking mishap can all cause a fire to happen in an instant. Will you keep the things you’ve worked for your entire life? Will you lose everything? If a fire happens in your home, having a fire extinguisher can make all the difference. Here’s how to use a fire extinguisher.

Read the Directions

While these tips for how to use a fire extinguisher should serve you well, they cannot cover directions for every possible fire extinguisher available to you. Each fire extinguisher is designated to put out certain types of fire and will not be able to put out others. Take a look at the directions to determine if your fire extinguisher can tackle a grease fire, a gasoline fire and a clothing fire. Doing this before a fire happens will help you know when to quickly retreat and when to try to put a fire out.

A simple candle with its beautiful light can turn into a blazing fire. Why not be prepared and have a fire extinguisher on hand?
A simple candle with its beautiful light can turn into a blazing fire. Why not be prepared and have a fire extinguisher on hand? | Source

When a Fire Happens: Assess the Fire

Quickly observe the size of the fire. A typical home fire extinguisher is not designed to fight a large fire. Only a small fire can be contained by a home fire extinguisher. Also note if it is the type of fire that your extinguisher can fight. If you’ve been frying chicken in the kitchen, can your extinguisher go up against a grease fire? If it’s a fire in your son’s closet, is your fire extinguisher good to go to put out a clothing fire?

During a Fire: Determine Your Confidence

How confident do you feel in the moment about attempting to put out the fire? If you’re too upset to try, call your local fire squad and evacuate. The same applies if the fire is too large to reasonably try to extinguish or if your fire extinguisher can't put out this type of fire. Don’t try to be a hero and don't try to save your stuff.


Made a Decision?

If you’ve made the decision to use your fire extinguisher, remember to PASS. The PASS acronym is an easy way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher and each word in PASS is an action.

PULL the pin out. (The pin looks like a metal ring.) The extinguisher won’t work if the pin is still in place. Most fire extinguishers can only be used once and will need to be refilled after the pin has been pulled even if you only did it “for practice”. Only pull the pin when there’s an actual fire.

AIM the hose of the fire extinguisher towards the bottom of the fire. The hose is the black part that may feel like rubber or plastic. Don’t aim at the top of the flames unless you want the fire to keep going. Think of it like any healthy tree that grows – it keeps on living because it comes from roots in the ground – the way to kill a fire is from the roots. And where are the roots? At the bottom.

SQUEEZE the handle of the fire extinguisher to release the substance inside.

SWEEP the hose back and forth, pointing still at the bottom of the flames, covering it entirely. Remember to continue to aim at the bottom of the fire rather than at the top of the flames.



A fire extinguisher should not make a fire worse. If you notice the flames getting larger or if the fire is now consuming a larger area, it is probably best to call emergency services and evacuate. Fire extinguishers should only be used for small fires and a small fire can quickly escalate into a large fire.

Have you ever used a fire extinguisher?

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© 2013 erinshelby


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    • erinshelby profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from United States

      Thanks, teaches 12345. Having one and knowing how to use it can make such a difference.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Great post and very useful. We have a few in our home for safety purposes. I believe every home should have one handy.


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