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Fire Extinguisher Types and When to Use Them

3rd Nov 2016

There are multiple different kinds of fire extinguishers; each specialised to deal with a different class of fire. Different classes of fire require a different method to be extinguished, some require smothering to remove oxygen, and some require the removal of heat. Below is a quick guide to understanding when you should use each fire extinguisher.

Remember that fire extinguishers and safety equipment generally form a big part of any fire risk assessment. Discover what else will be looked into as part of this process by downloading our free checklist.

Water Extinguishers

Colour Bar: Red
Suitable for: Class A Fires

Water fire extinguishers are suitable for class A fires only. Class A fires consist of organic, solid materials such as paper, cloth, plastics, wood, coal, etc. The water fire extinguisher has a cooling effect on the fire’s fuel and reduces the fire until extinguished.

Not suitable for: electrical fires, flammable liquid or gas fires, although there are now types that are suitable for incidental electrical risk –check the label.

Foamspray Extinguisher

Colour Bar: Cream
Suitable for: Class A and Class B

Foam extinguishers are suitable or both class A and class B fires. Class A fires consist of organic, solid materials such as paper, cloth, plastics, wood, coal, etc. Class B fires are caused by flammable liquids with an ignition temperature below 100 °C such as, petrol, alcohol, solvents and paints.

Not suitable for: Gas, electrical risks or deep fat fires, although many modern types are safe with incidental electrical risks – check the label.

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Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher

Colour Bar: Black
Suitable for: Class B

Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers suffocate the fire by removing oxygen. These extinguishers work on Class B Fires, as well as electrical fires. Since CO2 extinguishers don’t remove heat, care should be taken to ensure that the fire does not re-ignite. Care should also be taken when using CO2 in a confined space, as it displaces oxygen and can asphyxiate the operator and other users.

Not suitable for: deep fat fires, gas fires

Dry Powder Extinguisher

Colour Bar: Blue
Suitable for: Class A / Class B

Dry Powder Extinguishers are best used on liquid fires, such as oil and petrol. Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers do not remove heat from the fire, they smother it to remove oxygen, so take care to ensure that the fire does not re-ignite.

Not suitable for: deep fat fires, gas fires

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguisher

Colour Bar: Yellow
Suitable for: Class A / Class F

Wet Chemical Extinguishers are specially developed for oil and animal fat fires (Class F). They cool the fire down and create a foam barrier between fuel and oxygen.

Not suitable for: gas fires. Many models are now safe on incidental electrical risks.

Fire extinguishers are always being improved as new technology is being developed. It's always best to speak to a professional who can advise on the best fire extinguisher for your requirements before you buy.

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Red Box Fire Control is proud to celebrate over 30 years in the fire safety industry.

Over this time we've grown in knowledge and expertise, focussing on supporting businesses with their compliance in a friendly yet efficient manner.

We are confident that we're able to provide our customers with a high level of professionalism and industry insight. Add to this our commitment to integrity, and when it comes to fire safety you can expect peace of mind unmatched by other suppliers.

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