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  • Writer's pictureBrad Parker

How to Pick and Use a Fire Extinguisher

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

fire extinguisher with fire
Choose and use the right fire extinguishers to protect your home and family

Part of being your own first responder means having the right tools to respond to an emergency. An often overlooked tool to have is a fire extinguisher. US Fire Administration has already identified 1313 residential fire related fatalities from Jan 1, 2020 to August 11, 2020. That doesn't include places or work.

There are 5 different types of portable fire extinguishers:

  • Class A

Class A fire extinguishers are for normal flammable materials such as wood, paper, and some plastics.

  • Class B

Class B fire extinguishers are used with flammable liquids like oil and fuels.

  • Class C

Class C fire extinguishers are used on fires generated by electrical equipment.

Class D and Class K fire extinguishers are specialty use, and not common to find in a home

  • Class D

Class D fire extinguishers are for combustible metals like magnesium and titanium.

  • Class K

Class K fire extinguishers are for kitchen fires with grease, fats, and cooking oils.

The most common units you will find are combination ABC. These will cover most of the common fires you'll encounter in a home, office, or garage. These combination extinguishers are available at almost all home improvement or hardware stores, and most big box stores like Walmart and Target.

ABC combination fire extinguisher
Example of a commonly available ABC combo unit

How to Size a Fire Extinguisher:

Fire extinguishers have a rating system that can be used to determine their capacity for fighting a fire. For a common ABC can, the rating is taken from the number next to the B. It will be listed on the outside of the canister in this format: 2-A: 40-B:C. This number correlates to the square footage of flames that can be extinguished. Keep in mind that's SQUARE footage. A 10ft x10ft square is 100 square feet.

Estimate the size of the room and what combustibles you have when you are looking for a fire extinguisher. In the kitchen you might just need enough to cover an area the size of a stove top, but in a garage, you might need an area that includes a work bench, or boxes of decorations. A fire extinguisher in your bedroom might just need to be big enough to create a small clearing to escape.

capacity rating for ABC fire extinguisher
Fire Fighting Capacity Rating for ABC Extinguisher

10 and 40 capacity rated fire extiguishers
A 10 vs 40 Capacity Rated Fire Extinguishers

How to use a fire extinguisher:

When using a fire extinguisher use the acronym P.A.S.S.

Pull. Aim. Squeeze. Sweep.

PULL the Pin.

AIM at the BASE of the fire.

SQUEEZE the lever or trigger of the extinguisher.

SWEEP from side to side.

Here's a short video of some portable fire extinguishers being operated.

You can buy fire extinguishers from Amazon as shown below. When you shop Amazon through the links, you help us out as an Amazon Affiliate. It doesn't cost you any more and we get the small commission to help us keep adding reviews such as this.

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