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The Beginners Guide To The Types Of Fire Extinguishers 2024

Table of Contents

A complete guide to learn more about fire extinguishers and fire classes.

Unsure of what you need?

This beginner’s guide is here to answer all of the questions you may have. From all the types of fire extinguishers you may need, to the reasons why you need each one, we have all the answers.

Different Types Of Fire Classes:

  • Class A
  • Class B
  • Class C
  • Class D
  • Electrical Fires
  • Class F


It is important to get an understanding of each of the fire classes and types of fire extinguishers, each class has a different way to tackle the fire, if it is done incorrectly the consequences can be drastic and the fire can spread much faster than using the correct extinguisher; don’t worry we’re here to help.

Different Types Of Fire Extinguishers:

  • CO2
  • Water-Fire
  • Foam Fire
  • Powder Fire
  • Wet Chemical

Understanding each extinguisher’s properties, use and how to get them tested is very important, without understanding the ins and outs of the different extinguishers you could be putting yourself or others at risk. Throughout this guide, we will cover all of the information needed to make sure you stay safe in case of a fire emergency.

Continue reading, as we will delve into a detailed examination of each extinguisher, discussing their intended applications, inappropriate uses, operational mechanisms, recommended storage locations, and guidelines for safe operation.

Get a better understanding of the different types of fire extinguishers and fire classes!

Begin a detailed examination of fire safety with a close look at distinct fire classes.

From Class A, covering ordinary combustibles, to Class F, addressing flammable metals, this guide provides precise insights for effective emergency response tailored to specific fire scenarios.

The Types Of Fires

Class A:

What Does The Fire Involve?

Class A fires involve ordinary combustibles such as wood, textiles, paper, and grain dust. These materials, when ignited, contribute to the rapid spread and intensity of the fire.

How To Prevent This Class.

Preventing Class A fires involves housekeeping, proper storage of combustibles, and implementing fire-resistant construction materials. Regular inspection and maintenance of potential ignition sources are crucial preventive measures.

Extinguisher Needed:
  • Water fire extinguisher
  • Foam fire extinguisher

Class B:

What Does The Fire Involve?

Class B fires stem from flammable liquids like gasoline, paint, and petroleum oils. These fires can escalate quickly, posing a significant threat due to the volatility of the liquids involved.

How To Prevent:

Preventing Class B fires requires storing flammable liquids in approved containers, allowing for proper ventilation in areas with these liquids, and providing training on the safe handling and storage of flammable substances. Regular checks and maintenance of equipment are important.

Extinguisher Needed:
  • Foam fire extinguisher
  • Powder fire extinguisher
  • CO2 fire extinguisher

Class C:

What Does The Fire Involve?

Class C fires involve flammable gases like propane, methane, and butane. These fires are initiated by the ignition of gas leaks, posing a significant risk in environments with gas equipment.

How To Prevent:

Preventing Class C fires includes regular inspection and maintenance of gas equipment, ensuring proper ventilation in areas with flammable gases, and implementing effective grounding practices for electrical equipment in these environments.

Extinguisher Needed:
  • Powder fire extinguisher
  • CO2 fire extinguisher

Class D:

What Does The Fire Involve?

Class D fires involve combustible metals like magnesium, aluminium, and titanium. These fires are sparked by metal shavings or dust, leading to intense and challenging-to-extinguish flames.

How To Prevent:

Preventing Class D fires requires avoiding the creation of metal shavings or dust, implementing proper storage and handling procedures for combustible metals, and providing thorough training on the unique hazards associated with these fires. Regular checks and maintenance are critical.

Extinguisher Needed:
  • Specialised Class D powder fire extinguisher

Electrical Fires:

What Does The Fire Involve?

Electrical fires involve live equipment and sources. When overloaded or faulty, electrical systems can spark fires, causing significant damage and posing a serious threat in various settings.

How To Prevent:

Preventing electrical fires entails regular inspection and maintenance of electrical equipment, proper wiring practices, and employee training on electrical safety. Ensuring effective grounding and addressing any issues in electrical systems are essential precautions.

Extinguisher Needed:
  • Powder fire extinguisher
  • CO2 fire extinguisher

Class F:

What Does The Fire Involve?

Class F fires involve hot cooking oils and fats commonly found in kitchens. These fires can rapidly escalate when these substances come into contact with an open flame or heat source.

How To Prevent:

Preventing Class F fires necessitates caution when cooking with oils, installing automatic fire suppression systems in commercial kitchens, and regularly inspecting and maintaining kitchen equipment. These measures mitigate the risks associated with hot cooking oils.

Extinguisher Needed:
  • Wet chemical fire extinguisher

Types of Fire Extinguishers & their purpose

Understanding the importance of using a fire extinguisher is paramount. Often the first line of defence in emergencies, these devices hold the potential to mitigate the devastating impact of fires when wielded correctly. Knowing how to operate a fire extinguisher is more than a skill; it is a crucial element of personal and collective safety. As we delve into the detailed world of fire extinguishers, unravelling their types, applications, and maintenance, remember that this knowledge empowers individuals to become proactive guardians of their surroundings, fostering a culture of preparedness and resilience in the face of potential fire hazards.

CO2 Extinguishers

Types of fire extinguishers - Commander CO2 2Kg

Designed for rapid response, the CO2 extinguisher is a vital tool in electrical fire emergencies. It is effective for Class B fires, suppressing flammable liquid incidents. With a residue-free discharge, it’s a reliable choice for offices, labs, and server rooms with electronic equipment.

What is it used for:

Primarily, the CO2 extinguisher is designed for electrical fires, neutralising the source without causing damage to sensitive equipment. Additionally, it is effective against Class B flammable liquid fires, such as those involving oil, gasoline, and paint.

What not to use them for:

While highly effective for electrical and Class B fires, CO2 extinguishers are not suitable for Class A fires involving ordinary combustibles like wood and textiles. Using them on Class A fires might result in re-ignition due to the lack of a cooling effect.

How they work:

The CO2 extinguisher operates by displacing oxygen, eliminating the oxygen supply required for combustion. This starves the fire of its essential element, effectively extinguishing it. The absence of residue makes CO2 suitable for environments where cleanup is a concern.

What businesses need them:

Businesses with extensive electronic equipment, such as offices, server rooms, and laboratories, greatly benefit from CO2 extinguishers. Additionally, industries dealing with flammable liquids, such as manufacturing and automotive, find them indispensable.

Where to store them:

CO2 extinguishers should be strategically placed in areas with a higher risk of electrical or flammable liquid fires. Locations like server rooms, electrical panels, and areas with Electronic machinery are prime spots for their placement.

How long do they last:

The lifespan of a CO2 extinguisher is typically 5 to 6 years. Regular checks, inspections, and timely refills or replacements are crucial to ensure their continued effectiveness in case of an emergency.

Pricing:

The cost of CO2 fire extinguishers varies based on size, brand, and specific features. Generally, they are considered affordable, especially when compared to the potential damage and loss associated with fire incidents in businesses. Regular maintenance costs should also be factored into the overall investment.

  • Average Cost: £100 – £200

Water-Fire Extinguisher

Types of fire extinguishers - Commander Water 6L

Tailored for combating combustible fires (Class A), the water extinguisher offers a straightforward yet effective solution. Not intended for electrical or flammable liquid fires, its design ensures safe use in environments such as offices, schools, and residential spaces. The absence of harmful residue makes it an environmentally conscious choice.

What is it used for:

Primarily, water extinguishers are designed for Class A fires, which involve ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, fabric, and certain plastics. The extinguishing agent, water, works by cooling the fire and reducing the temperature below its ignition point.

What not to use them for:

Water extinguishers are not suitable for fires involving flammable liquids (Class B), electrical fires, or combustible metals (Class D). Using water on these types of fires can worsen the situation, posing additional hazards.

How they work:

The water extinguisher works on the principle of removing heat from the fire triangle. As water is sprayed onto the fire, it absorbs heat, reducing the temperature and inhibiting the fire’s ability to sustain itself. The cooling effect is crucial for suppressing Class A fires effectively.

What businesses need them:

Businesses with a risk of Class A fires, such as offices, schools, and residential spaces, benefit from water extinguishers. These environments often involve ordinary combustibles that can be suppressed with the cooling action of water.

Where to store them:

Strategic placement of water extinguishers is vital in areas with a higher risk of Class A fires. Common locations include offices, classrooms, and hallways. Ensuring visibility and accessibility is crucial for a fast response in case of a fire emergency.

How long do they last:

The lifespan of a water extinguisher is typically around 5 to 10 years, depending on factors such as usage, environmental conditions, and proper maintenance. Regular checks and inspections are essential to ensure the extinguisher’s reliability.

Pricing:

Water fire extinguishers are generally cost-effective, making them an accessible choice for various businesses. The pricing depends on factors like size, brand, and specific features. Regular maintenance costs should be factored in for a budget.

  • Average cost around £50 – £100

Foam Fire Extinguisher

Types of fire extinguishers - Commander AFFF 1L

Versatility defines the foam extinguisher, excelling against both Class A and Class B fires. Beyond suppression, it forms a barrier to prevent re-ignition, providing an extra layer of protection. Carefully excluding electrical and metal fires from its applications, this extinguisher is a reliable asset in warehouses, businesses, and industrial settings.

What is it used for:

Foam extinguishers are effective against both Class A fires (involving ordinary combustibles) and Class B fires (involving flammable liquids such as oil and gasoline). The extinguishing agent, a mixture of water and foam concentrate, creates a barrier that suppresses and prevents re-ignition.

What not to use them for:

Foam extinguishers are not suitable for electrical fires (Class C) or fires involving combustible metals (Class D). Using foam on these types of fires may pose additional hazards and is not recommended due to the specific nature of the extinguishing agent.

How they work:

The foam extinguisher operates by blanketing the fire with a layer of foam, cutting off the oxygen supply and suppressing the flames. The foam’s ability to cool the fire and form a barrier for re-ignition prevention makes it particularly effective for both Class A and Class B fires.

What businesses need them:

Businesses with a range of fire risks, including those with ordinary combustibles and flammable liquids, find foam extinguishers essential. Warehouses, industrial settings, and businesses dealing with a variety of materials benefit from their versatility and effectiveness.

Where to store them:

Strategic placement of foam extinguishers is crucial in areas with mixed fire risks, such as manufacturing plants, warehouses, and storage areas. Ensuring visibility and accessibility is key for a prompt response in case of a fire emergency.

How long do they last:

The lifespan of a foam extinguisher is typically around 5 to 10 years, depending on factors such as usage, environmental conditions, and proper maintenance. Regular checks and inspections are necessary to ensure the extinguisher’s readiness.

Pricing:

Foam fire extinguishers are competitively priced, reflecting their versatility and effectiveness. The cost may vary based on factors such as size, brand, and specific features. Factoring in regular maintenance costs provides an understanding of the overall investment.

  • Average cost around £60 – £120

Powder Fire Extinguisher

Types of fire extinguishers - -Commander Edge ABC Powder 2kg

The powder extinguisher is an effective solution against Class A, B, and C fires. Its outdoor properties make it suitable for diverse environments, including construction sites and outdoor events. However, users should be mindful of its corrosive residue, making proper cleanup imperative in settings like workshops.

What is it used for:

Powder extinguishers are designed to tackle Class A fires involving ordinary combustibles, Class B fires with flammable liquids, and Class C fires with flammable gases. Additionally, they are suitable for outdoor risks, making them indispensable in construction sites, chemical facilities, and areas with diverse fire hazards.

What not to use them for:

While highly effective, powder extinguishers are not recommended for use in confined spaces or areas with sensitive electronic equipment. The fine powder discharge can create a cloud, potentially causing respiratory issues and damaging sensitive equipment.

How they work:

The powder extinguisher operates by blanketing the fire with a fine powder, disrupting the fire triangle by removing heat and inhibiting the chemical reactions necessary for combustion. This versatile extinguishing agent is effective in diverse fire scenarios, making it a reliable choice for various settings.

What businesses need them:

Businesses with diverse fire risks, including those involving flammable liquids, gases, and outdoor environments, find powder extinguishers invaluable. Construction sites, chemical plants, and manufacturing facilities benefit from their versatility and effectiveness in handling different fire classes.

Where to store them:

Strategic placement of powder extinguishers is crucial in areas with diverse fire risks. Ideal locations include construction sites, chemical storage areas, and outdoor event venues. Ensuring visibility and accessibility is key for a prompt response in case of a fire emergency.

How long do they last:

The lifespan of a powder extinguisher is typically around 5 to 15 years, depending on factors such as usage, environmental conditions, and proper maintenance. Regular checks and inspections are necessary to ensure the extinguisher’s readiness.

Pricing:

Powder fire extinguishers are competitively priced. The cost may vary based on factors such as size, brand, and specific features. Factoring in regular maintenance costs provides an understanding of the overall investment.

  • Average cost around £80 – £150

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguisher

Types of fire extinguishers

Made for Class F fires, particularly those involving cooking oils and fats, the wet chemical extinguisher brings targeted suppression. Its cooling effect adds an extra layer of safety, preventing re-ignition. While unsuitable for electrical or gas fires, it’s a critical tool for ensuring kitchen safety in commercial kitchens, restaurants, and cafeterias.

What is it used for:

Primarily designed for Class F fires, wet chemical extinguishers are specifically engineered to tackle fires involving hot cooking oils and fats. The extinguishing agent forms a cooling layer over the burning oil, preventing re-ignition and effectively suppressing the fire.

What not to use them for:

While highly effective for cooking oil fires, wet chemical extinguishers are not suitable for use on electrical fires (Class C) or fires involving flammable liquids (Class B). Using them on these types of fires may not yield the desired results and can potentially worsen the situation.

How they work:

The wet chemical extinguisher operates by discharging a fine mist of potassium acetate onto the burning oil. This reacts with the oil, creating a soapy foam that blankets the fire. The foam acts as a barrier, cooling the oil and preventing the release of flammable vapours, ultimately suppressing the fire.

What businesses need them:

Businesses in the food service industry, particularly those with commercial kitchens, benefit from wet chemical extinguishers. Restaurants, catering services, and institutional kitchens find these extinguishers indispensable for their effectiveness in handling cooking oil fires.

Where to store them:

Strategic placement of wet chemical extinguishers is crucial in commercial kitchens and areas where cooking with hot oils is prevalent. Ensuring visibility and accessibility near cooking appliances is essential for quick response in the event of a kitchen fire.

How long do they last:

The lifespan of a wet chemical extinguisher is typically around 5 to 10 years, depending on factors such as usage, environmental conditions, and proper maintenance. Regular checks and inspections are necessary to ensure the extinguisher’s readiness.

Pricing:

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are competitively priced, reflecting their specialised application and effectiveness in kitchen environments. The cost may vary based on factors such as size, brand, and specific features. Factoring in regular maintenance costs provides a comprehensive understanding of the overall investment.

  • Average cost around £120 – £200


Fire Extinguisher Maintenance & Servicing

The significance of regular extinguisher servicing and testing cannot be overstated. Beyond mere compliance, these practices ensure the reliability and efficacy of your firefighting arsenal. A well-maintained extinguisher is not just a device; it’s a lifeline, standing ready to safeguard lives and property when the need arises.

Types of fire extinguishers

Testing:

Regular testing for the different types of fire extinguishers is crucial to verify their operational status. This involves an examination of key components such as the pressure gauge, hose, and nozzle. Professional testing ensures that the extinguisher is ready for immediate use when needed.

Servicing:

Routine servicing is indispensable for maintaining the efficacy of all types of fire extinguishers. Trained professionals conduct thorough inspections, diligently checking for any signs of damage, ensuring proper functioning, and refilling or replacing components as needed. Regular servicing guarantees peak performance during emergencies, assuring that your extinguishers are consistently prepared to safeguard lives and property.

Now you have a better understanding of how to stay safe, it is important to make sure you have a plan in case of an emergency. It is also crucial to make sure businesses have training for employees to make sure everyone knows where to go in case of a fire.

If you would like to discuss any of the information above, please feel free to get in touch with us on 07784 902632 or email us at onguardfirescotland@gmail.com and see how we can help with many types of fire extinguishers.