Pull the pin.
This will allow you to discharge the extinguisher.
Aim at the base of the fire.
If you aim at the flames (which is frequently the temptation), the extinguishing agent will fly right through and do no good. You want to hit the fuel.
Squeeze the top handle or lever.
This depresses a button that releases the pressurized extinguishing agent in the extinguisher.
Sweep from side to side
Until the fire is completely out. Start using the extinguisher from a safe distance away, then move forward. Once the fire is out, keep an eye on the area in case it re-ignites.
When to fight the fire…
You should only fight the fire when the following is true:
- Everyone is out of the building.
- The fire department is being called (911).
- The fire is small and confined to the area where it started.
- Your back is to an escape route.
- The extinguisher you have is rated for the type of fire you are confronting.
- You know how to properly use the extinguisher.
If you have the slightest doubt about whether you should try to fight the fire — DON’T! Leave and close the door behind you.
Fire Extinguisher Ratings
Class A Extinguishers will put out fires in ordinary combustibles, such as wood and paper. The numerical rating for this class of fire extinguisher refers to the amount of water the fire extinguisher holds and the amount of fire it will extinguish.
Class B Extinguishers should be used on fires involving flammable liquids such as grease, gasoline, oil, etc. The numerical rating for this class of fire extinguisher states the approximate number of square feet of a flammable liquid fire that a non-expert person can expect to extinguish.
Class C Extinguishers are suitable for use on electrically energized fires. This class of fire extinguishers does not have a numerical rating. The presence of the letter “C” indicates that the extinguishing agent is non-conductive.
Class D Extinguishers are designed for use on flammable metals and are often specific for the type of metal in question. There is no picture designator for Class D extinguishers. These extinguishers generally have no rating, nor are they given a multi-purpose rating for use on other types of fires.
Many extinguishers available today can be used on different types of fires and will be labeled with more than one designator, e.g. A-B, B-C, or A-B-C. If you have a multi-purpose extinguisher, make sure that if it is properly labeled.
This is the old style of labeling indicating suitability for use on Class A, B, and C fires.
This is the new style of labeling that shows this extinguisher may be used on Ordinary Combustibles, Flammable Liquids, or Electrical Equipment fires. This is the new labeling style with a diagonal red line drawn through the picture to indicate what type of fire this extinguisher is NOT suitable for. In this example, the fire extinguisher could be used on Ordinary Combustibles and Flammable Liquids fires, but not for Electrical Equipment fires.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
Dry Chemical extinguishers are usually rated for multiple purpose use. They contain an extinguishing agent and use a compressed, non-flammable gas as a propellant.
Halon extinguishers contain a gas that interrupts the chemical reaction that takes place when fuels burn. These types of extinguishers are often used to protect valuable electrical equipment since they leave no residue to clean up. Halon extinguishers have a limited range, usually 4 to 6 feet. The initial application of Halon should be made at the base of the fire, even after the flames have been extinguished.
Water These extinguishers contain water and compressed gas and should only be used on Class A (ordinary combustibles) fires.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguishers are most effective on Class B and C (liquids and electrical) fires. Since the gas disperses quickly, these extinguishers are only effective from 3 to 8 feet. The carbon dioxide is stored as a compressed liquid in the extinguisher; as it expands, it cools the surrounding air. The cooling will often cause ice to form around the “horn” where the gas is expelled from the extinguisher. Since the fire could re-ignite, continue to apply the agent even after the fire appears to be out.