How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

fire extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is a handy tool to have on hand in case of a small fire in your home or office. It is important to know how to use one correctly in order to save lives and property. Fires can spread quickly, so it is critical to evacuate the area and call 911. It is also important to remember that smoke from a fire can be equally dangerous, especially in confined spaces.

When using a fire extinguisher, you should follow the acronym PASS to ensure proper operation. It stands for PULL, AIM, SQUEEZE, SWEEP. First, pull the pin that is located at the top of the fire extinguisher and depress the operating lever. This will release the pressure on the gas cylinder and allow the fire extinguishing agent to flow through the nozzle. Aim the nozzle low and sweep side to side to move the stream. Sweep in a direction opposite the direction of the flames to keep them from reigniting.

There are five types of fire extinguishers. Each type is used for different types of fires. A class A fire extinguisher puts out ordinary combustible materials such as wood, cloth, paper, trash and most plastics. A class B fire extinguisher is used for flammable liquids like gasoline, oil and paint. A class C fire extinguisher is used for electrical equipment fires.

Foam fire extinguishers are able to put out class A and class B fires by smothering them with a layer of foam that seals the surface of the burning material and removes oxygen. Water fire extinguishers work similarly by soaking the burning material, which cools it down and stops it from re-igniting. These are not recommended for use on kitchen fires or flammable metals, and they should not be used in confined spaces because the water can disperse rapidly in windy conditions.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) fire extinguishers discharge a pressurized form of carbon dioxide gas that removes the oxygen from the area and causes the fire to cease. They are most effective on class A and class B fires. These extinguishers are most often found in offices, warehouses, and manufacturing facilities.

Clean Agent fire extinguishers discharge a nonconductive and noncorrosive substance that does not leave any residue and is effective on class A, class B and class C fires. They are commonly seen in food preparation areas, laboratories and printing or duplicating operations.


Specialty fire extinguishers are designed to put out specific classes of fires in appliances and other equipment. A class K fire extinguisher is specialized for cooking fires and contains a potassium solution that attacks the fire by cooling it and preventing it from re-igniting.

A general dry chemical fire extinguisher works on class A, class B and class C types of fires by forming a crust to prevent re-ignition and by removing oxygen. These are usually the most cost-effective type of fire extinguisher and can be found in most homes.

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