The fire extinguisher, my faithful friend

It’s not unusual to open the door to our home and find it there in the stairwell. There it is, that small object, painted bright red and with little decorative value. Its name is fire extinguisher and we most likely don’t know it very well, which is a big mistake.

I’m sure every reader is clear about how it can help us extinguish small kitchen fires, but probably less clear is our lack of knowledge about what type of extinguisher we need and how to use it efficiently. Depending on the characteristics of the fire, some extinguishers can end up being quite useless. For this reason fires have been catalogued according to their origin, and based on this, a certain type of extinguisher is indicated as adequate for each case.

Types of fires

  • A: fires where the fuel is solid, as in the case of wood, cardboard plastic,…
  • B: fires where the fuel is liquid, as in the case of oil, gasoline, paint,…
  • C: fires where the fuel is a gas, as in the case of city gas, propane, butane,…
  • D: fires where the fuel is a metal, which can seem surprising to us, but which can happen with magnesium, sodium or powdered aluminum.

Now that, hopefully, we are clear on the different types of fires, we must use the correct extinguisher for each type of fuel in our environment.

Types of extinguishers

Here below we shall classify the types of extinguishers depending on the extinguishing agent they contain, and we will determine their level of efficiency in the case of the types of fires indicated earlier:

Upon analyzing the table it can be observed that the most versatile extinguisher is the one containing ABC powder, since it performs correctly for more types of fires. So, if we need to buy an extinguisher to handle possible domestic fires this would be the most adequate type.

How to know which type of extinguisher we have

All that is necessary is to have a look at the identifying label. This will show us the following information:

How to use an extinguisher

After the introductions it is now time to be clear on what steps to follow in order to act with an extinguisher in the case of a fire:

  1. Take the extinguisher down from its support, holding it by the fixed handle, and leave it on the floor in a vertical position.
  2. Pull out the safety pin.
  3. Before using it on the fire, make a brief discharge by pressing the lever located on top of the extinguisher in order to verify that it is functioning correctly.
  4. Now we can get closer to the fire, holding the extinguisher in one hand by the fixed handle and the hose in the other hand. While pressing on the lever located over the fixed handle, direct the stream toward the base of the flames in a sweeping motion.

It must be kept in mind that:

  • In the case of fires in open spaces we must approach the fire in the same direction as the wind.
  • In the case of a liquid fire, the extinguishing agent should be projected superficially, in order to avoid an uncontrolled dispersal of the liquid by the pressure of the projected agent.
  • Avoid the fire getting between us and the escape route.
  • Any possible combustible material near the fire must be removed.
  • In the case of a solid fire, once it is extinguished, the embers must be pulled apart and treated once again with the extinguisher.
  • A portable 6 kg ABC powder extinguisher lasts for approximately 9 to 15 seconds and a 5 kg CO2 extinguisher between 45 seconds and 1 minute.

Maintenance of an extinguisher

As with an automobile, the extinguisher must be subjected to periodic maintenance. The periodicity and procedures to be carried out are established by law:

  • Quarterly checks, which can be done by the user.
  • Yearly checks, which must be carried out by specialized personnel.
  • Furthermore, every 5 years a pressure check must be carried out, up until the time that our faithful friend is 20 years old, at which time it stops providing its services.

In Rieusset, where we deal with a significant volume of flammable products, we have had to make use of this faithful friend. For this reason we have more than 100 extinguishers and other fire-fighting equipment adequate for each situation at our disposal. All of this, evidently, subject to a periodic maintenance plan and with periodic personnel training.

And this brings us to the end of our post on this subject, in the hope of having answered the question: “Do we have the right extinguisher?”


Marc Ferrer