The Everything Guide to Fire Extinguishers: Classes, Types & More

Fire extinguishers are an essential part of any safety plan. They can be used to put out small fires before they become big ones and can help to keep you and your family safe in the event of a house fire. 

But with so many different types of fire extinguishers on the market, it can be difficult to know which one to choose. Especially when there are various fire extinguishers designed to handle different types of fires.

Well, we rolled up our sleeves and compiled this handy guide for fire extinguisher newbies. However, this guide is not just any guide. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about fire extinguishers.

That’s right…EVERYTHING. Fire classes, types of fire extinguishers, how to use them accordingly, and much more.

This is the “Everything” guide to fire extinguishers.

So settle in, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s get started!

Table of Contents

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Who Invented the Fire Extinguisher?

English chemist George William Manby invented the fire extinguisher in 1818. His design consisted of a leather bag filled with potassium carbonate solution, which could be discharged by pressing a valve.

This early extinguisher was used to great effect in several notable fires, including a major fire at the House of Lords in 1834. 

Manby’s invention is still in use today, albeit with some modifications.

Fire Classes

Although most people are familiar with the general concept of fire, few know that there are different classes of fire. The burning fuel type determines the fire class, and each class requires a different method of extinguishment. 

It helps to be able to identify the class of fire you’re dealing with, so you can use the right equipment to put it out!

Class A Fires

Class A fires involve ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, and rubber. These fires are usually easy to extinguish, as they can be controlled by smothering or cooling the fuel source. 

A class A fire is the most common type of fire. It is characterized by fast-moving flames that consume combustible materials such as wood, paper, and cloth. Class A fires typically occur in homes and businesses and can be very destructive.

Water-based extinguishers are the most effective against class A fires.

Class B Fires

Class B fires involve flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, and paint. These fires are more difficult to control, as they require special techniques for starving the fire of oxygen.

A Class B fire involves ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood, or cloth. The defining characteristic of a Class B fire is that it produces a lot of smoke.

This smoke can quickly spread through a building and obscure vision, making it difficult to fight the fire.

Class B fires often start small, but they can quickly grow out of control if they are not extinguished early. To fight a Class B fire, it is important to use a fire extinguisher designed for that purpose.

Class B extinguishers typically use water or foam to smother the flames and prevent them from spreading.

Class C Fires

A Class C fire involves energized electrical equipment, such as motors, transformers, or switches. Class C fires are particularly dangerous because water is a conductor of electricity and can cause serious injuries or even death if used to extinguish the fire.

Class C fires can quickly spread to other combustible materials if not controlled promptly. The best way to extinguish a Class C fire is to use a dry chemical or carbon dioxide extinguisher.

Class D Fires

Class D Fires are fires that involve combustible metals. These fires require special dry powder extinguishers that are specifically designed to smother the fire by separating the oxygen atoms from the metal atoms.

Class D fires can be very dangerous because the metal sparks can easily ignite surrounding materials, and the fire can spread quickly.

In addition, the heat from the fire can be so intense that it can cause the metal to vaporize, which can create hazardous fumes. For these reasons, it is important to have a trained professional assess the situation before attempting to extinguish a Class D fire.

Class K Fires

A Class K fire is a type of fire that involves cooking oils. These fires typically occur in commercial kitchens, where fryers and other cooking equipment are used daily. Class K fires are very difficult to extinguish, as the oils can quickly re-ignite.

As a result, Class K fire extinguishers are specifically designed for this type of fire. Class K fire extinguishers contain a special agent that breaks down the oils, making it possible to put out the fire.

Fire Extinguisher Classes

Not all fire extinguishers are created equal. Each type of fire extinguisher is designed for use on specific types of fires. For this reason, it is important to familiarize yourself with the different fire extinguishers classes and choose the right type for your needs.

Class A Fire Extinguishers

The Class A fire extinguisher is necessary for any home or business with wood, paper, and cloth furniture. This type of extinguisher can be used on fires in ordinary combustibles like clothes without worrying about damaging anything else nearby because it can blanket the area with fire-suppressing foam.

Class B Fire Extinguishers

Class B fire extinguishers are an important addition to any vehicle. They are designed specifically for fires that involve flammable liquids like gasoline, oil, and paint. 

Class B fire extinguishers use a chemical agent to break the chain reaction of a fire, and they are effective against three out of four classes of fire. 

Class B fire extinguishers are typically stored in a vehicle’s trunk and should be replaced every five years. 

Vehicle owners should familiarize themselves with the location and operation of their Class B fire extinguisher and check the gauge regularly to ensure that it is full. In the event of a fire, Class B fire extinguishers can save lives and property.

Class C Fire Extinguishers

Class C fire extinguishers are designed to quench fires in electrical equipment. The Class C rating is given to fire extinguishers used on live electrical fires, such as those caused by computers, appliances, or wiring. 

These fires are particularly dangerous because water-based fire extinguishers can cause a shock if used on energized circuits. 

Class C fire extinguishers contain a dielectric agent that quickly cools the heated wiring without conducting electricity, making them the safest way to extinguish an electrical fire

In addition, Class C fire extinguishers are also effective on Class A and B fires, making them a versatile tool for any home or office.

Class D Fire Extinguishers

Class D fire extinguishers are designed for fires involving metals such as aluminum, magnesium, and titanium. The extinguishing agent used in these extinguishers is usually a dry powder, which smothers the fire and prevents it from getting oxygen. 

Class D extinguishers are often found in industrial settings, where they can be used to quickly put out fires before they have a chance to spread. 

But they can also be found in home kitchens, where they can be used to put out small grease fires or electrical fires. No matter where they’re kept, Class D extinguishers should always be within reach in an emergency.

Class K Fire Extinguishers

Class K fire extinguishers are essential for businesses that use cooking oils and fats. These extinguishers are specifically designed to extinguish deep-fat fryer fires, which can be difficult to put out with water alone. 

Class K extinguishers work by interrupting the chemical reaction that fuels the fire, making them an effective choice for quickly putting out kitchen fires

In addition, Class K extinguishers are often less damaging to property than other types of extinguishers, making them a good choice for businesses that want to minimize damage in the event of a fire. 

Fire Extinguisher Types

There are several different fire extinguishers, each designed for a specific fire class. Here are the five fire extinguisher types and how they work!

Foam Fire Extinguishers

Foam fire extinguishers are an essential tool for fighting fires involving combustible materials. The foaming agent quickly smothers the flames, preventing them from spreading and making it easier to extinguish them. 

Foam fire extinguishers are most effective on Class A and B fires, which involve combustible materials such as wood, paper, and flammable liquids. 

Because the foam can also help cool hot surfaces, foam fire extinguishers are also effective in Class C fires involving electrical equipment. 

Foam fire extinguishers should be replaced every five years or sooner to ensure that they will be effective in case of a fire.

CO2 Fire Extinguishers

CO2 fire extinguishers are common fire extinguishers that can be used on Class B and Class C fires. CO2 extinguishers work by displacing the oxygen in the air, which smothers the fire. 

They should be replaced every five years.

Some benefits of CO2 fire extinguishers include their relatively long shelf life and ability to fight fires in enclosed spaces. Additionally, CO2 fire extinguishers leave no residue, making them ideal for electrical fires. 

However, CO2 fire extinguishers can be expensive and may not be effective on large fires.

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are used to put out Class A, B, and C fires, making them ideal for use in various settings. Wet chemical extinguishers cool the fire and create a barrier between the fuel and the oxygen. 

This prevents the fire from reigniting and allows it to be extinguished quickly and safely. Wet chemical extinguishers should be replaced every six years to ensure they remain effective. 

Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers

A dry chemical fire extinguisher is a type of fire extinguisher that uses a powder to smother and extinguish fires. They are effective on Class A, B, and C fires and are the most common type of fire extinguisher. 

However, dry chemical extinguishers have a shorter expiration date than pressurized water extinguishers. They should be replaced every five years or so. 

Dry chemical fire extinguishers create a barrier between the fuel and the oxygen in the air. This interrupts the chemical reaction that causes a fire, effectively smothering it. 

They are most effective on small fires confined to a single object, such as a wastebasket or a piece of machinery. 

They can also be used on larger fires, although they may not be as effective.

Pressurized Water Fire Extinguishers

As the name suggests, pressurized water fire extinguishers use a stream of water to put out fires. They are especially effective on Class A fires involving combustible materials like paper and wood. 

However, they are not as effective on Class B or C fires involving flammable liquids and electrical equipment. Pressurized water extinguishers also have a longer expiration date than dry chemical extinguishers. 

So if you’re looking for an extinguisher that will provide long-lasting protection, a pressurized water fire extinguisher is a good choice. Just be sure to replace it every ten years.

What is the Proper Way to Use a Fire Extinguisher?

A fire extinguisher is only as effective as the people who know how to use it correctly. The steps below will walk you through the proper way to use a fire extinguisher.

  1. Pull the pin at the top of the fire extinguisher. This will break the tamper seal and allow you to discharge the extinguisher.
  2. Aim the nozzle of the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  3. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly until the extinguisher discharges.
  4. Sweep the nozzle from side to side at the base of the fire until it is extinguished.
  5. If the fire re-ignites, repeat steps 2-4.
  6. Once the fire is extinguished, discharge the extinguisher until it is empty.
  7. Replace the fire extinguisher in its designated location.

Best Fire Extinguishers for Homes

For testing purposes, our team bought two of several different fire extinguishers. This was to ensure consistent results. We then set two test blazes- one small and one midsize, to see how well the extinguishers handled them.

The ones that did the best made our list. Here are our findings on the best fire extinguishers for homes and cars!

First Alert HOME1 Rechargeable Standard Home Fire Extinguisher

The First Alert HOME1 Rechargeable Standard Home Fire Extinguisher is a great product for anyone looking for an easy-to-use and reliable fire extinguisher. This extinguisher is designed for use on Class A, B, and C fires, making it a versatile option for the home or office. 

First Alert HOME1 Fire Extinguisher Features

One of the best features of the First Alert HOME1 Rechargeable Standard Home Fire Extinguisher is its ease of use. Simply pull the pin at the top of the extinguisher, aim at the base of the fire, and squeeze the lever to release the extinguishing agent.

Experiment Results

When we tested it, the extinguisher discharged consistently for about 15 seconds. This allowed us ample time to put out our practice fire.

What We Liked

  • It is rechargeable. You can take it to a certified professional and have it recharged instead of buying a new unit each time the extinguisher gets used up.
  • Comes with a mounting bracket and strap for easy storage and accessibility. The bracket can be mounted on a wall or in a cabinet, and the strap can be used to secure the extinguisher in place. This makes it easy to grab and go in the event of a fire.
  • Very reasonable price

What We Didn’t Like

  • In our opinion, the mounting bracket mentioned above is both a positive and a negative. This is because the mounting bracket fits extra-tightly around the extinguisher, and if you were to mount the extinguisher to drywall, it’d be easy to take out a chunk of the wall should the extinguisher be grabbed in a hurry.
  • The white zip-tie around the ring faked us out. We thought it was supposed to be cut, but that’s actually what keeps the ring in place. Once the ring is pulled, the wire will break. Our first one went off accidentally when we cut the zip tie. Good thing we bought a two-pack!

The Verdict

Overall, the First Alert HOME1 Rechargeable Standard Home Fire Extinguisher performed admirably. The pros significantly outweigh the cons, and we believe it’s worth having the safety and security for such a reasonable price.

First Alert HOME2PRO Fire Extinguisher

First Alert HOME2PRO Fire Extinguisher Features

The First Alert HOME2PRO Fire Extinguisher is a multipurpose, ABC-rated fire extinguisher that is ideal for use in the home or office. It features a pressure gauge that allows users to check the extinguisher’s pressurized status, and it also has a strap that can be used to secure the extinguisher to a wall or other object.

This extinguisher is designed to discharge fully in 8-12 seconds and comes with a mounting bracket for easy installation.

Experiment Results

When we tested the first one, the extinguisher discharged consistently for about 9.5 seconds. It sputtered a little, then came back to full blast. We chalked it up to a defective unit. Our second test was much more successful, with the unit discharging consistently for 14 seconds and easily putting out the test fire.

What We Liked

  • The instructions on the unit are straightforward and easy to understand.
  • The 12-year manufacturer’s warranty is helpful.
  • Very reasonable price

What We Didn’t Like

  • Some users have complained about the unit arriving uncharged. This was not the case with our order, but enough people have made noise about it that we feel it’s worth mentioning. Check the pressure gauge when it arrives to ensure the unit is charged.
  • Like the Home1 fire extinguisher, some instructions on the zip-tie around the ring reminding users not to cut it would be helpful.

The Verdict

Overall, the First Alert HOME2PRO fire extinguisher is a solid choice. The discharge lasted longer than the manufacturer advertised, and the test fire was put out quite easily. We hope the manufacturer will consider adding instructions that let users know about the zip tie.

Amerex B500 Fire Extinguisher

Amerex B500 Fire Extinguisher Features

Amerex is one of the leading fire extinguisher manufacturers, and the B500 model is a great option for those looking for an affordable and reliable fire extinguisher. This extinguisher is suitable for Class A, B, and C fires and features a corrosion-resistant metal cylinder.

It also has an easy-to-read pressure gauge, so you can always tell if it’s fully charged and ready to use. One of the great things about this extinguisher is that it’s suitable for use in various environments.

Experiment Results

When we tested the first one, the extinguisher discharged consistently for exactly 16 seconds, which is 2 seconds longer than the discharge time promised by the manufacturer.

Our second test produced a steady discharge for 15 seconds. Both tests indicated that the Amerex can reliably put out small-to-midsize blazes, based on the test fires we set up.

What We Liked

  • The unit’s versatility (it’s capable of handling Class A, Class B, and Class C fires.)
  • The B500 is Coast Guard-approved
  • All-metal design and parts. Why is this important? Because plastic is more likely to break, and as a result, plastic parts on fire extinguishers are more likely to malfunction. You want to be able to rely on a fire extinguisher and trust that it won’t malfunction or explode. We’re glad Amerex didn’t cheap out on manufacturing quality products for this reason. .

What We Didn’t Like

  • Some users have complained about the safety seal around the ring being broken when the B500 fire extinguisher arrived in the mail. Once the safety seal is broken, there’s a risk of accidental discharge in the package. We didn’t experience this, but it’s still a factor to consider.
  • The instructions are a bit unclear. One set of instructions says “stand back 8 feet”, and another says “stand back 2 meters” (about 6.5 feet).

The Verdict

Based on our findings, despite some dissatisfaction from other users about certain design aspects, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that the Amerex B500 fire extinguisher can perform when it counts. It’s got our vote of confidence.

Amerex 90-417 A B C Fire Extinguisher

Amerex 90-417 Fire Extinguisher Features

The Amerex 90-417 Fire Extinguisher is a multipurpose fire extinguisher that can be used on Class A, B, and C fires. It is made with a tough polyester powder coating that is corrosion resistant and designed to withstand rough use.

This extinguisher also has a pressure gauge that shows the user when it is time to recharge or replace it.

The Amerex 90-417 Fire Extinguisher has a safety pin that prevents accidental discharge and a discharge hose that allows for precise aim.

Experiment Results

Both times we set our test fires, the extinguishers handled them perfectly. We saw about 12 seconds of discharge in both units, which is 2 seconds longer than Amerex’s advertised discharge time.

What We Like

  • The discharge hose is good quality and allows for controlled spray.
  • All metal design
  • Rechargeable

What We Don’t Like

  • The bracket is flimsy and would be better suited in a stationary position than storage in a car or boat. We would have liked to see a stronger hanging bracket for this price.
  • The gauge was a little off on one of the units. It read as half-empty even though it was full.

The Verdict

If you are looking for a multipurpose fire extinguisher that can handle various fires, the Amerex 90-417 is a good option to consider. However, check the pressure gauge regularly to ensure it is working properly (especially if it has been exposed to freezing temperatures), and recharge or replace the fire extinguisher as needed.

Amerex B402 Class A B C Fire Extinguisher

Amerex B402 Chemical Fire Extinguisher Features

Fire extinguishers are an essential part of any fire safety plan, and the Amerex B402 is a great option for use in the home or office. This 5-pound ABC dry chemical class extinguisher features a durable metal head and an easy-to-read pressure gauge. It also has a 6-year warranty and is UL listed.

The Amerex B402 is suitable for Class A, B, and C fires, making it a versatile choice for any environment. With its easy-to-use design and reliable performance, the Amerex B402 is an excellent choice for anyone looking for an effective fire extinguisher.

Experiment Results

We were surprised by the longevity of the spray for the Amerex B402. Both units achieved 18 seconds, a much longer discharge time than most of the others we had tested up to that point. The powder made a mess, but the B402 still easily put out the small and mid-size test fires.

What We Like

  • Effective spray radius
  • Long discharge time
  • Metal design

What We Don’t Like

  • The safety pins on both units we ordered arrived loose. We checked out Amazon reviews and found many others had experienced this. Is this the manufacturer’s fault or the way the product was packed? We don’t know.

The Verdict

We chose not to de-merit the Amerex B402 for its shipping woes. It performed very well in our tests with a long discharge time and effective fire suppression, so we feel good about recommending it!

Fire Extinguisher Servicing & Recharging

One important part of maintenance is to have your fire extinguisher regularly serviced by a certified technician. This will ensure that the extinguisher is in good working order and can function properly in the event of a fire.

Fire extinguisher servicing typically includes:

  • A Visual inspection
  • A Pressure test
  • A Recharge

Recharging your fire extinguisher is essential because it replaces the fire-suppressing chemicals used when the extinguisher is discharged. Because of this, it is important to ensure your extinguisher is recharged as soon as possible after it has been used.

You can typically find a local service provider by doing a Google search for “fire extinguisher servicing near me.” Your local fire department will often service your fire extinguisher free of charge!

How to Get Rid of Old Fire Extinguishers

If you have an old fire extinguisher that’s expired, it’s important to dispose of it properly. When a fire extinguisher expires, it’s time to get rid of it. But how?

The best way to dispose of an old fire extinguisher is to take it to a certified recycling center. Most extinguishers contain pressurized gas or chemicals that can be harmful if not handled correctly.

A certified recycling center will ensure that the extinguisher is properly disassembled and that the materials are disposed of safely.

You can also check with your local fire department to see if they offer a fire extinguisher recycling program. You can contact your local hazardous waste disposal facility if you can’t find a certified recycling center or fire department program.

Be sure to call ahead to find out what types of materials they accept and what the facility’s procedures are for disposing of fire extinguishers.

How to Clean Up Fire Extinguisher Powder

Dry chemical fire extinguishers are an important tool for putting out fires. They work by smothering the fire with a fine powder, which cuts off the oxygen supply and prevents the fire from spreading.

However, dry chemical fire extinguishers contain flame-retardant this powder can be corrosive, so cleaning up any residue as quickly as possible is important.

If you’ve ever had to use a fire extinguisher, you know how difficult it is to clean up the power residue afterward. Here are a few tips to help make the process easier!

  1. Vacuum up as much loose powder as possible. Empty the vacuum bag or canister afterward to avoid breathing in the dust.
  2. Use a damp cloth to wipe up any remaining powder. Dispose of the cloth in a sealed bag, so it doesn’t spread the fire extinguisher powder around.
  3. To neutralize the residual chemicals, mix a solution of one part baking soda or isopropyl alcohol with two parts water and spray it on the affected area. Once the chemical reaction has occurred, you can wipe away the solution with a damp cloth.
  4. Finally, wipe down the area with soap and hot water to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses.
  5. After rinsing the soap away with water, use a room fan to dry the area.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Much Does it Cost to Refill a Fire Extinguisher?

The answer depends on the type of fire extinguisher and the company you use. For instance, a small handheld extinguisher might cost between $15 and $25 to refill, while a sizeable wheeled unit could cost as much as $200. The best way to get an accurate estimate is to contact a local fire protection company and request a quote.

Your local fire department will often service your fire extinguisher free of charge, so that’s worth looking into as well!

How Often Should Fire Extinguishers be Checked?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire extinguishers should be checked monthly to ensure they are fully charged and in working order. 

Additionally, it is important to perform a quarterly test of the extinguisher by discharging it into an appropriate container. 

What’s the Best Place to Store a Fire Extinguisher on a Boat?

The best place to store a fire extinguisher on a boat is typically in the galley, near the entrance to the engine room, or in the aft cockpit. It is important to ensure that the extinguisher is accessible and not obstructed by other objects. 

In addition, it is important to regularly check that the extinguisher is fully charged, kept out of direct sunlight, and in good working order.

Is Fire Extinguisher Powder Toxic?

The powder itself is not considered to be toxic. The main dangers of fire extinguisher powder come from inhaling the dust or getting it into your eyes or on your skin. If you are exposed to fire extinguisher powder, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. 

Inhaling the dust can irritate your lungs and cause difficulty breathing. Getting the powder in your eyes can cause irritation and even temporary blindness.

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