Home and Garden

Fire Extinguisher Facts

Fire extinguishers are a typical sight in any building in any country. However, few of us know exactly how to use it. Even the different types of fire extinguishers and the various purposes for which it is used are known to very fewer people. Different kinds of catastrophes can happen in a building out of which a fire breaks out is the most common one. Hence, it is important that we know at least some basic facts about an appliance that is so commonly seen around us.


So what exactly is a fire extinguisher?


It is a device that is used to control small fires that don't reach up to the ceiling and has gone out of control. It is normally a cylindrical vessel that contains an extinguishing agent that is manually discharged at the time of the fire. It is normally meant to clear escape routes in the time of the fire.


What is the story behind a fire extinguisher?


A fire extinguisher as we see it now came after a long evolution from its most ancient form that was made by Ambrose Godfrey in the first half of the 18th century which was not portable but placed in a room. The ancestor of the extinguisher as we see now was invented by George Manby which he called then as "extincteur". This extinguisher was made of a portable container filled with potassium carbonate solution and compressed gas. As years went on, there were different kinds of other extinguishers like soda-acid fire extinguisher, chemical foam fire extinguisher, carbon tetrachloride extinguisher, and finally, the modern day extinguisher that we find around us now.


How do we select an extinguisher?


Fire extinguishers are chosen based on the type of fire. Thus we find Class A, B, C, D and F. Fire is normally divided into different classes based on its source and intensity. Here are a few details on each:


• Class A - Class A fire extinguishers are for extinguishing fire caught on ordinary materials like cardboard, wood, paper, etc. There is a numerical value on these extinguishers that indicates how much liquid it holds and how much fire it can extinguish.


• Class B - Class B is the fire that is caused by oil, grease, kerosene, etc. On these extinguishers, the number represents the area of fire space it can extinguish.


• Class C - These extinguishers control fire that is caused by electrical appliances, wirings and circuit breakers. These do not have any numbers attached to them.


• Class D - This is for fire caused by combustible substances like sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc. This is mainly used in chemical laboratories.


• Class F - This is for fire caused by cooking oil and deep fat fryers mainly used in kitchens of restaurants and food manufacturing factories.


Where do you place a fire extinguisher?


Fire extinguishers are normally placed according to what type of fire might occur in an area and how soon it can cause destruction. For example, in the case of Class A type of fire, the extinguisher is placed in such a way that a person shouldn't move more than 75 feet away to get the extinguisher. In the case of Class B, it is placed not more than 50 feet away.


How do you maintain a fire extinguisher?


There are different aspects to maintaining an extinguisher.


• First of all, it has to be one that is inspected and tested by qualified professionals at the time of purchase. 

• It has to be ensured that the extinguisher is placed at the required distance always. 

• For refillable chemical extinguishers, they have to be emptied and filled every six years. 

• The testing process should be done every month. 

• Damaged extinguishers have to be replaced immediately. 

• More than anything else, everybody in the building should have read the instructions given with the extinguisher.


Extinguishers were previously used only in commercial buildings and apartment buildings. However, now they are seen in individual homes as well. It is recommended to be used in homes as a fire breakout is possible there too.