Which fire extinguisher do I need?

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When a fire strikes, you need to know which type of fire extinguisher will be effective at quenching it. That’s because there are five different types of fire extinguisher – and using the wrong one on a particular fire could actually exacerbate the problem. 

Luckily, all it takes is to get familiar with the main types of fire and which extinguisher they pair with. This way, you can stay safe. So, let’s explore this topic further. 

What are the five types of fire extinguisher? 

Five types of fire extinguisher are available on the market. Each expels a different substance to tackle different sorts of fire. 

  • Water: What most people consider to be the standard extinguisher, these extinguishers expel a stream of high-pressure water. 
  • Foam: The foaming agent expelled from these extinguishers has a cooling effect on flames, while also creating a foamy barrier between the fuel and surrounding oxygen. 
  • Dry Powder: Much like foam, the dry powder forms a barrier between the fuel and the oxygen. Take care not to use this extinguisher in an enclosed space, as inhaling the power can pose a health risk. 
  • CO2: These extinguishers work by releasing CO2 to displace the oxygen that’s fuelling the fire, causing it to go out. 
  • Wet Chemical: Potassium is contained within wet chemical extinguishers, and is then released as a fine mist. The potassium reacts with the fuel, forming a film which acts as a barrier between the fuel and the surrounding air. 

Now that we understand the types of extinguisher available, it’s time to discover which ones are most effective on which fires. 

six fire extinguishers lined up

Which type do I need? 

Different extinguishers are most suitable for different classes of fire. Let’s learn about the different class types. 

  • Class A: Formed from burning organic materials such as paper, cardboard, coal, wood etc. Water fire extinguishers are most commonly used on this fire type, however foam, dry powder and wet chemical are also effective. 
  • Class B: Flammable liquids, such as petrol and paints, are the culprits in class B fires. Foam, dry powder and CO2 extinguishers are your trusted partners when it comes to battling a class B fire. 
  • Class C: Caused by flammable gases, such as propane, methane, butane, hydrogen, ammonia and many others. Dry powder extinguishers are the only type that are effective against class C fires. 
  • Class D: The result of flammable metals catching fire, such as magnesium, lithium and titanium. Dry powder is the only type of extinguisher that works against class D fires.  
  • Electric Fires: The result of electrical equipment catching fire. Dry powder and CO2 extinguishers are the two options for tackling electric fires. 
  • Class F: Most common in kitchen environments, class F fires occur when cooking oil catches fire. Only wet chemical extinguishers work against these fire types. 

By now, you will know which sorts of extinguishers work best on different classes of fire. The final step is to learn how to quickly identify the right extinguisher – and that’s where the colour coding system comes in. 

Fire extinguisher colours explained 

Each fire extinguisher in the UK has a stripe of colour around the top of the cylinder. The colour of this stripe indicates which type of fire extinguisher it is, making it easy to use the correct one on the fire it’s most suitable for. 

  • Red – water 
  • Cream – foam
  • Blue – dry powder 
  • Black – CO2
  • Yellow – wet chemical 

Always remember, it’s critical to use the correct fire extinguisher on the correct class of fire. Failure to do so could worsen the flames and put lives at risk. Please get in touch with our experts for further advice. 

Here at Firepoint Services, we’re leaders in the supply and installation of fire safety equipment across the North East of England and Scotland. As a fully certified company, we provide all types of extinguisher to protect premises and businesses across the area. Contact us to speak with our advisors.

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