Everyone knows the potential perils of a fire, even when the fire is exceptionally small. If a flame is not extinguished, it can quickly spread and burn the surrounding area in a matter of minutes. A functional fire extinguisher is essential on all premises. It is the most important tool against fire; however, if it is not kept in good working condition, it will most likely be useless when you need it. Attentive fire extinguisher maintenance is not only necessary to lessen the chances of a tragedy, but also conducive to your peace of mind. I will assure that your fire extinguishers meet OSHA, federal, state, and local fire codes, and satisfies your insurance requirements.

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Classes of Fires

Fires are grouped into classes which depend on the material or substance that is present.

  • Class A – Fires involving ordinary combustibles such as paper, wood, cloth, rubber, or plastics.
  • Class B – Fires involving flammable or combustible liquids, gases, oil, paints, or lacquer.
  • Class C – Fires involving energized (live) electrical equipment such as motors, appliances, or power tools.
  • Class D – Fires involving combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, sodium, and potassium.
  • Class K – Fires involving combustible cooking oils, or fats in cooking appliances

Types of Portable Fire Extinguishers

  • To fight the different classes of fires, there are different types of fire extinguishers. Each has its own characteristics, capabilities, and limitations. Three main types of portable fire extinguishers include:

Dry Chemical extinguishers:

  • Dry chemical extinguishers are the most common and available in few types. These extinguishers will be marked for the classes they are designed to extinguish (e.g., ABC type extinguisher will put out Class A, B and C fires). The extinguishers discharge a blanket of fine powder which creates a break between the fuel and the oxygen in the air. The powder also works to break the chemical reaction. Be accurate when using as they have a short to moderate spray range and last only 10 to 25 seconds.
  • Be cautious of the residue after using dry chemical extinguishers. The residue can damage motors, computers and other electrical equipment.

ABC Fire Extinguishers

  • They use monoammonium phosphate which is a dry chemical that is able to quickly put out the fire. It is a pale yellow powder that is able to put out all three classes of fire; Class A for trash, wood and paper, Class B for liquids and gases, and Class C for energized electrical sources.

PURPLE K Fire Extinguisher

  • Purple K extinguishers contain specially fluidized and siliconized potassium bicarbonate dry chemical which is particularly effective on Class B flammable liquids and pressurized gases. It is electrically non-conductive.

CLASS D Fire Extinguishers

  • Dry Powder extinguishers are similar to dry chemical except that they extinguish the fire by separating the fuel from the oxygen element or by removing the heat element of the fire triangle. However, dry powder extinguishers are for Class D or combustible metal fires, only.

Water extinguishers

  • Water extinguishers are filled about two-thirds with water and then pressurized with air. When used for Class A fires, these extinguishers remove the heat from the burning materials.
  • DO NOT use water to extinguish an electrical fire. Water is a good conductor and can increase the possibility of electrocution.
  • Do not use water to extinguish flammable liquid or cooking oil fires. Water is ineffective as it helps to spread the liquid and the fire.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguishers: 

  • The extinguishing media is pressurized CO2. When used for Class B and C fires, the CO2 covers the fuel by blanketing it, and stops the reaction at the surface by displacing oxygen. Be thorough when using a CO2 extinguisher. It has a moderate spray range and last only 10 to 30 seconds. A hard horn attached to the end of the spray tube helps to contain and aim the spray at the target area.
  • Do not use CO2 extinguishers in confined spaces as CO2 can displace the oxygen in the air, making breathing difficult. Only use in a confined space if workers have appropriate respiratory protection.
  • Do not use CO2 extinguishers for Class A fires because the fire may continue to smolder and re-ignite after the CO2 disperses.

K-CLASS Fire Extinguisher

  • Class K fires are fires with substances such as the animal and vegetable fats present in commercial cooking oils and greases. These types of fires can only be effectively quenched with a Class K fire extinguisher.