Common Fire Extinguisher Types and What They Are Used For

Have you ever feared a house fire?

In 2015 alone, the U.S. Fire Administration recorded approximately 380,900 residential fires, with around 1,800 of them proving fatal. It’s statistics like these that make people worry they could suffer a house fire on any given day. It’s a common concern.

That’s why it’s imperative for you to look for ways to prepare yourself in order to prevent such events from ever impacting you. Safety measures such as installing sprinkler systems and fire alarms are good ideas to start with, as are keeping fire resistant blankets at the ready and stocking up on fire extinguishers for personal use.

But did you know there are different types of fire extinguishers? Many people don’t realize that the average fire extinguisher is one of eight different kinds. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a one-fits-all policy when it comes to this kind of fire safety.

Different Kinds of Fires

Half the battle of determining the correct kind of extinguisher to keep on hand is knowing what kind of fires your property could possibly be subject to. Before we discuss the eight different kinds of extinguisher, let’s discuss the five extinguisher classes and what fires they can fight.

  • Fires made from combustible materials like wood, paper, fabric, etc. (fought with a Class A extinguisher)
  • Fires born from flammable liquids or flammable gases (Class B)
  • Fires made by electrical appliances and/or equipment (Class C)
  • Fires created from flammable metals (Class D)
  • Fires originating from cooking oils and/or fats (Class K)

Different Fire Extinguisher Types

If you haven’t already guessed, not all fire extinguishers work the same way. They are classified according to both their chemical makeup and how they kill flames. Here is a look at the eight most common types:

Water and Foam

This type of fire extinguisher uses the cooling effect of water to kill the fire. It also uses foam to cut off the source oxygen that allows a fire to “breathe” and reignite.

You should use this on Class A fires only, as you risk spreading the fire or making it worse otherwise. That’s to say – the foam could interact maliciously with the substances powering other kinds of fire (like flammable chemicals, for example).

Carbon Dioxide

These fire extinguishers work by choking the fire by cutting off its oxygen supply with carbon dioxide and give off a cold discharge to cool the surrounding area.

They are effective on Class B and C fires.

Wet Chemical

This type of extinguisher contains a potassium solution that cools the fire, lowers the temperature to prevent the fire from spreading, and chemically coats burning oil or fat with a noncombustible barrier of foam.

Naturally, these fire extinguishers are common in commercial cooking areas (for Class F fires). They can also be effective for Class A fires.

Dry Chemical

Like a chemical fire extinguisher, a dry chemical extinguisher works to smother the fire and coat the fuel source with a noncombustible, chemical “shield”. With the dry chemical extinguisher, however, rather than a chemical foam, a fine, chemical powder of various compounds is produced.

Multipurpose dry chemical extinguishers work on Class A, B, and C fires, while ordinary dry chemical extinguishers are exclusively for B and C. Be sure you know which kind you’re using.

As a whole, the dry chemical fire extinguisher remains the most widely used extinguisher in the market today.

Cartridge Operated Dry Chemical

Same with the dry chemical fire extinguisher mentioned above, this type prevents the fire from making any chemical reactions by coating the fire’s fuel source. These ones are easier to handle, though.

Multipurpose cartridge-operated dry chemical extinguishers are effective on Class A, B, and C fires. Ordinary cartridge-operated dry chemical extinguishers are for Class B and C fires only.

Dry Powder

Similar to the dry chemical fire extinguisher, these fire extinguishers work by separating the fire’s fuel from the ambient oxygen of the area with a chemical coating and also cool down the vicinity of the fire, eliminating the heat that exacerbates the flames.

It’s important to note that dry powder fire extinguishers are only effective on Class D fires, as they are ineffective on all other fire classes. If used on other fires, a dry powder extinguisher could even, in the worst case, increase the size of the flames.

Clean Agent

These fire extinguishers are comprised of halon and halocarbon agents specifically devised to deplete less ozone than the chemicals of other kinds of extinguishers. Clean Agent extinguishers interrupt the chemical reactions exacerbating the flames and cool down the fire.

Also known as Halogenated extinguishers, this kind is effective on Class B and Class C fires. If a Clean Agent extinguisher is sufficiently large, it may also be applicable to Class A fires. Ensure that the variant you intend to use has received a 1A rating before applying it to a Class A fire (fires caused by flammable materials like wood, paper, and standard combustible objects).

Water Mist

These extinguishers operate not by inhibiting chemical reactions, but by principally removing the heat from the flames. In this way, this water-based, coolant-focused extinguisher can be used without concerns of contamination from chemicals.

This type is primarily useful against Class A fires, however, water mist extinguishers can also be used on Class C fires.

Get the Best Fire Solutions Now

Now that you know about the different types of fire extinguishers, you have a chance to stand against any fire that occurs in your home. You can now be a part of the estimated 1,990,000 people who fought fires on their own.

But if you don’t want to become close and personal with a fire, you can have sprinkler systems installed to help combat large fires for you. Don’t wait to contact us for help in planning an installation in your facility today.