Types of Fire Extinguishers to Safeguard Your Premises

Posted on Mar 29, 2023

When it comes to fire safety, making sure your home or workplace is prepared with the right type of fire extinguisher is a big deal. It’s a great precaution to take and, for smaller or containable fires, extinguishers can help to put them out or to mitigate a more serious situation until the fire department arrives. Of course, if the fire is significant, your priority should be to evacuate your home or office immediately and wait for firefighters outside.

Types of Fires

The Fire Tetrahedron lays out the four components required for a fire to start – heat, fuel, oxygen, and chemical reaction – and fire extinguishers are designed to put out a fire by removing one or more of these elements.

Before we get to the different types of fire extinguishers, it’s important to understand the different types of fires that these extinguishers are designed to fight. There are five different categories:

  • Class A - Fire started with normal combustibles such as wood, paper, and cloth
  • Class B – Fire started with flammable and combustible liquids and gases such as gasoline and paints
  • Class C – Fire started by energized electrical equipment such as a short circuit in power transmission cables
  • Class D – Fire started by flammable metals such as sodium, potassium, and lithium
  • Class K – Kitchen fires

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Many homes and offices will either use general-purpose or kitchen extinguishers, but other environments, like laboratories or warehouses, might need more specific extinguishers.

Water & Foam

The water component of this extinguisher removes the heat of the fire, while the foam component removes the oxygen.
Works For: Class A Fires Only

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide replaces the fire’s oxygen and, as the gas is contained under pressure it creates a cold discharge upon release, which removes the heat of the fire too.
Works For: Class B and C fires

Dry Chemical

This extinguisher removes the chemical reaction of a fire and is the most used of all fire extinguishers because of its versatility across multiple classes.
Works For: Class A, B, and C Fires (Multipurpose); Class B and C (Ordinary)

Wet Chemical

This extinguisher removes heat and creates a barrier between oxygen and fuel so a fire cannot be re-ignited. The chemical is sprayed as a mist, cooling the fire’s heat and creating a blanket effect over the fuel.
Works For: Class K Fires (Particularly good for fires started by oils or fats)

Clean Agent

Also called Halogenated extinguishers, these include halon agents and new, less ozone-depleting halocarbon agents, which extinguish a fire by interrupting its chemical reaction.
Works For: Class B and C Fires

Dry Powder

This works similarly to the dry chemical extinguisher as the powder separates the fuel from oxygen or removes the heat, but this extinguisher is only used to fight combustible metal fires.
Works For: Class D Fires

Water Mist

This extinguisher takes away the heat of the fire only.
Works For: Class A and C Fires

Cartridge Operated Dry Chemical

This extinguisher interrupts the chemical reaction of the fire, and creates a barrier between the oxygen and the fuel and, as the dry chemical extinguishers, works well on a variety of fire types.
Works For: Class A, B, and C Fires

It’s important to use the right extinguisher for the type of fuel – using the incorrect one can allow a fire to re-ignite, even when it seems to have been put out successfully.

Impact Fire and Safety and Safety Appliances Pvt. Ltd. (If&S) put together a simple chart to help you choose the right extinguisher for your fire needs.

Fire Extinguisher Class A Class B Class C Class D Class K
Water & Foam ?        
Carbon Dioxide   ? ?    
Dry Chemical ? ? ?    
Wet Chemical         ?
Dry Powder       ?  
Water Mist ?   ?    
Clean Agent   ? ?    
Cartridge-Operated Dry Chemical ? ? ?    

And remember to make sure that everyone in your home or workplace knows how to operate whichever fire extinguisher you have – IF&S can provide specific training as necessary in the workplace so that you always remember the P.A.S.S technique!