Fire Extinguisher Types

When it comes to fire extinguishers, not all are made equally. Just like there are various classes of fires, there are also different types of fire extinguishers. Each one is designed to deal with the different classes of fires. Examining each type and understanding their intended application will be vital in the event of having to put out a fire.

Water and foam fire extinguisher

Water and foam fire extinguishers are crucial in dealing with Class A fires. This type deal with ordinary combustibles by effectively removing the heat element in the chemical reaction of a fire. The foam also separates the oxygen from the other elements of the fire causing it to die down.

It’s extremely important to remember that water and foam fire extinguishers should NOT be used on electric fires (Class C). Using water on an electrical fire is very dangerous as it increases the risk of electrical shock to the person using the extinguisher.

Using water on combustible liquids like gasoline or oil (Class B) doesn’t work well as the two liquids typically repel each other. Furthermore, splashing water on burning fuel exacerbates the problem by causing the fire to spread further even faster.

Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers effectively remove both the oxygen and heat elements from the chemical reaction of a fire with a cold discharge of carbon dioxide.

These fire extinguishers are NOT effective in dealing with Class A fires but can be used on Class B and C fires.

Dry chemical fire extinguisher

Dry chemical fire extinguishers are the most common extinguisher on the market as they are the most versatile when it comes to fighting fires.

Dry chemical fire extinguishers come in two varieties.

  • Multipurpose Dry Chemical
  • Ordinary Dry Chemical

Multipurpose dry chemical fire extinguishers are effective on Class A, B and C fires. They work in a similar way to wet chemical fires with an agent creating a barrier between the oxygen element of a fire and the fuel agent of the fire.

Ordinary dry chemical fire extinguishers are to be used with Class B and C fires only if you don’t want the fire to reignite after thinking you’ve extinguished it.

Wet chemical fire extinguisher

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are most effective in dealing with Class K fires. Wet chemical is a special agent that removes heat from the chemical reaction of a fire. Additionally, wet chemical prevents a fire from reigniting by creating a barrier between the oxygen and fuel elements of a fire.

Wet chemical fire extinguishers were designed specifically for large commercial kitchens where lots of deep frying is done. Fats and oils can get very hot and in the event of a fire, the wet chemical agent is by far the most effective.

This type can be used for Class A fires that occur in commercial kitchen as well.

Clean agent fire extinguisher

Clean agent fire extinguishers are best used on Class B and C fires, but can also be used for Class A fires depending on the size of fire extinguisher.

Clean agent fire extinguishers use newer and less ozone depleting halocarbon agents as opposed to older halon fire extinguishers. These agents are very effective at removing the heat from the chemical reaction of a fire to help extinguisher the flames.

These extinguishers are extremely useful when protecting delicate or sensitive property like data centres, communication facilities, control centres, museums, art galleries and the like.

Dry powder fire extinguisher

Dry powder fire extinguishers are very similar to dry chemical extinguishers except that they extinguish fires by separating the fuel from the oxygen element or by removing the heat element within the chemical reaction.

It is important to note that these extinguishers are for Class D fires only. They are ineffective in every other situation.

Water mist fire extinguishers are a relatively new product on the market. These extinguishers remove heat from the chemical reaction of a fire and they are an alternative to the clean agent extinguishers where contamination is a concern.

These extinguishers are most effective with Class A fires, but they can also be used in the event of a Class C fire.

Cartridge operated dry chemical fire extinguisher

Cartridge operated dry chemical fire extinguishers are effective at extinguishing fires by interrupting the chemical reaction of a fire.

The multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguishers are effective on Class A, B and C fires, ensure the

Ordinary dry chemical is for Class B & C fires only. It’s important to use the correct extinguisher depending on the type of fuel present! Using the incorrect agent can allow the fire to re-ignite after apparently being extinguished successfully.


Frequently Asked Questions About Fire Extinguishers

Since fire extinguishers are pressurized containers, certain considerations must be undertaken when shipping them and they must be handled carefully. They can only be shipped via ground service. Our network of carrier partners enables us to offer a wide range of delivery options, including: ● Dock-to-Door ● Dock-to-Dock ● Tailgate Required ● Appointment Required ● Inside Delivery Required ● Rush Orders ● Special Instructions. Shipping damage, missing items, and problems with your order must be reported to Herbert Williams Fire Equipment Ltd. within 1 business day of receipt of any shipment. Damages must be accompanied by a signed bill of lading that acknowledges the damage.

While the old adage says "you can't put a price on safety", fire protection equipment does carry a price tag. Our selection of fire extinguishers range from affordable, smaller 2 LB handheld fire extinguishers to higher prices for larger wheeled units.

Herbert Williams carries a wide range of portable fire extinguishers suitable for both vehicles and commercial and industrial buildings. They range in size from 2 LB handheld fire extinguishers to 350 LB wheeled units. We carry fire extinguisher brands from the following manufacturers Amerex, Ansul, Incontrol Systems Inc, Kidde, Strike First Corporation.

In the heat of the moment, it's easy to freeze up and forget how to use a fire extinguisher, even if you're familiar with the fire extinguishers in your work area. PASS is a handy acronym that helps you move past the panic and remember what you need to do in the event of a fire: Pull the ring pin at the top of the extinguisher so you can release the handle. Aim the hose or nozzle at the base of the flames, making sure you're 8 - 10 feet away from the fire. Squeeze the trigger or top handle firmly. Sweep the spray in a side-to-side pattern at the base of the fire until it goes out. Be sure you know what type and class of material is burning and use the correct fire extinguisher type to try and fight it. Always leave yourself a clear path to safety, and if the flames are taller than you, it's time to get out and wait for the fire department to arrive on scene. As you evacuate, make sure to pull the fire alarm if you haven't already done so and call the fire department when you're safe.

Per the Ontario Fire Code, you must regularly inspect and maintain your portable fire extinguishers so they're ready to deploy in the event of a fire. Each year, you are required to have your fire extinguishers inspected by a professional fire protection company to stay in compliance. They can identify and perform regularly scheduled maintenance as well as other non-foreseeable problems. Test intervals vary according to the type of extinguishers you have, so consult with a professional fire protection company to set up an inspection schedule that keeps you in compliance. Every month, you should visually check to make sure your fire extinguishers are in proper working order. At a minimum, go through this basic checklist: ● Location: ○ Are the fire extinguishers where they're supposed to be? ○ Are your fire extinguishers mounted according to the height requirements stipulated in your area's Fire Code? ○ Are your fire extinguishers easily accessible? ■ Can they be reached from the area they're meant to protect. ■ Free of obstructions. ■ Their location is clearly marked. ● Condition: ○ Are the fire extinguisher mounting brackets fastened securely and well-supported? ○ Is the locking ring pin in place? ○ Is the seal intact? ○ Does the gauge read green or fully charged? ○ Is the discharge opening or nozzle clear of obstructions? ○ Is the cylinder damaged, dented, corroded, or rusting? ○ Has the fire extinguisher been tampered with? ○ Are the operating instructions facing outward, clear, and easy to read? ○ Is the fire extinguisher class clearly marked? ○ Are the tires and chassis of wheeled units in good shape? ● Testing and Record Keeping: ○ Is there a written record that includes: ■ Serial numbers, ■ Type of extinguishers, ■ Locations, ■ Inspection dates, ■ Description of tests, ■ Test results, ■ Date of next inspection, ■ Date of annual service, ■ Inspector's signature, ■ Comments, ■ Information on how to reach your fire equipment servicing company. ○ Is the Inspection tag attached to the fire extinguisher and undamaged? ○ Does the inspection tag show: ■ Dates of inspection, ■ Inspector's signature/initials, ■ Serial number of fire extinguisher.

Employees must be able to reach fire extinguishers easily and quickly in the event of a fire. Each workplace may have different fire hazards or even multiple fire hazards throughout the facility. Buildings are designated as Light-Hazard Occupancy, Ordinary-Hazard Occupancy, and Extra-Hazard Occupancy. These designations carry different requirements for how many fire extinguishers you need in a work space, always consult with a professional fire protection company. ● Class A: Used in areas that have ordinary combustible materials, like wood, paper, rubber, plastic, or cloth. Install these in places like offices, classrooms, and assembly halls. ● Class B: Used for flammable liquids, like gasoline, paints, oils, and grease. Place these in workshops, garages, storage areas, warehouses, and service or manufacturing areas. ● Class C: Used for live electrical equipment, like fuse boxes, server rooms, and wherever energized electrical equipment is located. ● Class D: Used for combustible metals in areas that generate metal powders, shavings, or flakes. ● Class K: Used in commercial cooking areas to put out oil and fat/grease fires.

An undercharged, low-pressure, or expired fire extinguisher can endanger people and property. Each time a fire extinguisher is used, it should be spected and recharged by a certified technician in order to ensure that it is certified, meets the local fire code and is ready for use again.

Many workplaces have their own specific fire extinguisher requirements, depending on the nature of their business and the risk of fire based on their respective fire code guidelines. Workplaces working with higher fire hazards will require more and possibly larger extinguishers than others, and different industries will also require different types of extinguishers, such as K Class for kitchens or Clean Agents for aircrafts. It is important to be aware of local regulatory standards when purchasing your fire suppression supplies and equipment. When in doubt consult your local fire protection service provider.

Height and placement requirements can be found in your local jurisdiction's fire code. General regulations for employers include adhering to accessibility needs and displaying proper signage so that the extinguisher can be found quickly and easily. Proper inspection and maintenance needs to be adhered to, including the proper display of an inspection tag, clearly indicating the fire extinguisher’s certification. Instructions for proper use should be outward-facing, and regular maintenance should only be performed by trained persons.

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