Fire Safety

Get To Know Your Fire Extinguisher

September 19, 2018
Fire Extinguisher guide

Everyone is familiar with what a fire extinguisher looks like – they should be everywhere you go. However, being confident in using one is a different story. We all like to think, that in the rare occasion a fire breaks out, our heroic nature will take over and we will stop the fire with ease to rescue everyone in the building.

But in reality a fire extinguisher is actually not as lightweight as we hope, and our bravery is most likely to be swamped by fear.

Development and History

The fire extinguisher has been in England since 1973 and has come a long way to look like the modern day version it is now. It’s hard to believe, but once upon a time fire-extinguishing liquid was made of gunpowder.

Nowadays, there is a fire extinguisher to help prevent every type of fire and it is important to be aware of which agent can be used for each class of fire.

Fire class → Class A Class B Class C Class D Electrical Class F

Combustible materials Flammable liquids  Flammable gases Combustible metals Electrical equipment  Cooking oil/fat
Dry Powder
Wet Chemical

Fire Extinguisher Deployment and Installation

Fire extinguishers can easily be purchased online. Just be sure that they are the right type and size for your premises, and that you know where to locate them. Fire extinguishers must be commissioned on-site by someone who has passed the BAFE fire extinguisher exam or has an equivalent qualification.

To comply with fire extinguisher regulations, extinguishers should be either fixed to the wall, or attached to a stand. The common water-based and CO2 fire extinguishers are usually located by exits and fire alarm call-points. ‘Specialist’ extinguishers, such as wet chemical and powder extinguishers should be positioned within easy reach of the specific fire hazard e.g. the deep fat fryer.

All extinguishers should also be clearly signposted with fire extinguisher ID signs fixed to the stand or the wall explaining which type of extinguisher they are, and how and when to use them.

How To Use Your Fire Extinguisher

Using a fire extinguisher isn’t rocket science – but by no means is it as easy as switching on the TV – so there are a few basics you need to know.

You must always ensure the fire extinguisher is safe before use, here are some top tips:

  • Check that the extinguisher is fully charged by ensuring the pressure gauge is in the green area and that the safety pin is not bent
  • Quickly check that there is no live electrical equipment in the area
  • Ensure you remain a safe distance from the fire and remove the safety pin – this will break the tamper seal
  • Squeeze the lever slowly to begin discharging the extinguisher. As the fire starts to diminish, carefully move closer to it
  • Hold the lance at arm’s length, well above the fire, with its nozzle at least 1 metre away from the fire

Types of Fire Extinguishers to Use – and When

There are a variety of fire extinguishers you are likely to have seen before – in your office, local shops, or at home. Below is a guide on how to use each of the extinguishers on different types of fires they are suitable for.

Water Fire Extinguisher

  • Fire spreading horizontally: Aim the hose at the base of the fire, moving the jet across the area of the fire
  • Fire spreading vertically: Aim the hose at the base of the fire, slowly moving the jet upwards following the direction of the fire

Foam Fire Extinguisher

  • Flammable liquids: Aim the hose at a vertical surface near the fire. Do not spray directly at the fire as this could cause the fire to spread to surrounding areas
  • Electrical fires: If your foam extinguisher is tested to 35,000 Volts, you can use it on live electrical fires – but always keep a safety distance of 1 metre
  • Solid combustibles: Aim the hose at the base of the fire, moving across the area of the fire

Foam extinguishers allow a build up of foam across the surface of the fire, causing it to be smothered. You can make sure that the fire has been extinguished when the foam has created a blanket over the fire, preventing re-ignition.

CO2 Fire Extinguisher

Do not hold the horn (unless it is a frost-free horn) – it becomes extremely cold during use and can lead to severe frost burns.

  • Flammable liquids: Aim the horn at the base of the fire and move across the area. Be careful not to splash the burning liquid with the powerful jet of the CO2 extinguisher
  • Electrical equipment: Switch off the power (if safe to do so) and then direct the horn straight at the fire

Please note that a CO2 extinguisher only has a very short discharge time. Ensure all the fire has been extinguished as reignition is possible when a CO2 extinguisher has been used.

Powder Extinguisher

  • Solid materials: Aim the hose at the base of the flames, moving across the area of the fire
  • Spilled liquids: Aim the hose at the near edge of the fire and with a rapid sweeping motion, drive the fire towards the far edge until all the flames have been extinguished
  • Flowing liquid: Direct the hose at the base of the flames and sweep upwards until all the flames have been extinguished
  • Electrical equipment: Switch off the power (if safe to do so) and then direct the hose straight at the fire

Ensure all the fire has been extinguished – reignition can be possible when a powder fire extinguisher has been used.

Wet Chemical Extinguisher

  • Hold the lance at arm’s length, well above the fire, with its nozzle at least 1 metre away from the fire
  • Apply the fine spray in slow circular movements. This allows the wet chemical agent to fall gently onto the surface of the fire and helps to prevent hot oils splashing on to the user
  • Discharge the entire contents of the extinguisher to ensure that all of the fire has been extinguished

Fire Safety

Fires double in size every 60 seconds – so it’s important to take note of these tips now, to prevent fumbling around in an emergency.

At Coopers Fire, we’re always developing our fire curtains, smoke curtains and fire safety courses to keep us at the cutting edge of fire safety.

To find out more about our products and services, or to enrol in one of our educational training courses, call us on 02392 454 405 or email

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