What kind of fire extinguisher should you have in your home? - AmericaNowNews.com


What kind of fire extinguisher should you have in your home?

Many homeowners know the importance of having at least one fire extinguisher in their home, condo or apartment, but if there was a fire, would you know how to use the device?

The moment someone sees flames, call 911 to get firefighters en route because every second counts.

Then, reach for your fire extinguisher to do what you can to suppress the fire before firefighters arrive. In order to do this, your fire extinguisher needs to be within reach!

Nellie Babour has two fire extinguishers and she keeps them on the floor beside her china cabinet which is centrally located between her kitchen and laundry room.

"If the dryer catches a fire I'm there to get it, and if it's in the kitchen, I have it," she said.  

The U.S. Fire Administration says cooking is the leading cause of all residential building fires.

These fires cause over $300 million in property loss annually, and in a recent two-year period, more than 3,500 injuries.

Jo Provost is a fire prevention specialist with the Charlotte Fire Department. She says most house fires are caused by carelessness.

"If you are multitasking, going to the other room to do the laundry, going to help the children on their homework, and you're not focusing on your kitchen and your cooking, you could easily have it [fire] get of hand," Provost said.

There are five classes of fires and each requires different kinds of fire extinguishers. There's only one kind of extinguisher most homeowners need.

"Purchase a multipurpose dry chemical fire extinguisher. It's called an ABC dry chemical. It will put out the main three classes of fires you are going to find in your home," Provost said.

Those three classes of fires she is referring to include wood and paper, flammable liquids like grease, and electrical equipment.

Make sure your fire extinguisher is in an accessible location.

"Many people put it right next to the stove, in a drawer, or underneath the stove, or the cabinet underneath the sink," Provost said. "Most fires happen in the kitchen stove area, so you want it away from the stove, several feet away, maybe at the back door or even the next room because you don't want to go close to the fire to retrieve the fire extinguisher."

Whether you purchase a fire extinguisher or receive one as a gift, make sure you read the instructions which is one thing many homeowners neglect to do.

"Have about 8-10 feet between you and the fire, aim it at the base of the fire, and have your back to a door so you can back out of the situation if it gets out of hand. You never want to turn your back on a fire," Provost warned.

A dry chemical fire extinguisher has a white, powdery substance that eventually settles and becomes packed inside the tank over time.

That's why it is important for you to pick up your fire extinguisher each month and shake it back and forth to ensure it isn't clogged up.

While you're doing this, don't forget to look at the gauge to make sure it is still under pressure and in the "full" position. 

You may be surprised to know that in some cases you would be better off not using a fire extinguisher at all!

"If it's a large fire or anything much larger than a trash can, get out," Provost warned. 

Once a fire ignites, every 30 seconds that passes by, the fire can double in size.

Remember, even if you are able to extinguish the fire yourself, you still want to have firefighters come to your home to check nearby walls to ensure the fire is completely out.

If you are a parent, you may be wondering -- when is it appropriate to teach a child how to use a fire extinguisher? Fire prevention experts say if a child is old enough to cook on their own and you feel safe they can cook, you should also teach them how to use a fire extinguisher.

Copyright 2013 America Now. All rights reserved.

Additional Information:

Click here for information from the United States Department of Labor regarding fire extinguishers <http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/portable_about.html>.

The following information is from the U.S. Fire Administration's website in an article entitled, "Fire Extinguisher" (http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/home_fire_prev/extinguishers.shtm).

  • The use of a fire extinguisher in the hands of a trained adult can be a life and property saving tool. However, a majority of adults have not had fire extinguisher training and may not know how and when to use them. Fire extinguisher use requires a sound decision making process and training on their proper use and maintenance.
  • Different types of fires require different types of extinguishers. For example, a grease fire and an electrical fire require the use of different extinguishing agents to be effective and safely put the fire out.
  • Basically, there are five different types of extinguishing agents. Most fire extinguishers display symbols to show the kind of fire on which they are to be used.

Types of Fire Extinguishers


Class A extinguishers put out fires in ordinary combustible materials such as cloth, wood, rubber, paper, and many plastics.



Class B extinguishers are used on fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, gasoline, oil, and oil-based paints.



Class C extinguishers are suitable for use on fires involving appliances, tools, or other equipment that is electrically energized or plugged in.



Class D extinguishers are designed for use on flammable metals and are often specific for the type of metal in question. These are typically found only in factories working with these metals.



Class K fire extinguishers are intended for use on fires that involve vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances. These extinguishers are generally found in commercial kitchens, such as those found in restaurants, cafeterias, and caterers. Class K extinguishers are now finding their way into the residential market for use in kitchens.


  • There are also multi-purpose fire extinguishers - such as those labeled "B-C" or "A-B-C" - that can be used on two or more of the above type fires.
  • Portable fire extinguishers are valuable for immediate use on small fires. They contain a limited amount of extinguishing material and need to be properly used so that this material is not wasted. For example, when a pan initially catches fire, it may be safe to turn off the burner, place a lid on the pan, and use an extinguisher. By the time the fire has spread, however, these actions will not be adequate. Only trained firefighters can safely extinguish such fires.
  • Use a fire extinguisher only if:

    • You have alerted other occupants and someone has called the fire department;
    • The fire is small and contained to a single object, such as a wastebasket;
    • You are safe from the toxic smoke produced by the fire;
    • You have a means of escape identified and the fire is not between you and the escape route; and
    • Your instincts tell you that it is safe to use an extinguisher.
  • If all of these conditions are not present, you should NOT try to use a fire extinguisher. Alert other occupants, leave the building following your home escape plan, go to the agreed upon meeting place, and call the fire department from a cell phone or a neighbor's home.
  • Some people have physical limitations that might diminish or eliminate their ability to properly use a fire extinguisher. People with disabilities, older adults, or children may find that an extinguisher is too heavy to handle or it may be too difficult for them to exert the necessary pressure to operate the extinguisher.
  • Fire extinguishers need to be regularly checked to ensure that:

    • The extinguisher is not blocked by furniture, doorways, or any thing that might limit access in an emergency
    • The pressure is at the recommended level. Some extinguishers have gauges that indicate when the pressure is too high or too low
    • All parts are operable and not damaged or restricted in any way. Make sure hoses and nozzles are free of insects or debris. There should not be any signs of damage or abuse, such as dents or rust, on the extinguisher.
    • The outside of the extinguisher is clean. Remove any oil or grease that might accumulate on the exterior.
  • Shake dry chemical extinguishers once a month to prevent the powder from settling or packing. Check the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Pressure test the extinguisher (a process called hydrostatic testing) after a number of years to ensure that the cylinder is safe to use. Find out from the owner's manual, the label, or the manufacturer when an extinguisher may need this type of testing.
  • Immediately replace the extinguisher if it needs recharging or is damaged in any way.
  • All are required to safely control a fire with an extinguisher. For this reason, USFA recommends that only those trained in the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers consider using them when appropriate. Contact your local fire department for information on training in your area.
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