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Fire Extinguisher Tips


A portable fire extinguisher is not as effective as the fire department's hoses but it may

be enough to quickly put out a small fire. CALL 911 Immediately!

There are five classes of extinguishers, each of which works on a different type of fire:

Class A: Ordinary materials like wood, paper, and cloth
Class B: Flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, kerosene and oil
Class C: Electrical equipment like appliances, TVs, electrical wiring, and tools
Class D: Flammable metals (usually found in factories and industrial settings)
Class K: Vegetable oil, animal oil, and fats (usually found in commercial kitchens)

“A” and “B” fire extinguishers have numbers ahead of their classifications. The bigger the number, the more extinguishing agent the extinguisher contains. There is no number before a Class C because the C indicates that the materials are nonconductive and therefore safe to use on an electrical fire.

The number before a Class A extinguisher represents the equivalent number of gallons of water times 1.25, so a fire extinguisher with a 3-A classification has enough extinguishing agent to be the equivalent of 3.75 gallons of water.

The number before a Class B is the maximum square footage the agent can cover, so a 40-B extinguisher has a maximum coverage of 40 square feet.


  • Some fire extinguishers will fully discharge in less than 10 seconds.

  • Better grade units will have metal valves and can be recharged.

  • Inspect your fire extinguishers every 30 days as per the owner's manual. If you need to refill a rechargeable fire extinguisher, take it to a certified fire equipment maintenance company.

  • Invert and shake home-use fire extinguishers every 30 days to keep contents from clumping and clogging the nozzle during discharge.

  • Replace home-use fire extinguishers at least once every 10 years (the same as your smoke detectors.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends choosing a multipurpose extinguisher that can put out a small fire, isn’t too heavy to handle, and has been reviewed by an independent testing laboratory. Home fire extinguishers should have a minimum classification of 2-A:10-B:C.


  • Install a fire extinguisher in every bedroom and outside in the hallway

  • Make sure you have at least one fire extinguisher on every level of your home including the basement

  • Install the fire extinguishers close to an exit

  • Make sure every capable person in your household reads the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and becomes familiar with its components and operation.

The NFPA and Ghent Volunteer Fire Company No.1 believe that children should not be trained on how to operate fire extinguishers. Teaching children to use portable fire extinguishers runs counter to NFPA messaging to “Get Out & Stay Out” if there is a fire. Furthermore, children may not have the maturity to operate a portable fire extinguisher properly or decide when a fire is small enough to be put out by the extinguisher. They may not have the physical ability to handle the extinguisher or dexterity to perform the complex actions required to put out a fire. In the process of extinguishing flames, children may not know how to respond if the fire spreads. We continue to believe that only adults who know how to operate portable fire extinguishers should use them.

  • Include the fire extinguisher in your semiannual practice of your Home Fire Escape Plan

  • Remember the 4 steps to operating a fire extinguisher and the acronym “P A S S”:


Pull the pin = Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing

away from you and remove the safety pin.

Aim low = Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.

Squeeze = Squeeze the handle (lever) slowly and evenly.

Sweep = Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.


Be prepared for the “real thing” and remember:

  • Call 911 immediately before the fire escalates.

  • Keep your back to a clear exit when you use the fire extinguisher so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled.

  • If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately. Remember that a fire extinguisher cannot replace the fire department!

  • When its time to escape: GET OUT - STAY OUT!

The image above is neither a recommendation or endorsement of the manufacturer or product.

Please visit these sights for more detailed information

on how to protect your family and home:

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