Understanding the different types of fire extinguishers is equally as important as knowing how to use, handle and maintain each of them. They come in different shapes, sizes and colours and each of them is specifically designed to tackle a certain type of fire.
All fires are not the same this is why the composition of each type of fire extinguisher is not the same for example a fire involving electrical equipment might require a different type of fire extinguisher from a fire involving cooking oils.
It’s no secret that fire extinguishers play a vital role in protecting people and their property but not understanding which type of fire extinguisher to use on a specific type of fire can drastically reduce the effectiveness of the fire extinguisher.
While some of these fire extinguishers are well known for putting out multiple types of fires they’re often put into classes to determine their maximum effectiveness. In the UK the 5 most common types of fire extinguishers are:
Identifying the different types of fire extinguishers is a common mistake quite a few people make , some of them are not even aware that each type is represented by a different colour band.
Fire extinguishers are required by law to carry a certain colour code on the label depending on their contents, this applies to every fire extinguisher manufactured over the recent years and those manufactured in the future but there are still quite a few older types of fire extinguishers that do not have the fire extinguisher colour coding on the label.
The Different Types of Fire Extinguishers
One of the difficult aspects of tackling any fire is that different substances will be necessary to extinguish different types of fire. Thus, it is imperative to become familiar with the types of extinguishers that are currently available and the types of fire that each is designated to address.
As you may surmise, water extinguishers will address what are known as Class A fires. These will occur when paper, wood, textiles or furnishings are involved. While water is effective at extinguishing these types of fires, it will be ineffective or even dangerous when battling other varieties.
Dry powder is highly effective at extinguishing smaller fires; particularly those that will involve electrical equipment. Thus, they are utilised in kitchens, schools and offices. However, the cloud that is created upon their dispersal will not allow them to be ideal for enclosed spaces.
As foam will create a suffocating layer over a fire, foam extinguishers are commonly employed in situations where flammable solvents, oils or petrol are involved. Foam is additionally useful for items such as carpets or soft furnishings that may continue to smoulder for some time. The foam is not toxic and will help to prevent a fire from reigniting after it has been doused.
As their name may denote, wet chemical extinguishers utilise a combination of pressurised water and different salts. Wet chemical varieties are particularly useful in battling fires caused by the ignition of fat or oil in a kitchen. These extinguishers are small, easy to handle and can also be used on the aforementioned Class A fires (wood, paper or textiles).
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Carbon dioxide extinguishers are quite effective in combating fires that are caused by oils, solvents, fats and electrical equipment. Although this gas will effectively deprive a fire of oxygen, it should be noted that the item may reignite after the gas leaves the immediate area.