Types of Fire Extinguishers

By : Business Owner
Published 5th October 2018 |
Read latest comment - 7th October 2018

I thought I would write this article to inform people to the types of fire extinguishers available and where to use them.  Hope you find it helpful!

Water Fire Extinguishers (A Class Fires) Red Label

Water Fire Extinguishers are good for tackling fires involving burning straw, paper, coal, wood and soft furnishing these types of fires are category A fires. When the extinguisher is discharged, the water soaks into the materials and by doing so cools the material and extinguishes the fire. It is also important to remember that water is an electrolyte and conducts electricity. Care must therefore be taken with regards to use near to exposed electrical equipment.

Do not use on:

Electrical Equipment

Cooking oils or fat pan fires

Flammable metal fires

Foam Extinguishers (A and B Class Fires) Cream Label

Foam Fire Extinguishers create a smothering film of foam over the fire which starves the fire of oxygen. The foam also penetrates porous materials and cools the fire.  Foam fire extinguisher can be used on A and B class fires such as paper, wood, soft furnishings and liquids or materials that liquefy such as petrol, oils, fats, paints, tar, alcohol and paraffin.

Do not use on:

Electrical Equipment

Cooking oils or fat pan fires

Flammable metal fires

CO2 Fire Extinguishers (B and Electrical Fires) Black Label

CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) Fire Extinguishers contain only pressurised CO2 gas. CO2 extinguishers are suitable for use on fires involving burning liquids (Class B fires), but is also a good solution for putting out  fires involving electrical appliances, as it does not cause damage to the electrical items and does not cause the system to short circuit. When using CO2 extinguishers there is a possibility that once the smothering CO2 gas has dissipated, the fire may re-ignite if the source of the fire is not removed for example isolating the power supply by switching it off or if the materials are still very hot.

CO2 extinguishers that are not fitted with double-lined swivel horns may cause your fingers to freeze to the horn during the deployment of the extinguisher, so you should not hold the horn or hold the bottom of the extinguisher when using it.

Do not use on:

Cooking oils or fat pan fires

Flammable metal fires

Powder Extinguishers (A, B, C and Electrical Fires) Blue

Powder Fire Extinguishers, such as ABC powder extinguishers or dry powder extinguishers, are suitable for fighting class A,B and C and electrical fires. ABC powder extinguishers have a very good firefighting capacity; however these types of extinguishers do not have a good cooling effect on the fire. This can result in the fire re-igniting, if it is not properly extinguished. Using a powder extinguisher on electrical equipment could damage the equipment.

Care must be taken when using powder extinguishers that you do not inhale the powder. Powder extinguishers should therefore not be used in small, confined spaces where there is a risk of inhaling the powder.

Do not use on:

Cooking oils or fat pan fires

Flammable metal fires

Wet Chemical (Class F fires) Canary Yellow

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers are especially designed for use on kitchen fires involving burning oil and deep fat fryers. These extinguishers come with a special, long application lance which allows you to safely lay a cooling layer of foam on top of the burning oil. They can also be used on Class A fires, although their firefighting power for general risks is not very strong.

Do not use on:

Petrol, spirits or mineral oils

Check manufacturer's instructions for other uses


Fire Blanket

A fire blanket is made of fire retardant material it is to be placed over the pan containing the burning oil / fat. The pan should then be left to cool down. NEVER carry the pan outside or lift the fire blanket after a short period of time to inspect the burning oil as the introduction of oxygen through this action can reignite the fire. NEVER use pressurised water, powder, CO2 or foam extinguishers on fires involving burning fat, as the pressurised jet can cause the burning oil to be carried out of the pan onto surrounding surfaces causing more damage and a larger fire to tackle.

Points to note before tackling a fire

  • Don’t attempt to use an extinguisher on a fire unless you feel it is safe for you to do so
  • Position the extinguisher where you can get to it quickly, like the hall. Don’t position extinguishers over a heater or fire, but do fix them to the wall, so they are out of reach of children but still easily accessed.
  • Extinguisher can be heavy. Buy extinguishers that you can carry easily.
  • Plan ahead…make sure you are familiar with the extinguisher and read the instructions and understand the pictograph. Don’t leave it until you have a fire!
  • If you require the extinguishers for a business, then you must have them serviced once a year and this includes lettings.
  • If you are using a fire extinguisher on a fire, know your escape route.

You should never attempt to fight a fire unless:

  • The alarm has been raised
  • The emergency services have been called
  • You have access to the correct type of extinguisher
  • You are competent and have been trained use an extinguisher
  • The fire is smaller than a waste paper bin.


Extinguisher should have the operating instructions clearly legible on the extinguisher, the general advice for operating a fire extinguisher can be remembered as PASS.


P = Pull the pin


A = Aim low, pointing the extinguisher (nozzle, horn or hose) at the base of the fire


S = Squeeze the handle until the extinguisher discharges


S = Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire

Hope you found this information helpful. 

Bob Elsey.



Thank you Bob, that's such a beneficial post and information we could all do with. I've received training on it many times but I still forget. Thanks for sharing your expertise! 

I have to do a test every 5 years and 1 of the questions is always on fire extinguishers, the pass rate has to be over 95% so last question I gen up on is this one!


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