Fire Extinguisher Types and Uses

Fire Extinguisher Types and Uses

Fire Extinguishers Types and Uses. Nowadays company’s pay a lot of attention to the safety rules and regulations. Most offices have water sprinklers in case of smoke or if the fire alarm goes off. But, still having a fire extinguisher at hand is very important. Also, in many countries, it is a legal regulation.

Sure, you can just get a multi-purpose one. That would be easy, wouldnt it?

But, knowing what type your premises requires is important. Moreover, you have to ensure that you have the right size and weight fire extinguisher to meet the fire safety regulations.

Fire extinguishers are classified into different categories based on the fire they extinguish.

In this article we will be discussing the different types of extinguishers.

Fire Classes:

The international classification of fires can be seen in the table below.

Pro tip:

Never keep one fire extinguisher. Always keep one in the kitchen, basement, on every floor and in the garage.

Different types of fire extinguishers have been listed below:

  • Water
  • Foam
  • Dry Powder – Specialist
  • Dry Powder – Standard
  • Wet Chemical
  • Carbon Dioxide (‘CO2’)


Let’s discuss the different types of fire extinguishers in detail.

Water Extinguisher:

These were the original fire extinguishers and are still the most commonly used ones all around. 

The other name for them is “Class A” fire extinguisher.

As the name suggests, they only work on fires consisting of paper, straw, coal, rubber, wood, soft furnishing and solid plastics.

Most shops, universities, schools, hotels, and domestic places use them.

How do they work?

They simply use water to cool and extinguish the fire. In case of fire, the water cools the surface and firstly eliminates the chance of spreading. The water then absorbs the heat from the fire. Moreover, the nozzle releases water with so much pressure that it spread to a much larger surface area.

Also, the pressure of the water forms a mist which saves the firefighter from the heat.

They also contain a thing known as “surfactants” which let the water penetrate deeper into the burning material. Hence, increasing the overall effectiveness.

How to use them?

Operating them is fairly simple. All you need to do is aim the nozzle down and move across the area of the fire. Make sure to keep spraying a few seconds, even after the fire is diminished.

Where is it recommended?

  • Schools.
  • Homes.
  • Offices.
  • Basements.
  • Apparel shops.
  • Malls.




To identify them at sight, look for a pale/pink or cream colored label.

Uses: Best used on type A and B fires.

This is a good, general use extinguisher that most business premises have. The reason is that it can be used on multiple fires which are most common at the workplace like fires on paper, wood, paint, diesel, petrol and even in some cases electrical fires.

But, it is not preferable to use them on electrical fires as at times it cannot contain it.

How does it work?

They consist of a very unique element called the AFFF (Aqueous film forming foam).

First, foam extinguishers are mostly water-based. Hence, they work the same way as a water extinguisher by putting the fire out by lowering the temperature of the fire.

On the other hand, AFFF acts as a barrier and locks in the flammable vapors. It smothers the fire and seals the fire vapors. This stops it from re-igniting. Once the barrier is made, the water-base of the foam extinguisher kills the rest of the fire.

It is non-damaging to most of the materials and quite safe if used on electrical fires (even though it is not recommended to do so.)

How to use it?

It needs to be used differently on different types of fires, but the general idea is the same.

Solid fires:

  • Remove the safety pin to break the anti-tamper seal.
  • Aim and press the nozzle at the base of the fire. That is the target spot.
  • Don’t keep it in one place. Keep moving it back and forth all across the fire.


Liquid Fire:

  • Remove the safety pin to break the anti-tamper seal.
  • NEVER spray on the fire directly.
  • Point and spray on the inside of the container if the fire and liquid are contained inside it.
  • If not, you need to spray with very gentle movements against an adjacent surface from the fire.
  • The foam will then drop down on the fire. While it settles it will stop the fire.


Where is it recommended?

  • Hotels.
  • Garages.
  • Factories.
  • Offices

Dry Powder Extinguisher:

It is known as an “ABC” extinguisher or a multi-purpose extinguisher as it can be used on multiple fires (Type A, B and C).

Hence, it can be used on fires involving wood, textile, petrol, diesel, flammable gases like methane and butane and also electrical fires up to 1000V.


Never use this extinguisher in enclosed places. Reason being, the dry powder is very easy to inhale and it can be lethal. 

Also, it is very difficult to clean the residue.

How does it work?

They dry powder settles down on the fire. It does not work by cooling it down. What it does is it forms a barrier between the oxygen source and fuel. Hence, the fire does not get enough oxygen to burn.

The only glitch is that there is a small risk of the fire re-igniting.

They suppress fire quickly and are the only extinguishers which work flammable on metals.

Who needs them?

  • Large workshops.
  • Boiler rooms.
  • Storage facilities with flammable liquids.
  • Fuel tankers.


How to use it?

Removing the safety pin breaks the anti-tamper seal on it.

Pro Tip:

Always stay well back from the fire. Not only does the extinguisher work better that way, but it also saves you from catching fire.

  • Move it rapidly while aiming at the base of the fire.
  • In case of an electrical fire, if possible try to cut off the power source.


CO2 fire extinguishers:

These are the first choice for electric and Type B fires.

How does it work?

It emits Carbon dioxide, which is stored in liquid form inside the fire extinguisher. Once the handle of the extinguisher is squeezed, it comes out in the form of gas by the pressure.

The gas comes out at an immense speed. Hence, it is not recommended for chip pan fires. The mere pressure of the CO2 can cause the fire to spread everywhere.

It uses a simple formula. It replaces the oxygen in the air with carbon dioxide. As the supply of oxygen to the fire is cut, it stops burning.

This is a very effective way to kill fire as it makes no mess and leaves no residue.

Who needs them?

  • Schools.
  • Shops.
  • Hospitals.
  • Offices


How to use it?

Avoid holding the extinguisher with the nozzle as it can be hazardous and cause cold burns to your hand.

  • Remove the safety pin.
  • Stand at a distance from the fire.
  • Aim at the base of the fire.
  • For electric fires, if possible switch off the power source.
  • In the case of liquid fire, try not to splash the liquid.


Wet Chemical Extinguisher:

They are used on Type F (fats and cooking oil) and A fires (foam and water are best used for type A).

How does it work?

It creates a layer of foam on the top of the burning fat or oil, cutting the supply of oxygen to the fire. Hence, the fire stops burning. Secondly, it also has a cooling effect on the fire.

Who needs it?

  • Canteens (where fire source is located)
  • Kitchens.


How to use it?

  • Remove the safety pin.
  • Stand at a distance from the fire.
  • Aim at the base of the fire.
  • Keep spraying quickly while moving the nozzle around.


Where Should the Extinguisher Be Placed?

Fire Extinguisher Type Fire extinguisher LocationLocation

Water Extinguisher >

At every exit of each floor

Foam Extinguisher>

At the exit near a Class A or B fire risk floor.

Dry Powder Extinguisher>

Near the source of the fire risk.

CO2 Extinguisher>

Near the fire exits and where there is a risk of fire.

Wet Chemical Extinguisher>

In the kitchen or near the kitchen

Fire Extinguisher Types and Uses Conclusion

It can be seen that there are different fire extinguishers which are used for a specific type of fire. It is imperative to know what type of fire risk you have to be sure if you have the right extinguisher. Having the wrong one can be catastrophic.

Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) click here.
If you would like to arrange a free fire risk consultation, contact us

My Fire Safety. Co-Space, 25 Town Square,
Stevenage, SG1 1BP. 0800 999 11 25

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