How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is one of the most important tools you could have in your home to save life and property in the event of a fire. A fire extinguisher can be used to put out small fires or hold back flames until you are able to escape the area of the fire. A fire extinguisher should not be used on large, uncontrollable fires. The Fire Department should always be notified of a fire, even if you are able to successfully extinguish the fire on your own. A fire can reignite or extend into the walls where you can’t see it. Firefighters will be able to ensure the fire is properly extinguished, as well as check for extension to prevent the fire from spreading to other areas of the house.

Fires cause more deaths than all natural disasters combined. The National Fire Safety Council reports that 81% of fire related deaths occur in people’s homes. A fire can double in size in a matter of minutes, so it is crucial that you are familiar with the process of how to properly operate a fire extinguisher.

What Kind of Fire Extinguisher Should You Get

There are several types of fire extinguishers available, each containing contents that are specific to the type of fire and circumstances that are presented. Using the wrong fire extinguisher could be a deadly mistake.

  • Class A: Ordinary Combustibles (wood, rubber, cloth, paper, trash, plastic)
  • Class B: Flammable Liquids and Gases (grease, gasoline, oil, oil-based paints, propane, butane)
  • Class C: Live Electrical Equipment (wiring, fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery, plugged in appliances)
  • Class D: Flammable Metals (industrial metal, metal dust)
  • Class K: Cooking (oils, greases, vegetable oils, animal oils)
  • Class A-B-C: Multi-purpose (use on all types of A, B, or C fires)

The National Fire Protection Association recommends selecting a multi-purpose fire extinguisher to be kept in your home. A positive feature of the multi-purpose fire extinguisher is the size. It is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy that it is difficult to handle.

Kidde Multi-Purpose Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher

What Size Fire Extinguisher Should You Get

When selecting what size fire extinguisher to get, bigger is better, however, lifting a large, heavy fire extinguisher may be challenging for elderly people, disabled persons, and children.

  • 10+ pounds: Commercial Businesses
  • 10 pounds: Garages and Home Workshops
  • 5 pounds: Kitchens and Laundry Rooms
  • 2 pounds: Cars or Boats

Where to Store Your Fire Extinguisher

  • Near an exit
  • In an easy to grab spot
  • In an easy to see location (not blocked by curtains or doors)
  • Not higher than 5 feet from the floor
  • Out of reach of children
  • Away from stoves and heat sources
  • On every level of your home (if you have a multi-story home)
  • Never in a closet
  • In a garage or workshop
  • In or near the kitchen

Keep a fire extinguisher under the kitchen sink to grab quickly if a fire starts while cooking.

When Should You Use a Fire Extinguisher

  • If everyone in the home has been notified there is a fire
  • If everyone has exited the home
  • If the Fire Department has been called
  • If the fire is small and contained to one area
  • If the fire is not spreading
  • If you have access to an escape route in case the fire escalates
  • If the fire is not producing toxic smoke
  • If you have the correct class of fire extinguisher for the fire that is present
  • If you know how to operate a fire extinguisher
  • If you feel safe enough to use a fire extinguisher

Inspecting Your Fire Extinguisher

To inspect your fire extinguisher, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on the type of fire extinguisher you have, it may have different operating procedures. Fire extinguishers should be inspected once a month to ensure that it will be ready in the event of a fire.

  • Make sure that the fire extinguisher is in the proper place in your home.
  • Make sure that it is still visible and nothing has been placed in front of it to block it from view or use.
  • Check the gauge to make sure the pressure is properly charged. The indicator located at the top of the fire extinguisher will indicate if it is fully charged or not.

  • If you have a commercial fire extinguisher, inspection should be conducted by a professional. They will tag the extinguisher to show that it has been inspected and indicate when it needs to be inspected again.

Maintaining Your Fire Extinguisher

  • Check that all parts are working and intact. This includes making sure that the hose and nozzle are free of insects that may have crawled inside or debris. Also, look for any dents or damage that may have been caused to the extinguisher.
  • Keep the outside clean. Wipe off any oil, grease, or dust that may accumulate over time. In addition, check for any rusting that may occur. Dirt may cause the parts on the extinguisher to no longer work.

  • Shake the fire extinguisher once a month. The dry chemical powder inside the extinguisher may settle over time, so it is recommended that it is shaken to keep the powder efficient.
  • Pressure test the fire extinguisher annually. This involves removing the pin and giving a light squeeze to the trigger to make sure that the contents still expel.
  • Replace the fire extinguisher if it is empty or damaged. If the fire extinguisher has been previously used, it is strongly recommended that it is refilled or replaced immediately. The extinguisher should also be taken to a qualified technician to repair any damaged caused to the extinguisher.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Using a fire extinguisher requires a four step process. To remember these four steps, use the acronym PASS. Most fire extinguishers have the instructions printed directly on them.

Pull the pin to unlock the extinguisher.
Aim at the base of the fire, standing 6-10 feet away.
Squeeze the trigger slowly to discharge the contents.
Sweep the spray from left to right until the flames are totally extinguished.





Releasing the lever will make the spraying stop. Repeat if necessary by squeezing the lever again. Even if the flames appear to be out, do not walk near the area you extinguished to prevent inhaling the chemical agent. Remember: although you may have successfully extinguished the fire yourself, it is important to always have the Fire Department respond to check the area.

Please keep in mind these KITCHEN FIRE SAFETY TIPS if a fire starts while you are cooking.

Source: Fire Extinguishers
Photo Credit: Sasha Staton, Pixabay




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Sasha, mother of one, never has a dull moment with her wild child and prefers it that way! Previously a law enforcement officer, she is now the spokesperson for a fire department. Sasha lives in Daytona Beach, Florida and enjoys running, shopping, and pool parties.

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