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Fire Extinguishers

A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the number one priority for residents is to get out safely.

Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; everyone has exited the building; the fire department has been called or is being called; and the room is not filled with smoke.

Tips:

  • The higher the rating number on an A or B fire extinguisher, the more fire it can put out, but high-rated units are often the heavier models. Make sure you can hold and operate the extinguisher you are buying.
  • You may need more than one extinguisher in your home. Put one in the kitchen and one in the garage or workshop.
  • Each extinguisher should be installed in plain view near an escape route and away from potential fire hazards such as heating appliances.
  • Remember the word "PASS" when operating a fire extinguisher:
    • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
    • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
    • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
  • Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.
  • Extinguishers must be recharged after every use. Ask the dealer about the extinguisher and how it should be serviced and inspected. A partially used unit might as well be empty.

Recharging the Extinguisher

  • You should check your fire extinguisher once a month because extinguisher agents are stored under pressure and if the pressure drops, the extinguisher will be less effective.
  • You can find a recharging company in your area by looking in the yellow pages under "fire extinguisher." Your local recharging company can tell you when it's time to get your extinguisher recharged.
  • The service typically costs about 15 dollars. And if your extinguisher is not rechargeable and new one cost 10 to 45 dollars.

Ratings:
Fire extinguishers are labeled according to the type of fire on which they may be used. Fires involving wood or cloth, flammable liquids, electrical, or metal sources react differently to extinguishers. Using one type of extinguisher on the wrong type of fire could be dangerous and make matters even worse.

Type A Label (A for Ashes)

A Type A label is in a triangle on the extinguisher. This extinguisher is used for ordinary combustibles such as cloth, wood, rubber and many plastics. These types of fire usually leave ashes after they burn. Type A extinguishers for Ashes. Type A extinguisher has a pictogram showing burning wood.

Type B Label (B for Barrels)

A Type B label is in a square on the extinguisher. This extinguisher is used for flammable liquid fires such as oil, gasoline, paints, lacquers, grease, and solvents. These substances often come in barrels. Type B extinguishers for Barrels.

Type C Label (C for Currents)

A Type C label is in a circle on the extinguisher. This extinguisher is used for electrical fires such as in wiring, fuse boxes, energized electrical equipment and other electrical sources. Electricity travels in currents. Type C extinguishers for Currents. Type C extinguisher has a pictogram showing an electrical cord and outlet.

Type D Label (D for "don't get involved")

A Type D label is in a star on the extinguisher. This extinguisher is used for metal fires such as magnesium, titanium and sodium. These types of fire are very dangerous and seldom handled by the general public. Type D for Don't get involved.

Number Ratings

For Type A fires, a 1 would stand for 1 1/4 gallons of water, a 2 would represent 2 1/2 gallons, 3 would be 3 3/4 gallons of water, etc. For Type B and Type C fire, the number represents square feet. For example, 2 would be two square feet, 5 is five square feet, etc.

Fire extinguishers can also be made to extinguish more than one type of fire. For example, you might have an extinguisher with a label that reads 2A5B. This would mean this extinguisher is good for Type A fires with a 2 1/2 gallon equivalence and it is also good for Type B fires with a 5 square feet equivalency.

A good extinguisher to have in each residential kitchen is a 2A10BC fire extinguisher. You might also get a Type A for the living room and bedrooms and an ABC for the basement and garage.

When to Fight a Fire

You should fight a fire with a fire extinguisher only when all the following are true:

  • Everyone has left or is leaving the building.
  • The fire department has been called.
  • The fire is small and confined to the immediate areas where it started such as in a wastebasket, cushion, small appliance, stove, etc.
  • You can fight the fire with your back to a safe escape route.
  • Your extinguisher is rated for the type of fire you are fighting and is in good working order.
  • You have had training in use of the extinguisher and are confident that you can operate it effectively.

Remember, if you have the slightest doubt about whether or not to fight the fire - DON'T. Instead, get out, closing the door behind you to slow the spread of the fire.

You have one of the best fire departments in the world standing by ready to protect you. Let the professionals do their job!

For more information, please contact the Scottsdale Fire Department at (480) 312-FIRE (3473).