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 No. 1 priority for residents is to get out safely.

When to use a Fire Extinguisher

Use a portable fire extinguisher when:

  1. the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket and;
  2. is not growing; and
  3. everyone has exited the building; and
  4. the fire department has been called or is being called; and
  5. the room is not filled with smoke

Fire Extinguishers do not work on lithium-Ion battery fires. If you observe a lithium-ion battery fire, leave the area, close the door and call 911.

How to use a Fire Extinguisher

Remember the word “PASS” when operating a fire extinguisher:

P: Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.

A: Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.

S: Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.

S: 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.


  • 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.

Recharging the Extinguisher

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.

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.

SFD does not recharge extinguishers. Search online under Fire Equipment or Extinguishers for companies that may provide this service. However, it is often less expensive to buy a new extinguisher. Contact Hazardous Waste at 480-312-5600 for disposing of old units.

Fire Blankets

Fire blankets are helpful with smothering small fires and preventing them from spreading. They are particularly useful for extinguishing fires involving people or flammable liquids.

Familiarize yourself with the proper procedure for using fire blankets to ensure effective and safe usage before an emergency arises.

When to Fight a Fire

You should fight a fire with a fire extinguisher or fire blanket 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 or fire blanket and are confident that you can operate it effectively.
Remember, it is better to get out and call 911 than put yourself at risk using equipment you aren't familiar with. Instead, get out, closing the door behind you to slow the spread of the fire.

Last Updated: Jun 30, 2024

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8401 E. Indian School Road Witzeman Public Safety Building Scottsdale, AZ 85251
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