Fire extinguishers

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 #1 priority for residents is to get out safely.

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.

Classes of Fire


All fire extinguishers are labeled using standard symbols for the class of fire they can put out. They should be installed in escape routes, near exits, and always in plain view. Keep extinguishers away from hazards.

  • Class A Includes ordinary combustibles such as wood, cloth and paper.
  • Class B Includes flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil and oil-based paint.
  • Class C Includes energized electrical equipment such as wiring, circuit breakers, and appliances. When the power supply is interrupted to an electrical device, a class C fire can be considered as a class A fire.

How to use your extinguisher


If you operate an extinguisher it must be inspected and recharged by a qualified technician. Yearly maintenance is required whether or not it is used.

Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance and inspection of household fire extinguishers

Action What happens
P Pull the pin This unlocks the operating lever and allows  you to discharge the extingusher
A Aim low Point the extingushier nozzle or hose at the base of the flame
S Squeeze the lever This discharges the extinguishing agent, release the lever will stop the discharge
S Sweep from side to side Moving carefully toward the fire, keep the extinguisher aimed at the base and sweep back and forth until the flames appear to be out

Important points to remember


  • Know when to go – a safe escape is the most important thing. Every household should have a home escape plan and working smoke alarms.
  • Always test the extinguisher first to ensure it works before you approach a fire.
  • Most extinguishers discharge completely in as few as eight to 30 seconds.
  • The operator must have a clear escape route - install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so that you can make an easy escape.
  • Never put a fire between yourself and your exit.
  • If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.
  • Only adults who know how to use portable fire extinguishers should operate them.
  • Only buy an extinguisher that has been approved by a recognized testing laboratory such as U.L.C. or C.S.A.

Other resources


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