Fire extinguisher types: How to choose the right class

There are several different types of fires that can threaten your safety. No single fire extinguisher can tackle every one of these types of fires, which is why there are a few different fire extinguisher types that are all designed to fight different classes of fires. For those who aren’t trained to fight fires, choosing the right extinguisher for a fire can be tricky.

To help you make the right decision should you find yourself in a hot situation, we’ve created this quick mini-guide on 5 different types of fire extinguishers and the fires they’re made for.

Types of fires

Before we dive into the extinguishers, let’s first take a look at the different classes of fires:

Class A: Fuelled by combustible, carbon-based solids like wood or paper.

Class B: Caused by flammable liquids like petrol, oil, and paraffin.

Class C: Fuelled by flammable gasses like propane and methane.

Class D: Fuelled by combustible metals such as lithium and aluminium.

Electric fires: These are fires that are caused by electrical equipment. They are symbolized by an electric spark symbol instead of the letter ‘E’.

Class F: Fuelled by fats and cooking oils.

Types of fire extinguishers

There are 5 main types of fire extinguishers:

Water/mist extinguishers

H2O is a natural counterpart to fire and has been used for a long time by firefighters and regular individuals to extinguish fires. Water is the most common extinguishing agent used and is often utilised in combination with liquid nitrogen. Between the 3 types of water-based extinguishers, they’re suitable to combat class A, B, C, & F fires.

These extinguishers are the easiest to maintain and are the least hazardous to own. They can be found almost everywhere you go – in shops, schools, hotels, and warehouses. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about water-based fire extinguishers.

Foam

Firefighting foam is one of the best agents people can use to fight large and uncontrollable fires. Foam is used to bring down the temperature of any given fire and can be utilised on a large area.

This makes it easier for firefighters to control, contain and extinguish fires, eliminating the need to rely solely on laborious containment measures such as fire breaks. They’re best used against class A and B fires, and shouldn’t be used to fight class F fires.

Dry powder

These fire extinguisher types are ideal for fighting class A, B, and C fires. Special types of dry powder are available to combat class D fires that involve flammable metals like lithium and magnesium. Dry powder works by forming a crust that smothers a fire and stops it from spreading; however, they don’t soak into materials or offer an effective cooling effect on the fire, a drawback that can lead to a reignition.

Carbon dioxide

CO2 fire extinguishers contain pressurised carbon and leave no residue. They’re ideal to combat class B fires, as well as those caused by electrical equipment. As such, they’re the ideal fire extinguisher type to have in the office, as well as any place of work. These extinguishers work by suffocating a fire of oxygen and do not cause any damage to electrical equipment.

These extinguishers are quite expensive and have a couple of drawbacks – get in touch with us to find out whether you need a CO2 fire extinguisher or not.

Wet chemical

These are the only fire extinguisher types, apart from water-based extinguishers, that are suitable for class F fires. They’re mainly used in kitchens and restaurants, and can also be used on class A and B fires. This extinguisher type features a pressurised solution of alkali salts in water; when deployed, it creates a fine mist that cools a fire and prevents splashing.

Which fire extinguisher types should you use for different fires?

Class A: Water & water mist; foam; dry powder; chemical.

Class B: Water mist; foam; dry powder; CO2; wet chemical.

Class C: Water mist; dry powder.

Class D: Specialist dry powder.

Electric fires: Water mist; foam; CO2.

Class F: Water mist; wet chemical.

If you’d like to learn more about the different types of fire extinguishers available to you, don’t hesitate to give us a shout!

Different types of firefighting foams and their main uses

There are several methods firefighters use to fight fires. Firefighting foam is a popular method because of its effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, and is often said to have replaced water as the main chemical to fight fires. In this blog, we’ll be taking a look at what firefighting foam is, why it’s so effective, as well as the different types of firefighting foam used today.

An overview of firefighting foam

Firefighting foam was made by a Russian inventor named Aleksandr Loran in the early 1900s and was first used commercially after he patented the invention in 1904. The different types of firefighting foams serve several applications in firefighting. From fighting fires in small and enclosed spaces to combatting blazes caused by fuel spills.

These foams are made to cool down fires and cut them off from a supply of oxygen. This suppresses the combustibility of a fire and aids in the extinguishing of blazes. There are 4 main kinds of firefighting foams used today, let’s take a look at them.

Types of firefighting foams

There are two main types of firefighting foams available for use: Class A and Class B foams:

Class A foam

These foams are concentrates that serve the purpose of lowering the surface tension of water; it allows firefighters to use large amounts of the water when fighting Class A fires. Class A firefighting foam is the first type of firefighting foam that was ever used, and has since evolved into Class B firefighting foam.

Class B foam

Made for Class B fires, this type of firefighting foams is effective for combating fires caused and carried by flammable liquids. It has two main subtypes:

Synthetic foams

These foams provide a better flow and spreading over Class B fires, namely hydrocarbon-based liquids. They work quickly to slow the spread of fires and help firefighters to swiftly exterminate raging blazes. As effective as they are though, they’re toxic to groundwater, and shouldn’t be used in areas that are crucial to any natural or man-made water network.

Protein foams

Unlike their synthetic counterparts, protein foams are biodegradable and offer an eco-friendlier solution to fighting strong fires. Consequently, they spread at a slower rate but do provide a more effective, durable, and heat-resistant blanket of foam.

For more information about which firefighting foams and powders are best for you, give us a shout, we’re always happy to help.

Importance of fire and safety equipment

Fires can break out anywhere and at any time – it pays to always be ready to protect yourself. Whether you’re a business owner or a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to invest in the right equipment to help protect yourself, as well as your people and loved ones when disaster strikes.

There are a few different types of fire and safety equipment that you can invest in. From basic PPE such as fire suits and masks, to more direct tools such as fire extinguishers and fire hoses, you’ve got an abundance of options to choose from.

Let’s take a look at a few common firefighting equipment and tools that every homeowner should invest in.

3 types of fire and safety equipment you should invest in today

Fire extinguisher

You should have at least one fire extinguisher located conveniently in your home. We recommend you find SABS-approved fire extinguishers that can deal with class A, B and C fires. This will allow you to combat small fires caused by cloth, wood, paper, gasoline, alcohol and energized electrical equipment.

Smoke alarms

These are some of the most important devices for any homeowner to invest in. Smoke detection alarms can mean the difference between getting burned and escaping a fire unharmed. Be sure to install fire alarms on every floor of your home for the best chance of protecting yourself and your loved ones.

You should also make sure to test and clean them every month, as well as to replace the batteries at least twice a year.

Fireproof safe

If you own valuable and/or non-fungible items, they should be stored in a very safe place like a safety deposit box in a bank. If, however, you’ve decided to keep the item\s in your home, you may want to consider getting a fireproof safe to protect them should a fire break out. That way, you can save your own life during a fire knowing that your item/s are well-protected.

Would you like to learn more about fire and safety equipment? Get in touch with us, we’re always happy to help.

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