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What You Need to Know About Fire Extinguisher Classes

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are an average of 358,500 house fires in the US each year, along with about 116,500 fires in commercial buildings. With almost a half million structure fires causing more than $7 billion in damages each year, it’s easy to see the importance of fire preparedness in both the home and the workplace.

Part of being ready for the possibility of a fire is making sure your home (or business) is adequately equipped: smoke detectors on every floor and near sleeping areas or high-fire-risk areas, a well-thought-out evacuation plan, and fire extinguishers.

It’s easy to think that all fire extinguishers are the same. After all, they all tend to look more-or-less the same: a red or white canister with some kind of nozzle and trigger assembly on the top. There are, however, dozens of different types of fire extinguishers, and each one is designed to put out a different type of fire. Using the wrong kind of extinguisher can not only be ineffective, but it can also cause a fire to flare up and cause even more damage.

This month, we’ll look at various classes of fire extinguishers, the types of fires they’re designed to fight, and how you can determine the proper extinguishers for your home or business.

Why Are There Different Classes of Fire Extinguishers?

Humans react almost instinctively to an unwanted fire: we reach for water. Unfortunately, depending on the type of fire, that reaction can be dangerous. Throwing or spraying water onto a grease fire, for instance, will cause a hazardous flareup and usually result in the fire spreading. If facing an electrical fire, and the source of electricity hasn’t been turned off or disconnected, adding water to the situation is understandably dangerous.

Therefore, fires and the extinguishers that are designed to fight them have been divided into different classes by the National Fire Protection Association:

  • Class A fires involve ordinary combustible solid materials, including wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and most plastics.
  • Class B fires involve flammable liquids, such as petroleum-based oil and grease, tar, oil-based paint, solvents, and alcohols.
  • Class C fires involve energized (or “live”) electrical equipment.
  • Class D fires involve flammable metals like magnesium, titanium, potassium, and others.
  • Class K fires involve cooking appliances such as fryers that contain “combustible cooking media” such as vegetable or animal oils or fats.

Because some fire suppressants are better or worse at fighting different types of fire, fire extinguishers in the US are all labeled with the classes of fires they’re designed for. While some extinguishers are intended to fight only a single class of fires, most of the readily available fire extinguishers on the market will work on two or more classes.

How Can I Determine a Fire Extinguisher’s Class(es)?

The label of every fire extinguisher sold in the US will carry the class(es) of fire the extinguisher is rated for. Each class has a particular shape and color icon that is standardized across all manufacturers:

  • Class A fire extinguishers show a green triangle
  • Class B fire extinguishers show a red square
  • Class C fire extinguishers show a blue circle
  • Class D fire extinguishers show a gold or yellow five-pointed star
  • Class K fire extinguishers show a black hexagon

If a fire extinguisher is rated for multiple classes of fire, the label will show all of the applicable icons.

What Fire Extinguisher Class(es) Do I Need for my Home or Business?

Generally speaking, you want to have a fire extinguisher on every floor of your home or business and will want to have them located near places where fires are most likely to break out: kitchens, garages, utility rooms, fireplaces, etc. You’ll want to choose what class of fire extinguisher to select based on what the specific fire risk in each place is:

  • Most home fire extinguishers should be A-B-C class since most house fires will fall into one of those three categories. At the very least, you should have a Class A extinguisher on every floor and an A-B-C in the kitchen and the garage to deal with liquid and electrical fires.
  • If you have a home workshop, you should have a Class A-B-C fire extinguisher located at a safe distance from any paint or chemical storage areas.
  • Commercial kitchens should have Class K fire extinguishers in the kitchen area. Many Class K extinguishers are automated extinguishers that mount directly above fryers, cooktops, and grills and trigger automatically if a fire is detected.
  • Industrial operations should have Class B – C extinguishers mounted near industrial equipment. If the facility processes flammable metals such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, or even aluminum, there should be Class D fire extinguishers readily available throughout the plant.

With proper preparation and the correct extinguishers placed strategically around your home or business, you can reduce the risk of a small fire spreading to become a more dangerous blaze.

Has a Fire Caused Damage to Your Home or Business? Contact the Certified Fire Damage Restoration Team at AfterCare Restoration: 215.515.1000

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Because of our expertise and reputation for 5-star customer service, AfterCare Restoration is the leader in fire damage restoration and smoke soot damage restoration in Lehigh, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties. AfterCare Restoration is a certified firm by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), the leading training agency in the disaster restoration industry.

Our team of IICRC-certified technicians is trained with the best methods and technology to clean up any size of fire damage and restore your property. We abide by the most stringent industry standards, meaning you can trust our team to do the job right the first time!

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