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Home Care Library

Choosing the Right Fire Extinguisher

Kitchen appliances, garage liquids, electrical equipment, kids playing . . . there is no shortage of possible ignition sources in your home.  But do you have fire extinguishers in your kitchen, garage, and workshop? And as important, are they the correct type for your home?

Below we will discuss: the different types of fire extinguishers, choosing the right one for your home, and how to use a fire extinguisher.   

The Different Types of Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are divided into five categories, based on different types of fires that they are designed to fight.  Each fire extinguisher also has a numerical rating that serves as a guide for the amount of fire the extinguisher can handle (see costs and reviews of ABC fire extinguishers). The higher the number, the more fire-fighting power. The following is a quick guide to the different types of fire extinguishers:

Class A

 extinguishers are for ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood, cardboard, and most plastics.  The numerical rating on these types of extinguishers indicates the amount of water it holds and the amount of fire it can extinguish.

Class B

 fires involve flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, grease, and oil.  The numerical rating for class B extinguishers indicates the approximate number of square feet of fire it can extinguish.

Class C

 fires involve electrical equipment, such as appliances, wiring, circuit breakers, and outlets.  Never use water to extinguish class C fires because of the risk of electrical shock (water is a conductor of electricity).  Class C extinguishers do not have a numerical rating. The C classification means the extinguishing agent is non-conductive.

Class D

 fire extinguishers are commonly found in a chemical laboratory.  They are for fires that involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, and sodium.  These types of extinguishers also have no numerical rating, nor are they given a multi-purpose rating, as they are designed for class D fires only.

Class F

: fire extinguishers are designed for fires involving cooking oils and fats, like those found in a deep fryer. 

And then there are also fire extinguishers which are designed for multiple types of situations, and these types are "AB", "BC" and "ABC."

The Right Extinguisher for Your Home

With so many fire extinguishers to choose from, selecting the proper one for your home can be a daunting task.  In fact for some people, not knowing which kind to get is their biggest hurdle in getting one.  So what is the best type for a typical home?  The best choice for a typical home is an "ABC" type fire extinguisher that is designed for multiple types of fires. 

And just as important as having a fire extinguisher is having it easily accessible in case of an emergency.

It is recommended to have at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your home, and the most important places to have a fire extinguisher are in areas that are more susceptible to fire:  your kitchen and your garage.


According to U.S. Fire Administration statistics, the kitchen is the place where fires most often start.  Do not put the fire extinguisher near the stove as it will be out of your reach if the fire is on the stovetop.  The best place to put the fire extinguisher is mounted by the door of your kitchen, so that you have will have easy access to it.


  Because a garage is typically a place where flammable materials are stored, this is another place where you will want to have quick access to a fire extinguisher.  And like the kitchen, the best place to store the extinguisher is mounted by a doorway.

Your fire extinguishers should be kept in plain sight where they can be easily reached in an emergency.  Do not put them in closets, as this will cost you valuable time when you need it.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Hopefully, you will never need to use your fire extinguishers.  But if you do, just remember "P.A.S.S.":


 Pull the pin that is located in the handle.  This pin keeps the handle from being accidentally squeezed and discharging the extinguisher.


  Aim for the base of the fire, where the extinguisher can have the most effect on the fire.


  Squeeze the lever at the top of the extinguisher, which will start to deliver the contents of the extinguisher.


  And finally, be sure to sweep the direction of your spray from side-to-side across the base of the fire. 

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