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The Type of Fire Extinguisher Every Home Should Have

May 10, 2016

A fire is a fire, and a fire extinguisher is a fire extinguisher, right? Well, not quite. There are actually different types of fires and different types of extinguishers that respond best to each one. So, which is right for you?

We’ll get to that, but first let’s look at the five different fire types, as outlined by the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association:

  • Class A: Fires in ordinary combustibles, such as wood, paper, cloth, etc.
  • Class B: Fires in flammable liquids, like gasoline, or flammable gasses, such as propane.
  • Class C: Fires in energized electrical equipment, such as appliances or motors.
  • Class D: Fires in combustible metals.
  • Class K: Fires in cooking oils and greases, such as animal and vegetable fats.

Selecting a Fire Extinguisher

For each fire class, there’s a fire extinguisher to match, and it’s important to use the right one. For example, an extinguisher rated for Class B fires only might not be appropriate to use on another fire. In fact, it might even be dangerous.

So, how do you pick a fire extinguisher? Do you need several? A good bet is a multipurpose extinguisher, which typically is rated for Class A, B and C fires and available at home improvement stores. This type of extinguisher is typically good for general living areas and will work on small grease fires, as well. Specialized kitchen extinguishers are available, too. (Note: Class K extinguishers are typically for large commercial kitchens.)

No matter which type you choose, you want:

  • An extinguisher that’s large enough to put out a small fire but not too heavy to handle safely.
  • One that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • One for each level of your home, as well as in the garage.

Using a Fire Extinguisher

Before you use a fire extinguisher — or try to fight a fire with any method — make sure you consider the following questions:

  • Is the fire small and contained?
  • Are you safe from toxic smoke?
  • Do you have a way to escape?
  • Do your instincts tell you it’s OK?

If you’ve answered “yes” to those questions, the National Fire Protection Association recommends remembering “P.A.S.S.” when it’s time to use your extinguisher:

  • Pull the pin.
  • Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever.
  • Sweep the hose from side to side. Once the fire is out, remain aware, because it can re-ignite.

Maintaining a Fire Extinguisher

It’s easy to just put an extinguisher in your kitchen cabinet and forget about it. But, by doing that, you run the risk of it not working when you need it most.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, some need to be shaken monthly, and others need to be pressure tested periodically. Follow the instructions on your specific extinguisher. Also, check regularly to make sure it’s not damaged, rusted or dirty.

Remember, a fire extinguisher won’t do you any good if it doesn’t work, and it won’t help if you can’t get to it, either. So, ensure it’s in an accessible place, not buried in the back of a closet.

Finally, don’t ever forget that sometimes your best bet is not using an extinguisher at all. It’s using your family escape plan to get you and your loved ones out of danger. If there’s any doubt, get out!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.

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Twenty-one Article Comments

emily bennette

This is some really good information about how you can protect your home from fires. I agree with what you said about making sure your fire extinguisher is well maintained. That does seem like a good idea if you want to protect your home from fires.


Amanda Drew

Thanks for letting me know that a Class A, B, and C type fire extinguisher is a good choice to have in the house. I’m going to be moving into a home soon, and I want to be sure that it won’t burn down. I’ll have to find at least one extinguisher to put into my future home.


Ken Hwan

I had no idea that there were so many different types of fire extinguishers until I read this article. It’s neat that there are even extinguishers for cooking oil/grease fires. I’ve heard that baking powder can help put out a small grease fire if you’re in a pinch and without an extinguisher.



Kendall Ryder

We always had a fire extinguisher in my house growing up. You never know when you are going to need one, and it is always a good idea to have one handy just in case. Unfortunate accidents can easily happen and being able to hopefully stop the problem can be very beneficial.



Marie Watson

Thanks for explaining the kind of fire extinguisher you should be keeping in your home. You make a good point about how you should be sure there is one in every level of your home. I would think that it is important to make sure you are taking all of the precautions to be safe in your home. I will have to make sure I teach my family about fire safety as well as purchase fire extinguishers for our home.



April Cook

We have a fire extinguisher, but I’ve never thought about actually using it and if I would know how to in an emergency. I really like your tips to make sure the fire is safe enough for me to handle before trying. I think I’ll put a P.A.S.S. tag on it so that I remember those steps. Thanks for this information!



Jessie Harrison

In just the past few weeks we have had some close fire issues. A few of them have been caused by electrical hazards. That just made me realize that almost anything could cause a fire and I need to be prepared. Maybe I can get a fire extinguisher from all the different classes.


Wade Joel

Fire safety is really important. You want to make sure that you can contain a fire if one breaks out in your home. I agree that you should make sure that you are safe before using a fire extinguisher because you do not want to cause more problems.


Kendall Ryder

I am happy that you mentioned that sometimes it is just best to get out of the place where the fire is! Fire extinguishers can only do so much at times. I would hate to try and put out a big fire to save my home, rather than worry about getting my family and myself out! There are more important things than your home!


Katie Anderson

I had no idea that there was different types of fire extinguishers for different type of fires. I have been thinking about buying one for my home and this tips are great advice. I need to purchase the right fire extinguisher. For sure I’ll be doing more research.


Lillian Schaeffer

This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that some fire extinguishers need to be shaken and pressure tested periodically. My husband and I are going to be getting a new set of extinguishers so we know our house is safe. We’ll definitely check the recommendations for those so we can maintain them properly. Thanks for the great post!


Luke Yancey

I had no idea that there were five different extinguishers for each different type of fire. I think in the case of a fire I would be panicking anyway and wouldn’t really know which one to use! What can you recommend doing in such a situation?



Joy Butler

To be honest, I had no idea that there were different classes of fire extinguishers let alone that the classes classify your fire extinguisher in to categories of the different types of fires that it can be used for. It could be useful to verify which class of fire extinguisher that you are in need of before purchasing. It seems like it could ultimately protect you from drastic fire damage by purchasing the correct class of fire extinguisher.


Caden Dahl

Thanks for bringing to my attention that a multipurpose extinguisher is a good option. My husband and I live in an older home, and we don’t really have any fire extinguishers. I want to make sure our home is safe, so maybe we could get a few multipurpose ones for the kitchen and near the bedrooms.


Braden Bills

I’m going to be getting fire extinguishers for my home. I didn’t realize that there were different kinds of them! It seems like each of them have their own special uses. It would definitely be a good idea to have multiple and put them in the areas that they work best!


Gloria Durst

I never knew that you need to pressure test a fire extinguisher. It would seem that whatever patience is needed it would be smart to educate yourself about it. My sister is building a new home, so when she gets a fire extinguisher for it she’ll have to remember to do maintenance on it.


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