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How Does A Fire Extinguisher Work

Even those who own a fire extinguisher may find themselves asking, “How do fire extinguishers work?” Understanding how these life-saving devices operate can save your life, the lives of your loved ones, and your property. 

Let’s find out how different types of fire extinguishers work so that you can stay safe in the event of an emergency.

How Does A Fire Extinguisher Work?

Fire extinguishers work in many ways, depending on the exact type of extinguisher you are using. Fire extinguishers may work to remove a fire’s oxygen, heat, or fuel. Despite these differences, all fire extinguishers have a single purpose: Stop and eliminate a fire. 

To destroy a fire, you must first understand how flames spread and grow. All fires rely on three primary ingredients to survive. The Fire Triangle illustrates these components. They are:

  • Oxygen
  • Heat
  • Fuel

Without oxygen, fire cannot exist. When something burns, it consumes oxygen and produces carbon monoxide. Though the presence of oxygen does not necessarily mean that a fire will start, the absence of oxygen ensures that one won’t. 

Fire generates heat, but it cannot survive without it. In freezing temperatures, it can be nearly impossible to light a fire due to the absence of heat. The act of striking a match or a piece of fire-steel generates a small and immediate amount of heat, but that heat must continue for a fire to flourish.

A fire needs to consume fuel to sustain itself. A campfire will undoubtedly become a pile of coals if you don’t add additional firewood. A wax candle burns out when there is no more wax to melt. Without fuel, a flame may burn momentarily and then immediately go out.  

Every fire extinguisher, regardless of type, should combat at least one of these ingredients. If you remove one element of The Fire Triangle, the fire extinguishes. That is one of the many reasons as to why there are different types of fire extinguishers. 

Being familiar with your fire extinguisher, attending fire extinguisher training, and maintaining regular fire extinguisher inspections can help to ensure a successful response in the event of an emergency.

Water Fire Extinguishers

Water fire extinguishers use highly pressurized water to remove the heat from fires, thereby extinguishing them.

Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers contain both liquid and nonflammable gaseous CO2. This carbon monoxide gas is kept under pressure while inside of the extinguisher. When you spray the solution onto a fire, the carbon monoxide expands and forms a white, foamy fountain that cools and smothers. Carbon dioxide extinguishers remove both the heat and the oxygen that may feed a fire. 

Final Thoughts

Material items are replaceable, but your life and the lives of your loved ones are not. Understanding how a fire extinguisher works, and how to use one, is vital. A reputable fire protection company can assist you in purchasing a fire extinguisher, installing a fire extinguisher, and keeping your extinguishers well-inspected. No matter your specific fire protection needs, CrownFire is dedicated to serving you, protecting you, and informing you of fire safety techniques and standards.


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