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What is in a Fire Extinguisher?

Fire extinguishers are an integral part of every fire safety plan. Whether it be for residential or commercial, every building should have easy access to a fire extinguisher. By using one, you can prevent a small fire from turning into something dangerous, and even deadly.

Not all fire extinguishers are the same though. There are several types of extinguishers. Although they all serve the same purpose of putting out a fire, each fire extinguisher works for different types of fires. What you would use for a grease fire would not be the same as if your couch caught on fire. It is important to know the difference.

What makes all of the fire extinguishers the same is how and why you use them. They contain a pressure vessel that holds the type of chemical according to the type of fire, the extinguisher is meant for. Your Toronto fire extinguisher services will have all of the information for each extinguisher available so you can select the correct one for your needs.

What is in a Fire Extinguisher?

It is imperative to know what goes in each type of fire extinguisher, as the chemicals dictate which fire it puts out. The main elements in fire extinguishers include dry chemicals, wet chemicals, carbon dioxide, and water. Each extinguisher will have a colour-coded label stating which ingredient it holds.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is most common in your everyday extinguisher. You can find these at your local hardware store. They are a Class B (flammable liquids) and Class C (electrical wiring and appliances) fire extinguisher that you would keep in your kitchen or garage. However, they are not effective on a Class A fire (combustible solids)

The carbon dioxide snuffs out the oxygen in the fire. Since fire needs three elements to grow (oxygen, heat, and a fuel source), if you can remove one of them, you can extinguish the fire. As you pull the trigger on the extinguisher, the device releases a cold discharge of carbon dioxide, ultimately removing the oxygen from the flame.

Dry Chemicals

A dry chemical fire extinguisher is for Class A, Class B, and Class C fires. They contain a dry chemical ingredient, typically mono ammonium ( you may also find sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate in some), to stop the fire triangle (the three elements that make up a fire), ultimately smothering the flames.

Today, you can find a multipurpose dry chemical extinguisher that works for all three fires, by making a barrier between the fuel of the flame and the oxygen element. However, if you have an ordinary dry chemical extinguisher, it only for Class B and Class C fires, as the chemical could re-ignite the flames.

It’s important to note that you should not use these extinguishers in an enclosed space. Because the dry chemical agent is meant to snuff out the oxygen, the lungs in the body cannot exchange oxygen which results in hypoxia. Also, if you use an extinguisher with mono ammonium, it is highly corrosive and should get cleaned up immediately.

Wet Chemicals

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are relatively new, and were created for Class K fires (fires from cooking oils and fats). The extinguisher contains a potassium acetate-based agent, and discharges as a mist, forming a soapy foam. The wet chemical removes the heat from the fire triangle by creating a barrier between the fuel source and the oxygen.

You would most likely find these fire extinguishers in large, commercial cooking areas where there is a lot of grease and fat around.

Water and Foam

Water and Foam fire extinguishers also work by removing the heat source of the fire. Not only that, but the foam creates a barrier between the oxygen and the other elements in the flame.

Typically, water has historically been used as the most common ingredient in a fire extinguisher, due to it being able to effectively remove the heat from the flame. This makes the extinguisher excellent for Class A fires only. Using a water and foam fire extinguisher on other classes of fires could end up spreading the flames and igniting an even bigger fire.

Standard Classifications of Fire Types

You should know the basics of every class of fire to better protect yourself. Grabbing the wrong extinguisher could result in spreading the fire even more. Talk to your fire protection services in Toronto for more information about the classes of each fire.

  • Class A – This is your common household fire that has a combustible solid fuel source., like cloth, paper, plastic, and wood.
  • Class B – These flames start from a flammable liquid source like gasoline.
  • Class C – Electrical wires and appliances cause these fires.
  • Class D – This is a fire that has a metal fuel source like magnesium.
  • Class K – These are grease and oil fires that are common in a kitchen.

Know the Type of Extinguisher

Using the wrong fire extinguisher can do more harm than good. It is important to educate yourself on the different fire extinguishers, and know which one is meant for what type of fire.

Every fire extinguisher will have a colour-coded label that will tell you which fire to use it on. Not only that, but the extinguisher will also say the class of fire it is meant for. When getting an extinguisher, ensure that you are purchasing one that is meant for the possible fire in the area.

For more information on fire extinguishers or to go through fire extinguisher inspections or training, contact us today.

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