What Are the Types of Fire Extinguishers? Know the Differences and Benefits

When it comes to fire safety, having the right tools at your disposal is crucial. One such essential tool is a fire extinguisher. However, with various types available, understanding the differences and knowing which one to use in a specific situation can be overwhelming.

So, what are the types of fire extinguishers? Fire extinguishers come in different types, each designed to combat specific classes of fires. The most common types include water, dry, CO2, wet, and foam extinguishers.

Let’s dive into the world of fire extinguishers and explore the diverse range of options available to ensure you are equipped with the right tool for the right fire.

What Are the Types of Fire Extinguishers

What Are the 5 Classes of Fires?

The classification of fires is commonly categorized into five classes based on the type of fuel involved. Understanding this will help you understand fire extinguishers better. The five classes of fires are:

Class A Fire: Class A fires involve ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, and many plastics. These fires typically leave behind ashes. Water, foam, and dry chemical extinguishers are commonly used to suppress Class A fires.

Class B Fire: Class B fires occur when flammable liquids and gases, such as propane, oil, grease, solvents, and natural gas, are present. These fires frequently release gases that can catch fire. Foam, dry chemicals, and carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers are frequently used to put out Class B fires.

Class C Fire: This type of fire involves energized electrical equipment or live electrical wires. These fires pose an added danger due to the risk of electrical shock. 

It is important to de-energize the equipment before attempting to extinguish the fire. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and dry chemical extinguishers are commonly used for Class C fires.

Class D Fire: Combustible metals like lithium, magnesium, titanium, potassium, and sodium are involved in Class D fires. These metals can react aggressively with water or other extinguishing agents and burn at high temperatures. 

Class D fires are put out with specialized dry powder extinguishing chemicals made specifically for certain metal fires.

Class K Fire: Cooking oils and greases are a common source of Class K fires in commercial kitchens and other cooking locations. These fires have the potential to be quite hot and challenging to put out. 

Typically used to smother and cool the fire, wet chemical extinguishers react with the cooking oil to create a soap-like substance that aids in preventing re-ignition.

What Are the Benefits of Using Different Types of Fire Extinguishers?

Water fire extinguishers usage instructions are essential to ensure their effective use. These extinguishers are suitable for combating fires caused by solid materials like wood and paper. Their benefits include easy availability, affordability, and environmental friendliness. Properly following the usage instructions allows individuals to effectively control fires and minimize potential damage.

5 Types of Fire Extinguishers And Their Workability

Fire Extinguisher TypeClass A FiresClass B FiresClass C FiresClass D FiresClass K Fires
Water Extinguisher
Foam Extinguisher
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Dry Chemical
Wet Chemical

Water Extinguisher

Water extinguishers are a widely recognized and commonly used type of fire extinguisher, known for their effectiveness in combating Class A fires. Water extinguishers work by cooling the fire and reducing the temperature below its ignition point, ultimately extinguishing the flames.

Here are some key features and benefits of water extinguishers:

  • Effective for Class A fires: Water extinguishers are specifically designed to tackle fires fueled by ordinary combustible materials. They are highly effective in suppressing flames and preventing the fire from spreading further.
  • Cooling effect: Water has excellent heat-absorbing properties. When sprayed onto a fire, it absorbs heat energy, lowering the temperature and limiting the fire’s ability to sustain itself.
  • Widely available and affordable: Water is readily accessible and cost-effective, making water extinguishers a popular choice for fire protection in various settings, including residential, commercial, and public spaces.
  • Environmentally friendly: Water is a natural and environmentally friendly extinguishing agent. It does not introduce harmful chemicals or substances into the environment during firefighting activities.
  • Easy to operate: Water extinguishers are straightforward to use. They usually feature a simple nozzle or hose mechanism that allows users to direct the water flow toward the base of the fire, where it is most effective in suppressing the flames.
  • Safe for humans: Water is a non-toxic substance, posing no significant health risks to individuals handling or exposed to it during firefighting operations.
  • Training and maintenance: Proper training on how to use water extinguishers effectively is essential to maximize their potential. Additionally, regular maintenance, inspection, and refilling are crucial to ensure the extinguisher is operational and ready for use when needed.

Foam Extinguisher

Foam extinguishers are a versatile and effective type of fire extinguisher that is commonly used for both Class A and Class B fires. Foam extinguishers work by smothering the fire, separating it from oxygen, and cooling the surrounding area.

Here are some benefits and other features of foam extinguishers:

  • Class A and Class B fires: Foam extinguishers are suitable for both Class A fires involving ordinary combustible materials and Class B fires involving flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, grease, solvents, and paints.
  • Smothering effect: The foam forms a blanket over the fire, preventing the release of flammable vapors and cutting off the oxygen supply. This suffocates the fire and inhibits its ability to reignite.
  • Cooling properties: Foam extinguishers have a cooling effect, reducing the temperature of the fire and adjacent surfaces.
  • Versatility: Foam extinguishers can be used on different types of fires, making them a versatile choice for various settings, including commercial kitchens, workshops, and industrial facilities.
  • Long-lasting protection: The foam generated by these extinguishers clings to surfaces, providing a post-fire protective barrier against re-ignition.
  • Safe for humans: The foam produced by these extinguishers is typically non-toxic and does not pose significant health risks to individuals. 
  • Easy to use: Foam extinguishers are generally user-friendly, featuring a nozzle or hose mechanism that allows for precise application of the foam onto the fire.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers are a commonly used type of fire extinguisher that is highly effective for Class B and Class C fires. They utilize carbon dioxide gas as the extinguishing agent.

Here are the key features, benefits, and shortcomings of using carbon dioxide extinguishers:

  • Class B and Class C fires: Carbon dioxide extinguishers are specifically designed to tackle Class B fires involving flammable liquids and Class C fires involving energized electrical equipment. 
  • Safe for electrical fires: Carbon dioxide extinguishers are non-conductive, making them safe to use on electrical fires. The gas does not conduct electricity, reducing the risk of electrical shock to the operator.
  • Fast and efficient: Carbon dioxide extinguishers act quickly and efficiently, suppressing fires rapidly. They are particularly useful for small and contained fires that need immediate attention.
  • No residue or cleanup: Unlike other extinguishing agents, carbon dioxide does not leave behind any residue after use. This eliminates the need for extensive cleanup and minimizes damage to the surroundings.
  • Versatility: Carbon dioxide extinguishers are suitable for a variety of environments, including offices, laboratories, server rooms, and electrical equipment areas.
  • Suffocating effect: When discharged, carbon dioxide displaces oxygen in the vicinity of the fire, creating a suffocating environment that starves the fire of oxygen. This effectively extinguishes the flames.
  • Limited cooling effect: Unlike some other extinguishing agents, carbon dioxide does not have a significant cooling effect. It primarily works by removing oxygen rather than reducing temperature.
  • Limited firefighting duration: Carbon dioxide extinguishers have a limited firefighting duration due to the limited amount of gas contained in the cylinder. 

Dry Chemical

Dry chemical extinguishers are versatile and widely used fire extinguishers that are effective for various fire classes, including Class A, Class B, and Class C fires. They utilize dry chemical agents to suppress and extinguish fires by interrupting the chemical reactions of combustion.

Before opting for Dry Chemical extinguishers, check the features of them:

  • Class A, Class B, and Class C fire: Dry chemical extinguishers are suitable for combating fires in multiple classes, including ordinary combustible materials, flammable liquids and gases and energized electrical equipment.
  • Different types of dry chemical agents: There are different types of dry chemical agents used in extinguishers, such as mono ammonium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, and potassium bicarbonate.
  • Rapid suppression: Dry chemical extinguishers are known for their fast and effective suppression capabilities. They can quickly control and extinguish fires, preventing them from spreading and causing further damage.
  • Versatility: These extinguishers are versatile and widely used in various settings, including homes, offices, industrial facilities, and vehicles, due to their ability to handle multiple fire classes.
  • Extended range: Since dry chemical extinguishers often have a good discharge range, the operator can stay safely away from the fire while still applying the extinguishing ingredient with good effectiveness.
  • Residue and cleanup: After discharge, dry chemical extinguishers leave behind a powdery residue. While this residue may require cleanup after use, it can also serve as a post-fire indicator and can help prevent re-ignition.
  • Limited visibility: The discharge of dry chemical agents can create a cloud of powder, reducing visibility in the immediate area.
  • Training and maintenance: Proper training on the use of dry chemical extinguishers is essential to ensure effective and safe operation. 

Wet Chemical

Wet chemical extinguishers are specialized fire extinguishers primarily used for Class K fires. Here are the things you need to know about wet chemical extinguishers:

  • Class K fire suppression: Wet chemical extinguishers are specifically developed to effectively combat Class K fires. 
  • Saponification process: Wet chemical agents in these extinguishers work by creating a chemical reaction called saponification. The agent reacts with the hot cooking oil or grease to form a soapy substance that acts as a blanket, preventing the release of flammable vapors.
  • Rapid flame knockdown: Excellent at knocking down flames, wet chemical extinguishers may put out fires rapidly and keep them from re-igniting.
  • Cooling and heat absorption: The temperature of the fire and the nearby surfaces is lowered by the cooling impact of wet chemical agents. This aids in limiting the spread of the fire to nearby places.
  • Safe for cooking equipment: Cooking equipment can be safely extinguished with wet chemical extinguishers because the substance doesn’t injure or harm the appliances in any way.
  • Dual functionality: Some wet chemical extinguishers may have dual functionality, combining wet chemical capabilities for Class K fires with the ability to handle Class A fires.
  • Post-fire cleanup: After discharge, the wet chemical agent may leave behind a residue that needs to be properly cleaned up. 
  • Training and maintenance: Proper training is essential to ensure the correct use of wet chemical extinguishers. 

Conclusion

So, understanding the different types of fire extinguishers is vital for effective fire safety and prevention. 

Each type is designed for specific fire classes, providing various methods of extinguishing and unique benefits.