It’s the law to keep a fire extinguisher in your home, but do you know the types? Understanding the six fire extinguisher types for their relevant classes of fire could mean the difference between life and death.
Now that we’ve caught your attention, you might want to listen closely. No one extinguisher can battle every fire as each has its specific use.
Knowing the suitable fire extinguisher types to have on hand in your building or household is essential. The first step would be to explore the different materials present in your area and distinguish the classes of fires:
- Class A fires involve ordinary combustible carbon-based solids, such as wood, paper, textiles, straw, coal, etc.
- Class B fires are from the combustion of flammable liquids, such as grease, oils (not cooking oil), gasoline, petrol, diesel, paraffin, paints, tar, ether, alcohol, and stearin.
- Class C fires are from the combustion of flammable gases, such as butane, propane, methane, hydrogen, acetylene, and natural gas.
- Class D fires involve flammable metals, such as aluminium, lithium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and their alloys. These combustible metals cause fires that pose unique industrial hazards, thus requiring special fire extinguishers.
- Class E fires typically involve electrical appliances, including computers, printers, stereos, electrical heaters, fuse boxes, and so on.
- Class F fires are caused by hot or deep oil, fats, and grease.
You can deploy multipurpose extinguishers on different fire classes. However, these would be labelled with more than one class, for example, A-B, B-C, or A-B-C.
6 Main Fire Extinguisher Types in Malaysia
It may get a bit confusing at first, but differentiating fire extinguisher types is easier than it looks. You can recognise each class by its name, colour, and even hose.
1. Water Extinguisher
In a standard model, these extinguishers discharge powerful water pressures to extinguish flames. The water has an excellent cooling effect on the burning material, soaking it and reducing the pyrolysis rate of fuel.
They are suitable for Class A fires, are the most straightforward variety to maintain, and are the least hazardous. You can spot a water extinguisher by its solid red exterior, complete with the word “water” written in white text.
2. Deionised Water Mist Extinguisher
This extinguisher type is relatively new. It comes in smaller devices but is extremely powerful, exuding an ultra-fine, ‘dry’ demineralised water particle mist.
You won’t need more than one extinguisher type since you can use it on Class A, B, C & E fires. Regardless, water mist extinguishers are not suited for putting out combustions by flammable metals or deep oils (Class D & F).
They effectively cool the flames and reduce oxygen supply, leaving no residue for cleaning or collateral damage.
3. Foam Extinguisher
Foam extinguishers are water-based with a foaming agent to smother the flames in solids and liquids (Class A & B). They also provide a blanketing effect that will seal vapours and prevent re-ignition from occurring.
Unfortunately, these fire extinguishers leave a residue that you must clean and are more costly than water extinguishers. Their appearance is a solid red with the word “foam” accompanied by a cream rectangle surrounding the text.
Please note that when used on Class B fires like flammable liquids, one should never spray directly into the substance. This action could cause the fire to spread further to nearby areas. Instead, the best method is to spray the foam from a distance so that it can build and flow across.
4. Dry Powder Extinguisher
Powder extinguishers are suitable for combatting burning solids, liquids, and gases (Class A, B, C & E). Some specialist powder extinguishers can also fight Class D fires that involve combustible metals like lithium, aluminium, and magnesium.
The powder will form a crust and smother the fire, stopping the spread. However, this extinguisher type does not soak or spread through the materials effectively, and the fire may reignite.
Be advised that the powder is hazardous when inhaled and should be used only in well-ventilated areas. The extinguishers have a solid red appearance with “powder” written in white text on a blue rectangle.
5. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguisher
Unlike other fire extinguisher types, these contain only pressurised CO2 gas and thus leave no residue. They effectively suffocate the flames by displacing oxygen in the air without damaging electrical systems.
Still, CO2 extinguishers can get incredibly cold upon deployment. Models unfitted with double-lined, frost-free swivel horns could cause the user’s fingers to freeze.
They are perfect for Class B and Class E fires like computers and other office or workshop equipment. You can spot CO2 extinguishers with a solid red exterior and a “CO2” print on a black rectangle. Moreover, they come with a different hose than the rest.
6. Wet Chemical Extinguisher
Wet chemical extinguishers are wholly capable of putting out fires extremely high in temperatures. Most suitable for kitchen use, you can deploy them on Class F fires like deep fat fryers and cooking oil.
The extinguisher cools the burning oils, producing a soapy solution to seal the surface and prevent re-ignition. It consists of a pressurised solution made of alkali salts, producing a fine mist, so the user should not worry about hot oils and fats splashing.
You may find wet chemical extinguishers with a solid red appearance and a “wet chemical” print on a yellow rectangle. They also come with an extended applicator.
Now that you’re acquainted with the different fire extinguisher types, feel free to check out Palcon’s arsenal of fire extinguishers.