Buying Guide

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Classes of Fire Extinguishers
A chart outlining types of fire extinguishers.

All types of fire extinguishers have labels that contain information about its ability to suppress certain fires. There are three general classes of residential fire extinguishers.


  • Class A extinguishers are rated for fires that involve ordinary household items such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber and plastics. The numerical rating on class A extinguishers represents the capacity in terms of an equivalent volume of water. Class 1-A extinguishers have the equivalent of 1.25 gallons of water and a 4-A has the equivalent of 5 gallons.
  • Class B extinguishers are rated for fires involving flammable liquids such as kitchen grease, gasoline, oil, solvents and oil-based paint. Class B extinguishers are numerically rated on the number of square feet of fire they can put out. A 10-B extinguisher can cover 10 square feet of fire.
  • Class C extinguishers are rated for fires involving energized electrical equipment, such as wiring, circuit breakers, machinery, electronics and appliances. This class does not have a numerical rating.


A-B-C fire extinguishers can be used for those three types of fires. Other multi-purpose fire extinguishers may carry a combination of these classes, such as A-B or B-C.


Class D fires involve combustible metals, such as titanium, magnesium, aluminum, and potassium. Extinguishers for this type of fire are usually found in industrial or laboratory settings.


Kitchen fires have their own classification, Class K, which is technically a subclass of Class B. Some fire extinguishers are marketed for use on residential kitchen fires and carry a Class B rating. These types of fire extinguishers generally use high-volume, low-velocity delivery of the extinguishing agent to prevent splattering and spreading of the burning liquid grease.

Placement of Fire Extinguishers
a fire extinguisher inside of a kitchen cabinet.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends a fire extinguisher on every level of your home as well as in garages, kitchens, basements and near exits to create an exit pathway.


The NFPA recommends primary and secondary fire extinguishers for different areas of your home – and there are several tips to keep in mind when using a fire extinguisher to keep yourself safe and properly contain or put out the fire.

  • Supply one fire extinguisher for each level of your home, spaced no farther than 40 feet apart. The recommended classes and ratings are 2-A, 10-B and C.
  • For kitchens and vehicles, the recommended classes and rating are 10-B and C.
  • For garages, workshops, home theaters and offices, the recommended classes and ratings are 3-A, 40-B and C.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher Safely
A person using a fire extinguisher on a burning pan.

The NFPA encourages portable multi-purpose fire extinguisher use when:

  • The fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing.
  • Everyone has exited the building.
  • The fire department has been called or is being called.
  • The room is not filled with smoke.


Keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. 


PASS is an acronym to remember when using all types of fire extinguishers.

  • P stands for pull the pin.
  • A stands for aim the nozzle toward the base of the fire.
  • S stands for squeeze the lever slowly.
  • S stands for sweep the nozzle from side-to-side, while moving toward the fire.
Other Fire Extinguisher Safety Tips
The pressure gauge on a fire extinguisher.
  • Check with local fire departments to find hands-on fire extinguisher training.
  • Choose an extinguisher with an easy-to-read pressure gauge and clear instructions.
  • Bigger is better when choosing an extinguisher but choose the right class for the type of fire you may encounter.
  • Maintain your extinguisher by checking the gauge monthly to ensure it is pressurized. Replace it if the gauge reads empty, or if it is older than 12 years.

Fire extinguishers are just one part of an overall fire response plan for your home but the primary element is safe escape. Every household have working smoke alarms and practice a fire escape plan.