How to Buy a Fire Extinguisher You Can Trust

Keep more than one fire extinguisher on hand to protect your home and family

How to Buy a Fire Extinguisher You Can Trust

Fire extinguishers are portable devices that put out various types of fires before they get out of control. From electrical fires in workshops to grease fires in the kitchen, it is vital that you fight fire with the right type of fire extinguisher. 

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.

This guide explains the different classes of fire extinguishers and the types of fires each is designed to fight, along with safety tips.

Classes of Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguisher labels contain the info needed about class ratings and icons identifying the types of fires they’re designed to fight.

  • 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.

Fire Extinguishers

Using a Fire Extinguisher

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 one 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 Safely Fight a Fire

PASS is the acronym to remember when fighting a fire.

  • 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 tips

  • 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.