To make sure your fire extinguisher is ready when you need it, periodically check your home’s fire extinguisher(s) and perform any maintenance needed. This Fix-It Guide on fire extinguisher repair tells how a fire extinguisher works, what often goes wrong and how to identify a fire extinguisher problem. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to use a fire extinguisher. A Fix-It Tip explains the classes of fire extinguishers.
How Does a Fire Extinguisher Work?
A fire extinguisher is an apparatus, usually containing chemicals, for putting out a fire. It extinguishes a fire by excluding oxygen so that combustion can no longer continue. The extinguisher must deliver a powerful spray of water, foam, or powder to smother the whole fire as quickly as possible, so its contents are pressurized. Some extinguishers produce a jet of carbon dioxide, a heavy gas that prevents burning.
What Can Go Wrong with a Fire Extinguisher?
Fire extinguishers are relatively simple in function and operation, so little can go wrong with them. The primary problem with them is that they eventually leak pressure so they cannot deliver the extinguishing ingredient to the fire when needed. Make sure you check the charge meter every few months and replace the unit if it falls below the full range.
Know the classes of fire extinguishers and what you need.
Class A extinguishers are designed to fight blazes in wood, paper, rubber, and most plastics. Install one near fireplaces and in the living areas and bedrooms.
Class B extinguishers contain dry chemicals that smother fires fueled by oil, solvents, grease, gasoline, kerosene, and other flammable liquids. Install them in kitchens, workshops, and garages.
Class C extinguishers also contain dry chemicals to smother fires in electrical equipment. Use in workshop areas and near the electrical service panel.
Most household fire extinguishers are multipurpose class A-B-C. They are effective against all of the common fires in homes and so are most popular.
How Can I Identify a Fire Extinguisher Problem?
Pressurized fire extinguishers include a pressure meter that indicates the state of the internal pressure, typically full or refill. If the meter does not indicate full, refill or replace following instructions on the unit. Check the fire extinguisher’s pressure meter once a month.
Here’s how to use the most common type of household fire extinguishers:
- Pull the pin near the top of the extinguisher.
- Approximately 6 feet away from the fire, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
- Press the trigger and move the spray from side to side to smother the entire fire.
- Continue spraying until the fire is completely out. Use a second fire extinguisher if necessary.
- Don’t reuse without recharging the extinguisher following the manufacturer’s instructions.