Classes of Fire and the Extinguishers to Fight Them

Posted on July 19th, 2018

It’s safe to say that most people are familiar with the concept of a fire extinguisher. You know, those red tubular devices mounted on the walls of schools, offices, and pretty much every public building you enter. If you’re prepared, you also have one of these stashed somewhere safe and accessible in your own home.

What many people don’t realize, is that every fire extinguisher is developed with specific fire-fighting capabilities, represented by the label on the extinguisher itself. For preparation’s sake, in the event of an unforeseen fire, it is important to know which extinguishers are the most effective for your particular environment. Do you work with a lot of flammable oils and liquids? Electrical equipment? Chemicals? Working with hazardous equipment and materials like these means you will need a fire extinguisher designed for that particular class of fire.

Classes of Fire

AMC Fire Protection knows the crucial importance of recognizing the difference between the different fire classifications. Different classes of fire call for different types of extinguishers. Review the below classes of fires to familiarize yourself with materials involved in each class.

  • Class A – Fires that involve solid materials such as paper, wood, or textiles
  • Class B – Fires that involve flammable liquids such as diesel, petrol, or oils
  • Class C – Gas fires
  • Class D – Metal fires
  • (Formerly) Class E – Electrical fires (technically not a class of its own anymore)
  • Class K – Fires that involve cooking oils such as in deep-fat fryers

Types of Fire Extinguisher

The label color on your fire extinguisher will tell you exactly what classes of fires the extinguisher is designed to fight. This information is extremely important if you live or work in an environment with hazardous flammables.

  • Water Extinguishers – Water extinguishers provide cost-effective ways to fight Class A fires, those fuelled by solids such as wood, paper, textiles. Water extinguishers have a red label.
  • Foam Extinguishers – Foam extinguishers can be used to fight both Class A and B fires. More versatile than water jet extinguishers, foam extinguishers are most suited for petrol or diesel fires, but can also be used on solids like paper and wood. Foam extinguishers have a cream label.
  • Powder Extinguishers – Powder extinguishers are good for multi-purpose applications. They can be used to fight Class A, B, and C fires. They are also effective for electrical fires, but because powder extinguishers do not cool, they can fail to prevent reignition. Powder extinguishers have a blue label.
  • Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers – Carbon dioxide extinguishers are ideal for places with a lot of electrical equipment, such as offices, server rooms, and computer labs. CO2 extinguishers can also be used on Class B fires involving flammable liquids, as the extinguishers work by smothering the fire and cutting off the supply of oxygen. Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers have a black label.
  • Wet Chemical Extinguishers – Wet chemical extinguishers are highly effective for Class K fires involving cooking fats and oils, such as lard, sunflower oil, olive oil, maize oil, and butter. They can also be used on Class A and Class B fires. Wet chemical extinguishers have a yellow label.

Fire Blankets – Fire blankets are most often used on hot oil fires such as small deep fat fryers and frying pans. They are also used when someone’s clothing has caught fire, cutting off all oxygen.

Take a look at out infographic below for a convenient synopsis on the types of fires and the appropriate extinguisher for each.