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Different Types of Fire Extinguishers

What are the Types of Fire Extinguisher Available?

There are 5 main fire extinguisher types – Water, Foam, Dry Powder, CO2 and Wet Chemical.

To ensure you’re adequately protected, and you meet current fire safety regulations, you need to have the right types of fire extinguisher for your business premises.

There are different ‘classes’ of fire, for which each extinguisher is designed to tackle. These classes are based on which fuels a fire starts with. It’s the presence of these fuels within your business premises that will help determine which types of fire extinguisher you need and in which locations.

As well as the right type of fire extinguisher, you’ll also need the right size and weight of each extinguisher.

The Classes of Fire

There are six classes of fire in total.

  • Class A fires – combustible materials: caused by flammable solids, such as wood, paper, and textiles
  • Class B fires – flammable liquids: such as petrol, paint or spirits
  • Class C fires – flammable gases: like propane and butane
  • Class D fires – flammable metals: chemicals such as magnesium, lithium or potassium
  • Electrical fires – electrical equipment: such as computers and photocopiers. Note though that once the electrical item is removed, the fire changes class
  • Class F fires – cooking oils: such as olive oil or butter. Typically a chip-pan fire

The Complete Guide to Fire Extinguisher Types

Feel free to download and print out our quick reference fire extinguisher type chart:

Fire Extinguisher Types Table

Water Extinguishers

Overview

Water fire extinguishers are the most popular fire extinguisher type and they are suited to class A fire risks. They distribute water at a high pressure to extinguish flames.

Water fire extinguishers are the most common extinguishers found in premises up and down the UK.

What is the Water Fire Extinguisher Label Colour?

The label colour for Water extinguishers is bright red.

Uses for Water Fire Extinguishers

Water fire extinguishers are used for fires caused by textiles, coal, wood, cardboard, paper and fabrics.

Do Not Use Water Fire Extinguishers For:

Water fire extinguishers should not be used in the following scenarios:

  • Fires involving electronic equipment
  • Kitchen fires
  • Fires caused flammable liquids or gas.

How Water Fire Extinguishers Work

The way in which water fire extinguishers work is by having a cooling effect on the fire’s fuel, taking away the heating element required to keep the fire burning. This causes the fire to burn much slower and ultimately, results in the flames being put out and fire being extinguished.

Types of Businesses that need this extinguisher

Being the most common fire extinguisher, the water type is used throughout most buildings in the UK. Common buildings that need water fire extinguishers are:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Office Buildings
  • Apartments
  • Shops

Where to store Water Fire Extinguishers

Water fire extinguishers need to be placed next to the exits on floors that have been identified as class A fire risks during your latest first risk assessment.

Foam Extinguishers

Overview

Foam fire extinguishers are the most common type of extinguisher used for Class B fires. Due to the fact that these fire extinguishers are water-based, they can also be utilized for Class A fires.

What is the Foam Fire Extinguisher Label Colour?

The label colour for Foam fire extinguishers is cream.

Uses for Foam Fire Extinguishers

Much like the water type, Foam fire extinguishers can be used for fires involving organic materials. These organic materials include cardboard, paper, fabrics, wood & coal. In addition to these organic materials, foam extinguishers can also be used on flammable liquids including petrol or paint.

Do Not Use For

Foam fire extinguishers should not be used in the following scenarios:

  • Fires involving electronic equipment
  • Kitchen fires
  • Fires caused flammable metals

How Foam Fire Extinguishers work

Foam fire extinguishers work in two ways. Firstly, they create a cooling effect on the fuel that is responsible for causing the fire. Secondly, when this extinguisher is used on burning liquids, the foaming agent inside the extinguisher (Aqueous Film Forming Foam) creates a barrier between the flames of the fire and the fuel. This ultimately extinguishes the fire.

Types of Businesses that need this extinguisher

Foam fire extinguishers are required for buildings where flammable liquids are stored and held. In addition to this, they are also required in buildings where organic materials are found. Common buildings that need foam fire extinguishers are:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Office Buildings
  • Apartments
  • Shops

Where to store Foam Fire Extinguishers

Foam fire extinguishers should be stored at exit points where either a class A or class B fire risk has been identified.

Dry Powder Extinguishers

Overview

Dry powder extinguishers are commonly known as ABC extinguishers as they can be utilized in the event of a class A, B or C fire scenario. However, this type of extinguisher should not be used in an enclosed space. This is because the powder can be easily inhaled and is very difficult to clean up after the fire has been extinguished.

Foam Fire extinguishers can also be used for fires involving electronic equipment. In addition to this, specialist dry powder extinguishers exist that are suited for fire caused by flammable metals.

What is the Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher Label Colour?

The label colour for dry powder fire extinguishers is blue.

Uses for Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers

The dry powder fire extinguisher has a wide range of use scenarios including the following organic materials:

  • Wood and Coal
  • Fabrics
  • Cardboard & Paper

In addition to the above, they can also be used on flammable gases, such as Liquid Petroleum, electrical equipment and flammable liquids, such as petrol.

Specialist dry powder extinguishers are also available that such only be used on flammable metals (such as titanium).

Do Not Use For

Dry Powder fire extinguishers should not be used in the following scenarios:

  • Fires involving electronic equipment over 1000v
  • Kitchen fires involving cooking oil
  • Fires raging in enclosed spaces.

How Dry Powder Extinguishers work

Dry Powder fire extinguishers work by separating the fuel of the fire from the oxygen element or by removing the heating element of the fire triangle.

Types of Businesses that need this extinguisher

Due to the fact these extinguishers should not be used in an enclosed space, they are mainly recommended for the following types of businesses:

  • Garage forecourts
  • Welding or flame cutting businesses
  • Businesses with large boiler rooms
  • LPG dispensing plants

Where to store Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers

Dry Powder fire extinguishers need to be stored next to the source of the fire risk.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2 Extinguishers)

Overview

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are the primary extinguisher used in extinguishing electrical fires. You will often find CO2 extinguishers in computer server rooms or areas where a large number of electrical devices exist.

What is the CO2 Fire Extinguisher Label Colour?

The label colour for CO2 fire extinguishers is black.

Uses for CO2 Fire Extinguishers

The CO2 extinguisher can be used to extinguish electrical fires and fires involving flammable liquids such as petrol.

Do Not Use For

The carbon dioxide extinguisher should not be used in the following scenarios:

  • Fires involving flammable metals
  • Kitchen fires
  • Fires involving materials like paper or textiles.

How CO2 Extinguishers work

This type of fire extinguisher works by suffocating the fire with CO2, causing the oxygen to be displaced and the fire to burn out.

Types of Businesses that need this extinguisher

Co2 Fire extinguishers should be used by businesses with electrical equipment. Business such as:

  • Server rooms
  • Offices
  • Technology stores

Where to store CO2 Extinguishers

CO2 fire extinguishers should be stored next to the source of the fire risk and/or by the nearest fire exits.

Wet Chemical Extinguishers

Overview

The wet chemical fire extinguishers are used for Class F fires. Class F Fires involve cooking oils and fats. Whilst this type of fire extinguisher can be used in Class A fires, it is recommended that you have a foam or water extinguisher to tackle a fire that fits into this class.

What is the Wet Chemical Fire Extinguisher Label Colour?

The label colour for wet chemical fire extinguishers is Yellow.

Uses for Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers

This type of fire extinguisher is perfect for fires involving cooking oil or fat.

Do Not Use For

The carbon dioxide extinguisher should not be used in the following scenarios:

  • Fires involving flammable liquids or gasses
  • Electrical fires
  • Fires involving flammable metals

How Wet Chemical Extinguishers work

This type of fire extinguisher works by creating a layer of foam on the surface of the burning oil or fat that starves the fire of oxygen. The chemical that is contained within the extinguisher is potassium and upon pressing the trigger, the potassium is expelled as a fine mist. The potassium reacts with the oil or fact and creates a soapy like film on the surface of the fire.  The spray itself also has a cooling effect that helps to eliminate the fire.

Types of Businesses that need this extinguisher

Wet Chemical fire extinguishers should be used by business such as:

  • Commercial kitchens
  • Restaurants
  • Canteens

Where to store Wet Chemical Extinguishers

Wet Chemical fire extinguishers should be stored next to the source of the fire risk

Fire Extinguisher Commissioning

Once installed, your fire extinguishers need to be commissioned by law. This means they’ve been thoroughly checked and approved as good for use.

Fire extinguishers are not compliant with UK fire extinguisher legislation until they have been commissioned, even if you have the right types and sizes of extinguisher in the right locations.

Commissioning means checking:

  • the extinguishers have been installed properly
  • hoses and horns are attached correctly
  • cach extinguisher is the right weight and pressure
  •  they are completely undamaged

Once these checks have taken place by your BusinessWatch engineer, you will receive a certificate verifying that your extinguishers have been commissioned in accordance with UK regulations. If you have any questions over the different types of fire extinguishers in the UK, then please just get in touch – we’ll be more than happy to help.

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