What Are the Different Fire Extinguishers and Their Uses?

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What Are the Different Fire Extinguishers and Their Uses?

In order to properly protect your building from the threat of a fire, you first need to make sure you have the right equipment. Fire extinguishers, in particular, are one of the most effective and versatile fire protection tools, which is why, this month, the Asco team will be covering the five main types of fire extinguisher and their different uses.

Water and water + additive extinguishers

One of the most cost-effective ways to fight a fire, water extinguishers are used primarily to tackle Class A fires, which are fuelled by materials such as wood, paper and soft furnishings. Water extinguishers will have a red label.

Water extinguishers work though discharging their contents at the base of the fire, which cools the burning materials and prevents them from reigniting. In the absence of specific information from the manufacturer, water and water + additive extinguishers should under no circumstances be used on fires involving electrical equipment.

There are also water extinguishers with additives in. These additives reduce the surface tension of the water spray droplets, which allows them to soak better when applied to the burning materials, guarding against reignition. 

Foam extinguishers

Foam extinguishers have a cream label and can be used to tackle both Class A and Class B fires. Class B fires are those that are fuelled by flammable liquids, petrol, diesel and oil (but not cooking oils).

Foam extinguishers work by covering the burning liquid in a blanket of foam, cooling the fire and importantly starving the fire of oxygen.

CO₂ extinguishers

Featuring a black label, CO₂ extinguishers have been designed specifically to tackle fires involving live electrical equipment, such as computers, kitchen appliances and live wiring. These fires are known as Class E fires, or simply as electrical fires.

CO₂ extinguishers can also be used to tackle Class B fires, such as those caused by petrol and oil. A CO₂ extinguisher is commonly paired with a water + additive extinguisher or foam extinguisher in office environments to provide cover for both Class A risks and electrical fire risks.

Wet chemical extinguishers

Featuring a yellow label, wet chemical extinguishers were designed specifically to tackle Class F fires, which involve cooking oils and fats such as lard, sunflower oil, maize oil and butter. This makes wet chemical fire extinguishers necessary for commercial kitchen environments.

From our UK-based factory, Asco are able to supply a wet chemical extinguisher with A, B and F class fire ratings.

Powder extinguishers

Powder extinguishers are notable for their versatility, being able to tackle Class A, B and C fires. Class C fires are those which are caused by flammable gases, such as propane, butane and methane.

Powder extinguishers can also be used to tackle Class E fires (electrical fires), however, a powder extinguisher will not necessarily be able to cool the fire sufficiently to stop it from reigniting.

It is important to note the current version of BS 5306-8 (code of practice for selection and positioning of portable fire extinguishers) states that: “Due to the sudden reduction of visibility during powder extinguisher discharge, powder should generally not be specified for indoor use unless mitigated by a health and safety risk assessment”.

As such, powder extinguishers are most suited for sites with a significant C class risk, traditionally manufacturing and industrial applications.

Powder extinguishers feature a blue label.


Are you in need of high-quality fire extinguishers for your commercial premises? We are BAFE SP101 registered, meaning you can rely on our technicians to carry out competent fire extinguisher servicing and installation. We offer a wide range of services to customers throughout the region, so no matter what you are looking for, you can rest assured that we can provide a comprehensive package for you. Get in touch with our knowledgeable team today for more information.

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