Preparation is done for a reason. You prepare a meal so you have something to eat. You prepare for retirement so you can live a sustainable and full life without working. Some preparation is done to prevent difficult situations. You buy car insurance, but you hope to never need it. Likewise, having a fire extinguisher in your home or business gives you the security that if disaster does strike, you’ll be ready. 

Disaster never has an invitation to lay claim to your property but will force its way in unannounced. It’s important to have a plan in place to prevent fires from occurring and for responding if flames flare up in your home.

Let’s take a look at common causes for fires and then address which class of fire extinguisher you should have on hand to combat the flames.

Common Causes of House Fires

Cooking Fires

Fires that start in the kitchen are the most common type of fire in homes. Leaving pans unattended, food spilling over in the oven, or grease getting too hot and catching fire are all possible while you cook. Grease fires start when grease in a pan is overheated. Grease fires can spread in the blink of an eye and cause significant damage to your home.

Electrical Fires

Improper wiring, defective appliances or electronics, and old wiring and breaker boxes are common causes for electrical fires. Wires can become frayed and breaker boxes can become brittle. The breakdown in these elements causes a short, which can ignite into flames. These issues are much more common in older homes.

Space Heater Fires

Many homeowners use a space heater during the frigid winter months. It should be noted that space heaters consume large amounts of energy and cause the breaker to trip more than any other home appliance. You’re only asking for disaster if you’re using a space heater in a home with bad wiring or a failing breaker box, and to avoid fires, space heaters should not be left unattended.

Smoking Fires

Smoking indoors is never a good idea. There are innumerable flammable objects all around and it only takes one hot ash to land in the right spot to cause a fire.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t put water on a grease fire.” The reason is that doing so can cause the fire to grow in intensity as the burning oil and grease are spread around by the water. Using the right tool for the job is essential to quickly taming the fire and preventing further damage. 

Let’s have a look at the different types of fire extinguishers and when to use each one. 

Class A

A Class A fire involves products such as paper, wood, cloth, rubber, and most plastics. These materials are referred to as ordinary combustibles. You can use a water, foam, dry chemical, wet chemical, or clean agent extinguisher when encountering a fire involving these materials. 

It’s not a surprise that a Class A fire is the most common type of house fire since your home contains many objects made up of wood, cloth, paper, or plastic, and you should be properly prepared with the right type of extinguisher.

Class B

A Class B fire is related to flammable liquids like gas, oils, alcohol, solvents, petroleum greases, and tar, or flammable gases like propane and butane. Use a dry chemical or carbon dioxide fire extinguisher to tame these flames.

Class C

A fire resulting from computers, servers, appliances, or other energized electrical equipment will be labeled as a Class C fire. In these cases, you should use a dry chemical or carbon dioxide extinguisher. Do not use a water-based extinguisher, as this could lead to electrical shock. 

Class D

Class D fires involve combustible metals. Think of aluminum, titanium, lithium, potassium, and magnesium. This type of fire is more common in a chemical laboratory, not in a home. However, if you encounter a fire of this type, you’ll want to use a dry powder extinguisher, nothing else. Using another type of extinguisher won’t make the situation any more dangerous, it will simply be ineffective in quenching the flames.

Class K

Fires that start from cooking oils and greases are considered Class K fires. These are most common in restaurant kitchens. Wet chemical fire extinguishers should be used to combat these fires. Remember, don’t use water on grease fires.

How To Use A Fire Extinguisher

While there are several types of fire extinguishers, using one is a universal task. Remember the acronym P.A.S.S.

P: Pull. The first step is to pull the pin. The pin is in place to prevent accidental use of the fire extinguisher.

A: Aim. Point the nozzle at the base of the fire. The fuel of the fire is at its base. Aiming at the rising flames will do you no good.

S: Squeeze. Squeeze the lever of the fire extinguisher slow and with even pressure.

S: Swipe. Keep the nozzle targeted at the base of the fire and move from side to side to cover all of the fire.

Fire extinguishers don’t last forever, and the National Fire Protection Association states they should be replaced every 12 years. If the gauge ever displays “empty,” you should replace the extinguisher immediately.

Fire Restoration With ServiceMaster by Rice

Remember the importance of preparation. Having the right type of fire extinguisher in your home could be the difference between a minor incident and a life-altering disaster. It’s a small price to pay for safety to help protect your home and family if a fire begins.

Unfortunately, not all fires can be contained and the damage can be overwhelming. Contact the professionals at ServiceMaster by Rice if you have experienced a fire and need restoration services. We have offices across Iowa and Southern Minnesota ready to help you get life back to normal.