It’s that time of year again – the time for fairy lights, Christmas trees and candles. But it’s very easy to get caught up in the festivities and forget that along with these items comes the very real risk of fire.
There isn’t just one type of fire, nor is there just one type of fire extinguisher. As a manager or responsible person for a premises or workplace, it’s vital that you understand how to distinguish between the five different types of fires, and are informed of which fire extinguishers are needed to put them out quickly, efficiently and safely.
Remember – it only takes a few minutes for Christmas go up in smoke. That’s why Fire Action have put together this handy guide to fire classes and their extinguisher partners.
The Five Classes of Fire
There are five key classes of fire, all caused by different materials/fuels.
- Class A: Usually the most common type of fire, as they are caused by combustible solid materials. This includes everyday materials such as paper, refuse, cardboard, wood, fabrics, and other flammable solid fuel sources.
- Class B: This type of fire is caused by flammable liquids such as paint, alcohol, petrol, solvents, oil or diesel. Premises such as garages, warehouses and construction sites, may store these chemicals in large quantities and so extra care must be taken.
- Class C: Triggered by flammable gases, for example, methane and butane. These gases not only pose a fire risk but also an explosion risk and must, therefore, be stored very carefully.
- Class D: Caused by combustible metals, especially alkali and alkaline earth metals, and are more common when metal shavings or powders have built up in a workplace.
- Class F: This type of fire is more commonly known as a chip-pan fire, and is started by cooking oils and fats catching fire, typically in food preparation areas.
- Electrical Fires: This is not one of the five classes, but is still important to consider. This is a fire triggered by an electrical item, either due to a fault or deterioration of equipment. Once the electrical item in question is removed, the fire can then be reclassified into one of the 5 classes.
Types of Fire Extinguisher
Now that we have covered the 5 classes of fire, let’s examine the types of fire extinguishers and which classes they are most suited to tackle. Using the wrong extinguisher on the wrong class of fire could potentially be unsafe.
- Water: Suitable solely for use on Class A fires. Water extinguishers cool the flames until quenched. They must not be used on any other class of fire, especially gases, liquids or electrical fires.
- Foam: Like water, foam has a cooling effect on the fire. The foam can also form a barrier between the fuel source and the flames themselves. They work best on Class A and Class B fires.
- Dry Powder: This extinguisher is the best all-rounder, and can be used effectively on all fire types, excluding Class F. However, caution should be taken if using it in a small space, as the powder can be inhaled by individuals, and may also take a lot of clean up. Dry powder works by acting as a barrier between the fuel and the oxygen source, essentially smothering the flames.
- CO2: The go-to option for electrical fires, CO2 extinguishers are also useful for Class B. They work by taking the place of oxygen which the fire requires to sustain itself.
- Wet Chemical: Mainly used for Class F fires in kitchen areas, though they can be used for Class A (but are not the first choice). They extinguish fires by cooling the flames and layering the oil with foam to prevent oxygen from feeding it.
Whatever type of fire extinguisher you need for your premises, Fire Action has a comprehensive range available for supply, installation and maintenance. Our other services include the installation and maintenance of: fire alarms, sprinkler systems, intruder alarms, CCTV systems, door entry systems & more. Plus, we also offer fire risk assessments, fire safety training and sell a range of equipment and products. As a BAFE-approved company, you can trust in our expertise and ability to offer the best fire safety systems in Kent. Get in touch with us today – our professionals will help you find the perfect solution at a competitive price.