It’s fair to say that a fire extinguisher is a necessity in any office, home or even vehicle. Having said that, it’s important to note that not all fire extinguishers will put out the same types of fires. In some cases, using the wrong type of extinguisher can make a fire worse.

For this reason, it’s important to know which fire extinguisher will offer the best fire protection for your property. ABC fire extinguishers are often a good choice as they are extremely versatile and can tackle a range of different fire types. Below, we’ll take a look at which types of fires ABC fire extinguishers are suitable for, as well as the corresponding extinguishers for each fire type.

Understanding The Fire Classification

Firstly, it’s important to understand that not every fire is the same. If you try to put out a fire using the wrong type of extinguisher, you may end up doing more harm than good. You’ll need to establish the fire risks at your facility before you can choose an appropriate extinguisher. In the UK, there are five main classes of fire. These are simply categorised by what the fire uses as fuel.

1. Class A (Solids)

Class A fires occur when combustible organic materials, such as paper, wood, and fabric catch fire. As these materials are frequently found in homes and offices, this is one of the most common types of fire.

2. Class B (Liquids)

Class B fires involve flammable liquids, such as petrol, diesel and paint. It’s important to keep any flammable liquids used at your facility away from potential sources of ignition. 

3. Class C (Gases)

This type of fire involves flammable gases. Propane, butane and methane are common causes of Class C fires. If you’re working with flammable gases at your facility, it’s important to make sure that such work is carried out by a competent person.

4. Class D (Metals)

Class D fires involve flammable materials, such as magnesium, aluminium and titanium. This type of fire is less common than the other classifications.

5. Electrical Fires

As electricity is considered a source of ignition rather than a fuel, electrical fires do not have their own full class. Instead, they are marked with an electrical spark symbol. 

In fact, electrical fires can sometimes fall into other classes. For example, electrical power tools that are used on construction sites can cause sparks to ignite flammable gases. In such cases, this would be considered a Class C fire risk.

6. Class F (Cooking Oils and Fats)

Class F fires can occur when flammable cooking oils and fats are exposed to heat sources and are left unattended during use.

So, What Is An ABC Fire Extinguisher Used For?

ABC extinguishers, also referred to as ABC dry powder extinguishers, are effective against fires involving ordinary combustibles (Class A), flammable liquids (Class B) and flammable gases (Class C). Usually, these extinguishers have a blue label and use a dry chemical called mono-ammonium phosphate. This chemical works to smother flames and put out an array of different fires by separating the fuel from the oxygen.

They are also suitable for use against fires involving electronic equipment designed for use at less than 1000v. On top of this, you can get specialist dry powder extinguishers that are designed to tackle Class D fires involving combustible metals. It is worth noting that specialist dry powder extinguishers may not be effective for all metal fires.  

Despite having many uses, dry powder extinguishers should not be used in small or enclosed spaces, unless a fire safety risk assessment concludes otherwise. The reason for this is that the powder can remain in the air even after the emergency is over. When inhaled, this fine powder can impair breathing and potentially trigger an asthma attack. More than that, an ABC fire extinguisher can cause damage to your building and the surrounding areas. This includes damage to electrical equipment and the corroding of metal machinery.

Moreover, as with any type of fire extinguisher, it is important to keep your ABC fire extinguisher well-maintained and serviced to ensure it is always in good working order.

When To Use A Different Type Of Fire Extinguisher

Whilst ABC fire extinguishers can help battle several types of fire, they are not effective for every fire class. With this in mind, it’s important to know when to use a different type of fire extinguisher.

Water Fire Extinguishers

Water-Fire Extinguishers have a red label and are designed to gradually cool down the flames. As this extinguisher can put out common fires, it’s no surprise that this is one of the most popular types of extinguisher. However, water fire extinguishers should only be used on Class A fires. 

Foam Fire Extinguishers

Foam fire extinguishers use water to create a foam that doesn’t just cool down the fuel, it also blocks the fire from its source. This makes these extinguishers perfect for tackling Class B and Class A fires. They are characterised by their cream label. 

It’s advisable to avoid using a foam extinguisher during electrical or kitchen fires.

CO2 Extinguishers

CO2 extinguishers have a black label and work by suffocating the fire until it runs out of oxygen. They are suitable for use against both electrical and Class B fires. 

Wet Chemical Extinguishers

Wet chemical fire extinguishers have yellow labels and coat the flames in a mist of potassium. This is the only type of fire extinguisher that can be used to battle Class F fires.

Whilst you’re in the process of figuring out what type of fire extinguisher you need for your property, have you considered completing a fire safety training course? At Cardinal Fire, we offer expert guidance and advice on fire safety compliance. Get in touch today and benefit from the all-important peace of mind that you’re following the correct fire safety procedures.