Know How to Use Your Fire Extinguisher
Every 61 seconds fire strikes a home somewhere in the United States.
Chances are the average family will have one fire in every generation serious
enough to call the fire department. Kentucky Farm Bureau suggests that if
you have a fire extinguisher at hand and know how to use it, you just might
be able to prevent a small fire from becoming a big one.
A fire extinguisher must bear the seal of an independent testing laboratory
and be labeled as to the type of fire it is intended to extinguish. For a
pressurized extinguisher, ask your dealer how to have it serviced and
inspected. It must be recharged after any use. If you purchase a disposable
fire extinguisher, it can be used only once; then it must be discarded and
A multipurpose dry chemical Class ABC fire extinguisher is the best choice
for general home use.
Fire extinguishers are classified by the types of fires they can put out: Class
A fires involve ordinary combustibles such as wood, trash and paper; Class B
fires involve flammable liquids such as grease and gasoline; and Class C fires
involve live electrical equipment. A multipurpose fire extinguisher (ABC) can
put out all three types of fires.
It is imperative that you use the proper type of fire extinguisher. For
example, if you use a Class A extinguisher on a grease or oil fire, you could
spread the fire instead of extinguish it.
When determining an appropriate size fire extinguisher, purchase the one
with the largest capacity that you and other responsible members of your
family can easily handle. Look for one that contains at least five pounds of
extinguisher material, then lift it as you would to fight a fire to make sure
that it’s easy to handle.
Because fire extinguishers should be kept near possible fire sources, it is
recommended that you keep several. Have one in the kitchen, where many
fires occur. (However, the best way to extinguish a grease fire is to turn off
the heat under the pan and smother the fire with a lid or cover. To smother
a broiler fire, turn off the heat and close the door.) Other good places to
install an extinguisher include the basement, workshop, garage or any rooms
with a fireplace or woodburning stove.
A fire extinguisher is only useful if it is readily available. It is best to mount
an extinguisher no higher than five feet on a bracket on a wall. Never place
the extinguisher above a stove or next to a possible source of fire, because
you may not be able to reach it in case of an emergency. Hang it near an
exit so that anyone using it can easily escape from the room if the fire
Instructions for use of fire extinguishers vary with model, so read the
operator instructions carefully when you purchase it. During an emergency
is no time to read directions.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends you remember the
• Pull the pin. Some extinguishers require you to release a lock latch,
press a puncture lever or other motion.
• Aim low. Point the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the fire.
• Squeeze the handle. This releases the extinguishing agent.
• Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be
out. Watch the area in case fire breaks out again.
All responsible family members should know when and how to use the
extinguisher. Ask your fire department about training and practice.
Inspect all extinguishers every couple of months. Look at the pressure
gauge to make sure it hasn’t developed a slow leak or been partially
And remember, if you have the slightest doubt about whether or not to fight
a small fire – DON’T. Get out and call the fire department.
(The information and recommendations contained in this publication have
been compiled from sources believed to be reliable and to represent the
best current opinion on the subject. No warranty, guarantee, or
representation is made by the Kentucky Farm Bureau as to the absolute
correctness or sufficiency of any representation contained within, and the
Kentucky Farm Bureau assumes no responsibility in connection therewith;
nor can it be assumed that all acceptable safety measures are contained in
this publication, or that other or additional measures may not be required
under particular or exceptional circumstances or conditions.)