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Volume II
February 28, 2006

I Have a Fire Extinguisher. How does it Work?

Fire ExtinguisherEven if you consider yourself to be the greatest cook in the world you should have a fire extinguisher handy in your kitchen. It may save your pots and pans or even your whole house. So, if you do have a fire extinguisher, do you know how to use it or if it even still works?

Del Mc Hale, a Cook’n reader, passed on this great article about fire extinguishers in the home. It is full of information that we all need to know. Thanks Del!


In some states, a fire extinguisher is required to be in every home.  However, it is recommended that all homes should have several.  A fire can start anywhere in the home.  Fire extinguishers should be located throughout the house and on all floor levels.  The minimum amount of extinguishers should be two; one near the kitchen and one in the garage or basement or wherever flammable liquids are stored.  A kitchen fire extinguisher should be kept within 10 feet of the kitchen and in an unobstructed area so that it can be easily reached in an emergency.

A fire can start unexpectedly.  To be prepared, the first step is to read the instructions on the fire extinguisher label. Check to see what type of fire the extinguisher can be used on.  A Dry Chemical extinguisher is the type most widely used, it is multi-purpose and effective on Class A, B and C fires. (See chart for an explanation of these classes).  It is important to use the correct extinguisher on the type of fire that you are facing.  Using an incorrect agent on a fire may allow the fire to reignite after it seems to have be extinguished.

Not all fires should be fought with a home fire extinguisher.  It is recommended that all persons should first be evacuated from the building immediately and then the fire department should be called before attempting to fight the fire. If the fire is small and contained to one area, you may attempt to use the fire extinguisher.  Be sure that you feel that it is safe to try to extinguish it and, most importantly, be sure that you can give yourself an escape path.

The next step to being prepared is to be familiar with the weight and handling of the fire extinguisher before it is needed in an emergency.  Fire extinguishers can feel heavy, especially to the young.  All persons in the home should practice holding and using the extinguisher.  However, do not pull the pin at the top during practice since it will cause the extinguisher to lose pressure.

To use the fire extinguisher, face the nozzle towards the fire.  Then, pull the pin at the top of the handle (but not during practice, only in a real fire situation).  Keeping a distance of approximately 6-8 feet away from the fire, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.  Next, squeeze the lever to discharge the foam and sweep the nozzle from side to side at the base of the fire until the fire is out.  Discharge all the foam in the extinguisher completely on the fire.  Continue to watch the area in case the fire reignites.

Each month the fire extinguisher should be inspected.  Designate someone responsible in the home to attend to this job.  Start by checking to see that the needle on the pressure gauge is in the green section.  If it is not in the green area, the extinguisher will not work and must be recharged or replaced.  Check to see if there is any damage to the container such as rust, dents, cracks, etc.  Check that the nozzle is not obstructed or bent or disfigured in any way. Check that the pin and the tamper seal is intact.  Provided that all of these points check out, replace the extinguisher in its holder.  If any one of these points do not check out, replace or repair the fire extinguisher immediately.

Fire is fast, hot, dark and deadly.  Fight the fire only if you feel safe to do it and all precautions have been taken for your safety.  If in any doubt, leave the house immediately and allow the authorities to take care of it.  Develop a home fire escape plan and designate a meeting place outside.  Be sure your home is equipped with a working smoke alarm, it is your family’s first line of defense against fire.  Lastly, to be sure that your home is as fire safe as it can be, let us send you a “Home Fire Safety Checklist” with our compliments.  Just e-mail us at with your name and address and we will get one in the mail to you.

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Disclaimer: This article is provided as a public service and in no way insinuates this website as an authority.

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