The ABC’s of Fire Extinguishers

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The Webster’s Dictionary defines fire as… wait… is this the start to a corny wedding toast? No? Ok, back to the topic. Fire and combustion can only occur when the follow four factors are combined: Fuel – any substance that can undergo combustion, heat, oxygen, and a chemical chain reaction. These four factors are referred to as the Fire Tetrahedron.

In order to prevent or extinguish a fire, one of these four factors must be eliminated from the equation. Fire extinguishers are specifically manufactured to do just that.

Fires are classified by the type of fuel that is burning. Similarly, extinguishers are classified by the type of fires they have the ability to extinguish. When it comes to fighting fires in the home or workplace there are three main classifications that come into play: Class A, Class B and Class C.

Class A – These fires are characterized by ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, cloth, and other textiles. A tool to remember Class A fires is “Fuels that produce Ash”.

Class B – These fires are characterized by flammable materials that are typically associated with powering motors and engines, such as gasoline, oil, and other solvents. A tool to remember Class B fires is “Fuels that Bubble”.

Class C – And finally, these fires are characterized by electrical equipment such as computers, fax machines, lighting fixtures, etc. A tool to remember Class C fires is “Fuels with Current”.

Luckily the development of the ABC Fire Extinguisher has made fighting any of these three classes of fire possible. An ABC Fire Extinguisher uses a dry-chemical powder, monoammonium phosphate, to extinguish a fire by smothering the fuel source/burning material. By smothering the fuel source, the dry-chemical powder is able to separate the fuel from the oxygen in the air, thus breaking the Fire Tetrahedron and eliminating the ability of combustion. In addition, the dry-chemical also aids in suspending the chemical reaction that takes place during a fire.

K-Class, Carbon-Dioxide, and Other fire extinguishers are available to put out specific fire threats, but the ABC Fire Extinguishers’ are the most common due to their versatility.

In the event of a fire the ABC Fire Extinguisher will disrupted the Fire Tetrahedron, stopping the flames and the chemical process of burning, however, it is still important to:

  • Remove non-essential personnel from the affected area.
  • Remove potential fuel from the affected area.
  • If Class A, separate potential fuel from fire area.
  • If Class B, turn off or remove fuel from the fire area.
  • If Class C, turn off power to the electrical equipment.
  • Notify the authorities in the event of a fire. Trained professionals can assess the fire hazard and help to mitigate/resolve the issue.

Having this knowledge of fire classification can better help you when it comes to extinguishing the fire. Proper application and use of the fire extinguisher can be even more vital. If you are unsure about how to operate a fire extinguisher, contact us here at Iridium Protection to set up a training for your organization or you can watch this helpful YouTube video provided by Consumer Reports:

Thanks for learning with us and we look to assist you with your fire and safety needs.

The Iridium Protection Team