How Many Types of Fire Extinguishers are There?

What types of Fire Extinguisher are available?

In short, fire extinguishers come in 5 main types:

  • Water extinguishers
  • Foam extinguishers
  • Carbon Dioxide extinguishers
  • Dry Powder extinguishers
  • Wet Chemical extinguishers

At Life Safety Online we stock a wide range of fire safety products and equipment. Let’s have a look at some of the key features of each type of fire extinguisher:

Water Fire Extinguishers

Water Fire Extinguishers are very popular as they are inexpensive, completely eco-friendly and are an effective extinguisher for most fires.  They work by removing the heat from the fire.  However, Water Extinguishers only carry a Class A rating, limiting the range of applications they can be used for.

Foam Fire Extinguishers

Foam extinguishers are often used as the next level up from water, doing everything that water extinguishers do, but also boasting a Class B fire rating meaning they can be used on flammable liquid fires.  They also offer a faster knockdown than water extinguishers.  Foam Extinguishers work by removing the heat from Class A fires, and by forming a film over the surface of flammable liquids they remove oxygen from Class B fires.  However, foam extinguishers contain detergent so it’s important to try to prevent the foam getting into watercourses.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Fire Extinguishers

CO2 fire extinguishers are extremely common as being non-conductive they are completely safe for direct use on live electrical equipment.  The Carbon Dioxide gas extinguishant is non-damaging and requires no clean-up after use.  Carbon Dioxide extinguishers work by increasing the saturation of CO2 in the air, replacing the oxygen and making combustion impossible.  However, they are only suitable for use on Class B (flammable liquid) fires and live electrical equipment.  They can be very dangerous if used on Class A fires, as they can actually spread the burning material and make the fire worse!  They are also of limited effectiveness when used outdoors.

Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers

Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers are hugely effective with massive performance.  They are rated for nearly every class of fire – Class A (wood, paper and textiles), Class B (flammable liquids), Class C (flammable gases), and are non-conductive thus completely safe for direct use on live electrical equipment.  They work by the powder releasing CO2 when it gets hot, thus starving the fire of oxygen.  So why aren’t they the only extinguishers we need?  Well they produce a huge cloud of powder dust when discharged, and whilst this isn’t toxic it does make breathing difficult and can restrict vision to the point of blocking emergency escape.  As a result we do not recommend them for use indoors apart from in exceptional circumstances.

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers

Finally we come to the Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers.  Specifically designed to effectively extinguish cooking oil fires, they work differently to other extinguishers.  Cooking oils burn at extremely high temperatures, and render most fire fighting methods ineffective.  In fact, putting water on a cooking oil fire is downright dangerous…  Wet Chemical extinguishers actually react with the burning oil, and it turns literally to soap – a process called saponification.  This forms a crust over the surface of the burning oil and prevents burning and re-ignition.  The long lance applicator allows you to accurately direct the Wet Chemical directly onto the oil, and the fine spray resists splashing.  However, although they also carry a Class A rating, Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers are largely useless on other fires.

Check out our wide range of fire extinguishers online!


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