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Types of Fire Extinguishers for Different Fire Classes

Every commercial or industrial setting has a specific set of challenges when it comes to fire safety. The first half of the battle lies in identifying the different fire hazards present in your premises, the second half is all about prevention and protection.

In this article, we’re looking at the various types of fire extinguishers you can find in the UK, and what kinds of fires they are designed to fight.

Water extinguishers

Water-based extinguishers are used to fight Class A fires only. This means fires that are fuelled by solid combustibles – such as paper, plastic wood and textiles. Water extinguishers work by eliminating the heat element from the fire, and cannot be used on Class B or electrical fires.

If a water-based extinguisher were to be used on a Class B fire (flammable liquids), the water is likely to spread the fire rather than extinguish it. Water extinguishers can create a major shock hazard if used to tackle electrical fires, and you should be careful about using water-based extinguishers in areas with exposed wires, cables or electrical equipment.

Water-based extinguishers are solid red in colour.

Types of Fire Extinguishers for Different Fire Classes

Wet chemical extinguishers

For Class F fires – fires involving cooking oil, fats and vegetable oils – a wet chemical extinguisher is used. These extinguishers should be present in any commercial kitchen environment so you are able to tackle kitchen fires effectively.

Wet chemical extinguishers also remove the heat element from a fire, but they also smother the fire by cutting off the oxygen from the fuel. This prevents the fire from reigniting, allowing you to manage and control the fire before it spreads. Wet chemical fire extinguishers can also be effective against Class A fires, and are identified with a  yellow label.

Dry powder extinguishers

Dry powder fire extinguishers are one of the most versatile types of extinguishers available. They are suited to tackle Class A, B and C fires. They can can also be used on live electrical fires, however the residue created by dry powder extinguishers can potentially damage sensitive electronics such as computers. A carbon dioxide extinguisher is always preferable for electrical fires.

Identified by a blue label, dry powder extinguishers smother the fire, again separating oxygen from fuel. The leftover powder should be cleaned away fully after being used.

There are different kinds of dry powder extinguishers, with some models only suited to B and C class fires, not Class A. It’s important to only use the relevant extinguisher to tackle a fire, so discuss the different types of dry powder extinguishers with your supplier.

Carbon dioxide extinguishers

CO₂ fire extinguishers are the chosen method to tackle electrical fires and Class B fires. Most businesses, including offices and retail spaces, contain sensitive electrical equipment, so a carbon dioxide extinguisher is a necessary fire safety tool for many commercial premises.

It’s easy to identify CO₂ fire extinguishers due to their black label and large, black horn. The horn reduces the pressure of the CO₂, allowing it to expand into a freezing gas which is fired from the extinguisher at rapid speed.

The gas takes away the heat from the fire and removes the oxygen so combustion can no longer take place.

Foam extinguishers

Foam fire extinguishers are effective against both Class A and Class B fires. They are identified by their cream coloured label, and should not be used to fight live electrical fires.

Due to their versatility, foam extinguishers may be preferred to water-based extinguishers in offices, for example. A foam extinguisher smothers the fire in a layer of foam which removes combustion and prevents re-ignition.

To ensure your commercial premises is equipped with the most suitable fire-fighting equipment, call in the professionals to identify the fire hazards unique to your business. Target Fire Protection operate throughout Manchester, Rochdale, Bury, Oldham and the rest of the UK, offering a full range of fire extinguishers to ensure your business is fully prepared should a fire breakout. We are happy to offer all the advice and assistance you need to find the right fire extinguishers for your property, so dont hesitate to get in touch with us today.

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