What are the Different Types of Portable Fire Extinguishers Commonly Found in Homes and Where Should You Keep Them?

When it comes to small fires, portable fire extinguishers can help save lives and property. But, before you buy or use a fire extinguisher for your home, it is important to know what types are available. Fire extinguishers are rated by one or more of several fire hazard classifications. The four classifications most common in the home environment are listed in the table below:

Class Purpose
A Ordinary materials such as cloth, wood, and paper
B Combustible/flammable liquids such as motor oil and gasoline
C Electrical equipment, such as appliances and circuit breakers
K Kitchen cooking grease and oils

 It’s best to keep fire extinguishers on every level of your home, as well as in rooms in which a fire is likely to start, such as the kitchen or garage. A Class K fire extinguisher is best suited for the kitchen. For most other areas Class A-B-C fire extinguishers may be the best choice.

Caring for Your Fire Extinguisher

Just having a fire extinguisher is not enough. It will need to be inspected monthly and undergo professional maintenance once a year.  When inspecting a fire extinguisher, here are a few items to check:

  • Make sure the extinguisher is easily accessible and visible
  • Check the pressure gauge to make sure the pressure is in the correct operating range (typically marked in green); if the pressure is too low either get the extinguisher recharged or replace it
  • Make sure the cylinder, nozzles, and hoses aren’t damaged, rusted, or dented
  • Remove any dust, grease, or dirt that may have gathered
  • Inspect the pull pin to ensure it is still inserted in the handle – if the pin is missing, or the plastic seal is broken, the extinguisher may have been tampered with or used, in which case, be sure to have it professionally inspected and/or replaced

Please note –different types of fire extinguishers require different types of testing and maintenance. These are just a few tips to help get you started, but be sure to refer to your fire extinguisher’s label or user manual for the manufacturer’s maintenance suggestions.

A Word of Caution About Fire Extinguishers

While portable fire extinguishers can help to save lives and property, it’s best to avoid attempting to extinguish a fire unless it is very small. The number one priority in the event of a fire is to get everyone out safely! Be sure you and your family have a fire escape plan:  everyone should know how to quickly evacuate the home, where to meet outside, and how to call 911.

Fire extinguishers can be very effective, but should only be used if the fire is confined to a small area, everyone has been evacuated, and if the room has not filled with smoke.

How Do You Use a Fire Extinguisher?

If you have determined that it is appropriate to use a fire extinguisher on a small, confined fire, here is an acronym that will help you to operate it: PASS:

Pull the pin with the nozzle pointing away from you

Aim low, towards the base of the fire, standing at least six feet from the fire (or as indicated on the extinguisher’s label)

Squeeze the level slowly and evenly

Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side until the fire is out

Check out this video for instructions on how to operate a portable fire extinguisher:

If you do end up using your fire extinguisher, please note, you must replace it or refill it right away, regardless if it is completely empty or not.

I hope that you have found this information helpful. If you are interested in learning more, check out NFPA 10: Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, which provides requirements to make sure portable extinguishers will work as intended. And, don’t forget to inspect your fire extinguishers each month!