Riverdale Fire Department, Inc.
4714 Queensbury Road Riverdale Park Maryland   20737 United States
301.883.7707 [MAIN] 301.856.0948 [FAX]

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4714 Queensbury Road
Riverdale ParkMaryland 20737
United States
301.883.7707 [Main]
301.856.0948 [FAX]


Home Fire Safety General Info Smoke Detectors
Fire Extinguishers PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 05 May 2007 20:00


When used properly, a portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives.

Portable extinguishers, however, are not designed to fight a large or spreading fire. Even against small fires, they are useful only under certain conditions.

    • The extinguisher must be rated for the type of fire you are fighting.
    • The extinguisher must be large enough to put out the fire. Most portable extinguishers discharge completely in as few as eight seconds.
    • The extinguisher must be within easy reach and in working order, fully charged.
    • The operator must know how to use the extinguisher. Read the instructions when you buy it. There is no time to read directions during an emergency.
    • The operator must be strong enough to lift and operate the extinguisher.

Choose Extinguishers Carefully

A fire extinguisher should bear the seal of an independent testing laboratory. It should also be labeled as to the type of fire or fires it is intended to extinguish.

There are four "basic" types of portable fire extinguishers:

    • Class A: Used on ordinary combustibles such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber and many plastics.
    • Class B: Used on flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, grease, tar, oil-based paint, lacquer, and flammable gas.
    • Class C: Used on energized electrical equipment including wiring, fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery, and appliances
    • Class D: Used on combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, and sodium.  

There are also multi-purpose or "combination" portable fire extinguishers on the market -- the ABC type.

Be sure you are fighting a fire with the proper extinguisher. It is particularly dangerous to use a water or Class A extinguisher on a grease or electrical fire.

In addition to the Class identification on an extinguisher, Class A and B extinguishers also carry a numerical rating which indicates how large a fire an experienced person can safely put out with that extinguisher. The larger the number, the larger the fire that the extinguisher can put out. Higher rated models, however, are often heavier. Make sure you can hold and operate the extinguisher before you buy.

How To Inspect Your Extinguishers

Extinguishers require routine care and maintenance. Read your operators manual, and ask your dealer how your extinguisher should be inspected and serviced. Reusable models must be recharged after each use. Disposable models can only be used once. They must be replaced after one use or 12 years from date of manufacture. Each extinguisher should be installed in plain view near an escape route and away from potential fire hazards such as heating appliances. YOU CAN ASK YOUR LOCAL FIRE DEPARTMENT FOR ADVICE ON THE BEST LOCATIONS.

Should You Fight The Fire?

Before you begin to fight a small fire:

    • Make sure everyone has left, or is leaving, the building.
    • Make sure the fire department has been called.
    • Be certain that the fire is contained to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and that is is not spreading beyond the immediate area.
    • Make sure that the fire is NOT between you and an escape exit.
    • Make sure you have adequate fire fighting equipment.

It is reckless to fight a fire with an extinguisher in any other circumstances. Instead, leave the area immediately, close off the area, and leave the fire for the fire department.

If You DO Fight The Fire, Remember The Word PASS

PULL the pin: some extinguishers require releasing a lock latch, pressing a puncture lever, or taking another first step.

AIM low: point the extinguisher nozzle (or its horn or hose) at the base of the fire.

SQUEEZE the handle: This releases the extinguishing agent.

SWEEP from side to side: Keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire and sweep back and forth until it appears to be out. Watch the fire area. If the fire breaks out again, repeat the process.


  • Should your path of escape be threatened
  • Should the extinguisher run out of agent
  • Should the extinguisher prove to be ineffective
  • Should you no longer be able to safely fight the fire


Most extinguishers work according to these directions, but some do not. Make sure you undertand the directions printed on the model you're using.

After you've extinguished a small fire, have the fire department inspect the fire site to make sure the fire is out.

REMEMBER: knowing how and when to use a fire extinguisher is only one aspect of fire safety. Other key elements include:

  • Installing and maintaining Smoke Detectors
  • Having an escape plan and practicing E.D.I.T.H.
  • Practicing home fire safety and eliminating hazards in and around your home.
Last Updated ( Monday, 14 May 2007 20:43 )