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Types of Fire Extinguishers for Different Classes of Fire

Different Types of FIre Extinguishers for Different Classes of Fire in Denver, CO

There are different classifications and types of fire extinguishers and each is designed to respond to specific types of fire. Also, various environments, such as a house or a commercial kitchen, require the right type of fire extinguisher for fire safety.

That is why understanding the classes and choosing the right type of fire extinguisher is necessary for effective fire suppression. So, in this article, we will explore fire extinguisher classifications in the United States, their pros and cons, and the different types of fire they are suitable for.

Also, we will answer some important and common questions regarding fire extinguisher safety and maintenance.

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Using Fire Extinguishers to Put Out Fire

Although some think portable fire extinguishers are not that helpful at the time of fire accidents, they can be the best choice to combat a fire at the early stage to prevent the fire from spreading. However, it is important to know how to use them and what is the right type for each specific type of fire.

So, first, let’s go over various types of fire extinguishers based on the extinguishing agents. Then, we will discuss different classes of fire and the right fire extinguisher to combat them.

Different Types of Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers fall into seven categories based on their extinguishing agents. The primary material inside a fire extinguisher that smothers a fire is called the extinguishing agent.

Water-Based Extinguishers

As the name suggests, the primary extinguishing agent in water extinguishers is water. However, there may be some additives as well. This type of extinguisher suppresses fire by cooling it down.

Water-based fire extinguishers are suitable for ordinary combustible materials like

  • wood,
  • paper,
  • cloth,
  • plastics.

There are also water mist extinguishers that discharge a fine spray of water to reduce water damage (or contamination) in some places, such as museums or bookshops.

While water is a non-toxic environmentally-friendly agent and is exceptionally effective in reducing the temperature rapidly and limiting the fire from spreading, water-based extinguishers have a few disadvantages.

  • Freezing in cold weather (some of them contain antifreeze),
  • Short range (user needs to get close to the fire to put it out),
  • Not suitable for flammable liquids (like oil, gasoline, paints, etc.), electrical fires, and cooking oil fires.

Foam Extinguishers

Foam solution is the basic material in these extinguishers to combat fires involving ordinary combustible materials, flammable liquids, hydrocarbons, and polar solvents. These fire extinguishers suppress the fire by forming a blanket on the fuel surface and therefore preventing contact between the fuel and the oxygen. For this, the foam needs to reach the base of the fire.

There are two main types of foam fire extinguishers:

  • AFFF (Aqueous Film-Forming Foam) extinguisher,
  • FFFP (Film-Forming Flouroprotein) extinguisher.

Like water extinguishers, foam is a conductive material and is not suitable for electrical fire. It can also freeze in cold temperatures. In addition, the sticky residue left behind after using foam extinguishers can be messy, but it is not toxic.

On the other hand, foam fire extinguishers have the following advantages.

  • Versatility,
  • Effective in preventing re-ignition,
  • Cooling properties,
  • Relatively long discharge time.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguishers

Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher is a common type that can be used to put out fires involving flammable liquids, electrical fires (CO2 is non-conductive), and some of the ordinary combustible materials. So, it smothers the fire and prevents it from spreading by displacing oxygen.

Additionally, CO2 fire extinguishers leave no residue or harmful byproducts, and the agent is not toxic to people or the environment. Besides, carbon dioxide does not damage most equipment, such as electrical appliances, electronic devices, etc., therefore, it is a good choice for labs and computer rooms.

However, the following drawbacks should not be ignored.

  • Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are only suitable for small fires because the amount of CO2 they contain is enough for limited firefighting.
  • The user must be able to aim at the base of the fire accurately because the discharge time is only 10 to 30 seconds. So, if the user is not efficient and accurate, the CO2 fire extinguisher will be wasted.
  • Carbon dioxide extinguishers cannot combat fires involving highly combustible materials effectively because CO2 gas disperses quickly and the risk of reignition would be high.
  • CO2 lacks cooling properties. It eliminates the oxygen supply but cannot reduce the temperature well.

Dry Chemical Extinguishers

Dry chemical fire extinguishers are one of the most popular ones. Not only are they effective for different types of fire but they also come in various sizes. You can get a small portable fire extinguisher or a large wheeled unit.

They can quickly suppress fires involving ordinary combustible materials, electrical fires, and flammable liquids. These extinguishers combat fires by interrupting the reactions between heat, fuel, and oxygen. They create a coating layer of powder on the fuel to smother the fire and prevent reignition. Besides, dry chemical extinguishers have a longer discharge time compared to CO2 fire extinguishers.


  • The dry chemical extinguishing agent leaves a powdery residue that requires a thorough cleaning. It can also damage sensitive equipment and electronic devices. Some of these chemicals are corrosive to certain metals, so the residue must be cleaned as soon as possible to prevent damage.
  • The dry chemical powder reduces visibility when being used which can make the situation more challenging for the user.
  • The chemical powders might be harmful to humans and animals if inhaled as well as contaminate food and water.
  • Like carbon dioxide extinguishers, dry chemicals do not have cooling effects.

Wet Chemical Extinguishers

To deal with fires involving cooking oils, greases, and fats, wet chemical fire extinguishers are the best choice. So, they are mostly used in commercial kitchens and restaurants. The extinguishing agent can smother the fire by reacting with the oil or fat to make a soapy foam. This also results in preventing the fire from spreading and reignition.

What’s more, wet chemical extinguishers reduce the temperature significantly.

However, unlike other types of fire extinguishers, wet chemical extinguishers are not suitable for ordinary combustible materials and other classes of fire. Another limitation is their short discharge time and limited range. This means the user must act quickly, and accurately, and get close to the base of the fire.

Moreover, the sticky foam needs a thorough and proper cleanup, otherwise, the surface of the equipment might be damaged.

And, generally, the user needs to be well-trained to ensure wet chemical fire extinguishers are used effectively and safely.

Clean Agent Extinguishers

Halon extinguishers and clean agent extinguishers use agents that are nonconductive and noncorrosive. Besides, these chemical or gaseous fire extinguishers evaporate fast after use, so there will be no residue left. They are also much more effective than carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers and do not freeze in cold weather.

But as Halon is not environmentally friendly, nowadays alternative clean agents, such as Halotron, are being used.

These clean agents are effective on various types of fire (except for cooking oil, fat, and combustible metals) and suppress it rapidly by displacing oxygen or interrupting the chemical chain. However, their short discharge time, limited range, and cooling properties can be a challenge for the user. In addition, some of these agents need proper ventilation to be removed after discharge.

Specialist Dry Powder Extinguishers

Dry powder extinguishers, also known as class D fire extinguishers, are specifically designed to combat fire involving combustible metals, such as magnesium and titanium. Users need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these specialized extinguishers.

For example, some of them are only to be used for outdoor applications.

What’s more, the extinguishing agent can be applied as a hand-propelled fire extinguisher with a shovel or any other suitable tool.

All in all, each environment and class of fire requires a certain type of fire extinguisher. You should consult with a professional from a reputable fire suppression company to determine the right type and the right places for installation. Besides, proper training for correct fire extinguisher use and safety is a necessity.

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Let’s Sum Up: What Type of Fire Extinguisher Is Suitable for Each Class of Fire?

Different Classes of Fire

As we touched on in the previous section, there are different classes of fire and for each, there are certain types of fire extinguishers that can be most effective.

So, we have summarized all the main points in the table below to help you understand which extinguishing agent is suitable for each class of fire.

Classes of FireSuitable Types of Fire Extinguishers
  Class A:Ordinary Combustible Materials: Wood, paper, cloths, plastics.Water Fire Extinguishers
Foam Fire Extinguishers
Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers
  Class B:Flammable Liquids: Oil, gasoline, grease, propane, solvents, paint.Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Fire Extinguishers Foam Fire Extinguishers
Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers
Clean Agent Fire Extinguishers
  Class C:Live Electrical Equipment: Electrical appliances, wiring, motors, circuit breakers, electrical panels.Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Fire Extinguishers
Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers
Clean Agent Fire Extinguishers
  Class D:Combustible Metals: Aluminum, magnesium, titanium, sodium, potassium.   Specialist Dry Powder Extinguishers
  Class K:Commercial Cooking Equipment: Cooking oils, fats, vegetable oils.  Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers

You can see the class of fire or the symbol on fire extinguishers to indicate what type of fire they can effectively combat.

FAQs Regarding Fire Extinguisher Maintenance and Safety

There are a lot of regulations, codes, and standards that must be followed to ensure effective suppression in fire emergencies and minimize the risk of injury and damage. That’s why seeking professional aid for installing, maintaining, and repairing fire suppression systems is of utmost importance.

Here, we try to answer some of your most common questions about fire extinguisher use, safety, and maintenance.

Can I Install Fire Extinguishers Myself?

The short answer is no. The reason is that installing a fire extinguisher is not just fixing it someplace on the wall. It is about where to place it to make sure it is easily accessible in emergencies. You can read this Fire Extinguisher Placement Guide for more information.

What Types of Fire Extinguishers Are Necessary in a Commercial Kitchen?

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are specifically designed to combat class K fire. So, having them around is necessary in commercial kitchens, restaurants, or any other places dealing with such materials.

Are There Any Regulations and Standards Regarding Portable Fire Extinguishers?

Yes. Although guidelines might be different in various settings, you can find the general codes and standards about using portable fire extinguishers on the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) website.

How Often Should I Inspect and Maintain the Fire Extinguishers?

This mostly depends on the local regulations and the manufacturer’s guidelines. However, the codes and standards include:

  • regular inspections,
  • recharging and replacement,
  • and keeping a record of maintenance activities and inspections.

How Can I Choose the Right Fire Extinguisher?

Making the right decision depends on a few factors:

  • What classes of fire are most likely to happen in your environment?
  • What types of fire extinguishers are best to combat that class of fire?
  • Can multi-purpose options (ABC fire extinguishers) be a better choice?
  • Are there any local regulations and codes you must adhere to?

Besides, you need to consult with a fire safety expert to guide you in selecting the right fire extinguisher, how many you are going to need in your space, where to install them, and how to use them.

Our fire protection professionals are here to answer your questions regarding commercial kitchens’ fire safety and fire suppression systems.

Restaurant Fire Extinguisher Service in Denver and Colorado

We tried to help you learn more about classes of fire and the best types of fire extinguishers to suppress them. However, as having a comprehensive fire safety plan is essential, you should only trust reputable fire suppression companies to safeguard the lives of your staff and your property.

Nationwide Fire Protection offers fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarm systems, and fire restoration services for commercial kitchens and restaurants all over Colorado and Utah (see all our fire suppression services here). Call 800-750-7313 for more information.

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