Portable fire extinguishers have limited applications against small fires. When used properly, an extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until firefighters arrive. Fire extinguishers do not replace the need to call Toronto Fire Services. Always call 9-1-1 first when a fire occurs, no matter how small.
Fire extinguishers are not designed for use on large or spreading fires. Even on small fires, they are effective only under the following conditions:
- The extinguisher must be rated for the type of fire being extinguished.
- The extinguisher must be large enough for the fire at hand.
- The extinguisher must be in good working order, fully charged and within easy reach.
- The operator must be trained in the proper use of the extinguisher.
- The operator must be physically capable of lifting, handling and operating the extinguisher.
What is Fire?
Fire is a combination of three elements: heat, fuel and oxygen. Remove any one of these three elements and the fire will go out.
For example, an ABC multipurpose dry chemical extinguishing agent forms a coating layer over whatever is burning and thereby separates the oxygen from the fuel. The chemical also reduces the heat and interferes with the chemical reaction-combustion process.
In case of fire or an emergency, call 9-1-1.
What Type of Extinguishers are There?
There are five classes of fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers must be labelled to show the class of fire they can extinguish.
- Class A
Ordinary combustibles such as paper, wood, rubbish, drapes and upholstery.
- Class B
Flammable liquids such as gasoline, oils, solvents, paints and flammable gases.
- Class C
Electrical fires involving Class “A” or Class “B” materials and live electrical power – overheated wiring, fuse boxes, stoves, motors etc.
- Class D
Combustible metal fires. Magnesium and Titanium are the most common types of metal fires. Once a metal ignites do not use water in an attempt to extinguish it.
- Class K
Fires that involve cooking oils, grease or animal fat and can be extinguished using Purple K, the typical agent found in kitchen or galley extinguishers.
The extinguisher must be tested and listed by The Underwriters’ Laboratories of Canada (ULC). Look for the ULC label on the extinguisher.
Where Should I Install My Extinguishers?
Install your extinguishers in plain view, above the reach of children, near an exit route, and away from stoves and heating appliances. Ideal locations for your extinguishers are in the kitchen, workshop, upstairs and at the top of a basement stairwell.
When Should I Use My Extinguisher to Fight a Fire?
Only fight a fire if
- the fire is small and not spreading
- occupants have been alerted
- everyone has left or is leaving the building
- 9-1-1 has been called
- you have a clear escape route that won’t be blocked by fire
- you know how to operate your extinguisher and are aware of its capabilities
Don’t fight a fire in any other circumstance. Leave the premises immediately, close off the area and call 9-1-1 from a neighbour’s home.
Remember "P-A-S-S" when Fighting a Fire
(Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep)
- PULL out the locking pin, breaking the seal. Some extinguishers may use a different release device. Please refer to your operator’s manual.
- AIM the nozzle horn (or hose) at the base of the fire about 3 metres (10 feet) from the fire.
- SQUEEZE the trigger handle all the way, releasing the extinguishing agent.
- SWEEP the material discharged by the extinguisher from side to side, moving front to back, across the base of the fire until it appears to be out. Keep your eyes on fire area. Repeat the process if the fire starts up again. Never turn your back on a fire even if you think it is out.
Most extinguishers will operate according to the PASS method. Some extinguishers may not. Read your operator’s manual for specific directions. Remember to recharge the extinguisher immediately after use.
Take Care of Your Extinguishers
Extinguishers require regular care. Learn how to inspect your extinguisher by reading your operator’s manual. Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions. Remember to recharge reusable extinguishers and replace disposable models after every use.
Be certain that you use the correct type of extinguisher for the fire you are fighting. If you use the wrong type of of extinguisher, you can endanger yourself and even make the fire worse.
Numbers are also used with letters for extinguishers labelled for class A and B fires. The larger the number, the larger the fire the extinguisher can put out. Extinguishers rated ABC Multipurpose provide the required protection for all of the above types of fire.