Types of Fire Extinguishers

There are three major classes of fuel for fires:

  • Class A — common combustibles, such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, trash and plastic

  • Class B — flammable liquids, such as oil, paints and solvents

  • Class C — electrical equipment, such as wiring, fuses, appliances and motors

Fire extinguishers are labeled with the letters A, B and C to let you know the types of fires they extinguish. The larger an extinguisher’s ULC rating, the greater its fire fighting capacity. The numbers before the letter A or B indicate the relative amount of fire the extinguisher can put out. For example, a 3-A will put out three times as much as a 1-A.

Do not attempt to put out a fire with an extinguisher that was not designed for that type of fire. The average home should have a multi-purpose ABC-type extinguisher on each story of the home, plus an extinguisher (BC type) for the cooking area. BC-type extinguishers cause less damage to appliances and furniture finishes and are preferred for kitchens.

Browse Kidde's Residential Fire Extinguishers

How to Use Fire Extinguishers

Stand 5 feet away from the fire and follow the four-step PASS procedure recommended by the National Fire Protection Association:

  • P - Pull the pin and hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you.

  • A - Aim low at the base of the fire.

  • S - Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly to discharge the extinguishing agent. When the agent first hits the fire, the fire may briefly flare up. This should be expected.

  • S - Sweep the nozzle from side to side, moving carefully toward the fire. Keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire.

When to Use Fire Extinguishers

It’s important to remember that fire extinguishers are only one element of a complete fire survival plan. Only use your extinguisher after making sure:

  • All residents of the home have been evacuated to safety

  • The fire department has been notified

  • There is a clear exit behind the person using the extinguisher

Use your extinguisher only to keep a small self-contained fire from growing, only when the room is not filled with smoke, or to create a safe pathway out of the home. Be sure to read the instructions and become familiar with your fire extinguisher's parts and operation before a fire breaks out.