There are many different types of fire extinguishers on the market, each with specialized capabilities. Each fire extinguisher is designated by:

  • Type – this indicates the active ingredients
  • Class – this indicates what type of fire it is designed to extinguish
  • Rating – this indicates its capability

What Types of Fire Extinguisher Are There?

There are 6 common types of fire extinguishers, each designed to tackle different types of fire:

  • Dry Chemical Agent – Forms a crust to remove oxygen and contain the fire to keep it from spreading.
  • Water – Absorbs the heat, cools the burning material, and removes oxygen. Variants of water fire extinguishers include water mist and water spray extinguishers.
  • Wet Chemical – Seals the fuel to prevent vapors from igniting and cools the fire.
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – Removes the oxygen and replaces it with pressurized Carbon Dioxide gas.
  • Halotron - A clean agent fire extinguisher that discharges a non-conductive rapidly evaporating liquid.
  • Foam – Smothers the fire by creating a barrier or film of foam and removing the oxygen.

How Many Classes of Fire Extinguishers Are There?

Fire extinguisher classes are each named with a letter. The letters A, B, and C refer to the Classes of Fire established by the UL and the NFPA. The letters shown on the label of the fire extinguisher indicate that is has been tested and found to be effective on those classes of fire. Learn more about the different types of fire.

Fire Extinguisher Classes:

  • Class A – Fires that involve common combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, trash, and plastics.
  • Class B – Fires that involve solvents, oil, gasoline, paints, lacquers and other oil-based products.
  • Class C – Fires that involve energized electrical equipment.
  • Class D – Fires that involve combustible metals such as magnesium, lithium, and titanium.
  • Class K – Fires that involve combustible cooking media such as oils and grease commonly found in commercial kitchens.

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What is an ABC Fire Extinguisher?

ABC Fire Extinguishers use monoammonium phosphate, a dry chemical with the ability to quickly put out many different types of fires by smothering the flames. This dry chemical agent can put out all three common classes of fire (classes A, B, and C).

What Are Fire Extinguisher Ratings?

The numbers 1-10 before the letter A represents the rating for that A capability. The higher the number, the larger A class fire the unit can handle.

The numbers 10, 20, 40, 60, 80 before the letter B represents the rating for the B capability. Once again, the higher the number, the larger B class fires the unit can handle.

The letter C does not get a rating as the letter only signifies that the unit is electrically non-conductive.

Where is the Rating Displayed on a Fire Extinguisher?

The fire extinguisher’s rating is typically displayed directly on the canister, near the manufacturer’s information and the usage instructions. The rating is included in the classification information, see example below.

For each fire extinguisher, there will be a number and letter combination that tell you its classification. The letter indicates which class of fire it is designed to extinguish, the number indicates the power of the extinguisher. Therefore, the higher the number of the fire extinguisher's classification, the more power that extinguisher will have.

An extinguisher's rating is not based on the size of the extinguisher, but instead is a measure of the extinguisher's fire-fighting capability. For example, an extinguisher rated 3-A is three times more powerful against Class A fires than an extinguisher rated 1-A.

How Do I Find My Fire Extinguisher’s Weight?

As a fire extinguisher’s rating increases, the weight of the extinguisher will also increase. Refer to the table below to determine your extinguisher’s weight:

Classification Weight
2 B:C extinguisher 1.5 lbs
5 B:C extinguisher 2 lbs
10 B:C extinguisher 2.9 lbs
1 A:2 B:C extinguisher 2.5 lbs
2 A:10 B:C extinguisher 4 lbs
3 A:40 B:C extinguisher 5 lbs
4 A:60 B:C extinguisher 10 lbs
10 A:80 B:C extinguisher 20 lbs

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