Types of fires
Before attempting to put out or control a fire, it’s crucial that you know the source. This is because using the wrong type of fire extinguisher could have disastrous effects and fuel the fire further, putting yourself and your family at risk of harm.
These are the classifications for different types of fires with Class A, B, E and F being the most common types of household fires.
|Class||Cause||Flammable material examples|
|A||Carbon-based materials||Wood, paper, cloth, rubber, plastics, textiles, grass and coal.|
|B||Flammable or combustible liquids||Petrol, kerosene, oil, tar, paint and wax.|
|C||Combustible gases||Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), butane, propane, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and acetylene.|
|D||Combustible metals||Sodium, potassium, magnesium and aluminium shavings.|
|E||Electrical fires are usually considered ‘class (E)’. Electricity is a source of heat in itself and it can cause electrocution.||Toasters, hairdryers, microwaves, electrical stoves, ovens, hair straighteners, electric blankets.|
|F||Cooking oils and fats||Lard and vegetable oils.|
Table: Fire classes and flammable material examples
Types of extinguishers
It is important that each class of fire be dealt with using the correct type of extinguisher. These can be identified by the band of colour marked on the extinguisher.
|Type of extinguisher||Colour of band||Class of fire|
|Water||No band, all red||A|
|Dry Chemical Powder||White||A, B, E|
|Carbon dioxide||Black||B, E|
|Wet chemical||Beige||A, F|
Table: Extinguisher types and identification
A good choice for the home is the Dry Chemical Powder A, B, E fire extinguisher, which has a white band. The Dry Chemical Powder extinguisher is recommended for households because it can put out the many common home fires, such as ones started by candles and faulty electrical goods. The extinguisher uses a powdery substance that deprives the fire of a fuel source by absorbing the fuel molecules.
Your fire extinguisher should be put in a convenient and accessible place in your home that is close to, but not within, areas that are at risk of catching fire such as the kitchen or living room.
Another recommended safety item for the household is a fire blanket. They’re useful in the kitchen for fires that are caused by oils or fats (class F fires) and can also be used on a person’s clothing that has caught aflame. They are made from woven glass fibre and can be used to smother a small fire by cutting off its oxygen supply. Since they are primarily used for kitchen fires, it is best to place a fire blanket at the entrance of the kitchen.
In order to use a fire blanket safely, you must hold it in front of you with the fabric rolled back to cover your hands. Before placing the blanket over the fire, make sure that it is shielding your body, hands and face from the fire. Then, cover the fire completely so that oxygen is unable to reach the fire – do not throw the blanket. Safely turn off the heat source and leave the blanket covering the fire for at least fifteen minutes so that the flammable liquid may cool down. Call 111 if you have not already done.