Below we attempt to demystify the distinction between various types of fire extinguisher. This knowledge is essential for those seeking to gain fire awareness training and fire marshal training, as well as those looking to buy fire extinguishers online.
In this guide we refer to ‘fire classes’. There exists five different classes of fire and each is distinguished by the type of fuel keeping the fire alight. In the United Kingdom this standard is defined in the European Standard ‘Classification of Fires’. This standard is applied across the European Union. This classification system allows firefighters and lay fire marshals to select the appropriate fire extinguisher based on the class of fire he or she is faced with.
Learning to recognise and react to different fire class is an essential requirement of fire safety training and specifically fire extinguisher training.
Each fire type must be tackled using a specific fire extinguisher. Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 employers must provide the correct fire extinguisher suitable for the type of fire likely to occur on their premises. For instance, a fire likely to start in a restaurant is very different to the type of fire likely to start in an office complex. Both types of fire require a totally different type of fire extinguisher. Using a fire extinguisher designed to tackle an office fire would only aggravate an oil or fat fuelled kitchen fire.
When you carry out a fire risk assessment you must identify each class of fire that may ignite given the nature of your particular business. You must then select the appropriate form of extinguisher that is designed to tackle this particular class of fire. In a nutshell, you must be able to match the correct fire extinguisher according to the class of fire you or your staff potentially must tackle.
Be sure to read our accompanying guide to fire extinguisher types, also published on this blog.
Now it’s time to review each class of fire…!
Currently there exists six classes of fire i.e., class A, B, C, D, E and K. Fires are classified according to the material that ignites the fire.
Below we outline each class of fire. We outline why each fire is classed as it is. Finally we match the appropriate extinguisher designed to tackle each class of fire.
Class A Fire
Class A fires are fuelled by solid materials such as plastic, wood, paper, textiles and furniture. Most of these materials are organic in nature.
The appropriate extinguishers used to tackle a class A fire include dry powder, water, foam and wet chemical extinguishers.
Class B Fire
Class B fires are fuelled by flammable liquids such as oil, paraffin or petrol.
The appropriate extinguishers used to tackle a class B fire include CO2 gas, foam and dry powder extinguishers.
Class C Fire
Class C fires are fuelled by flammable gases such as methane, propane or butane.
The appropriate extinguisher used to tackle a class C fire is a ‘dry powder’ extinguisher.
Class D Fire
Class D fires are fuelled by ignited metals such as titanium, aluminium or magnesium.
The appropriate extinguishers used to tackle a class D fire include L2 or M28 dry powder extinguishers.
Class E Fire
Class E fires are fuelled by electrical appliances such as TVs, computers and hair dryers.
The appropriate extinguishers used to tackle a class E fire include CO2 gas or a dry powder extinguisher.
Class F Fire
Class F fires are fuelled by cooking fats or oils e.g. in a kitchen setting.
The appropriate extinguisher used to tackle a class F fire is a ‘wet chemical’ extinguisher.
Fire extinguisher chart
Please read the below fire extinguisher chart. Please read this chart with reference to the information provided above.