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Fire Extinguisher Uses and Safety

Fire Safety / Portable Fire Extinguishers / Fire Extinguisher Basics

ExtinguisherThe proper use of portable fire extinguishers can extinguish many fires while they are still small. You should be aware, however, that 911 should be called without delay as soon as any fire is discovered.

Portable fire extinguishers are an important part of an overall fire safety program. It is important to keep in mind that the successful use of portable fire extinguishers depends on the following:

  • The portable fire extinguishers are properly located and in working order.
  • The portable fire extinguishers are of the correct type.
  • The fire is discovered while still small enough for use of the portable fire extinguishers to be effective.
  • The fire is discovered by persons who are ready, willing, and able to use the portable fire extinguishers.

Also, you should know that portable fire extinguishers are valuable for immediate use on small fires. They contain a limited amount of extinguishing material and need to be used properly so that this material is not wasted.

In some cases, OSHA may require that an employer provide education to its employees on how to use the portable fire extinguishers that are located in the workplace. Generally, operation instructions are provided on the side of the fire extinguisher. They clearly describe how to use the extinguisher in case of an emergency. An example of these instructions is shown below.

Extinguisher Instructions
P A S S -- Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep


Fires are classified into five (5) classes. They are described below:

Calss A Fire

Class A
A fire extinguisher labeled with letter "A" is for use on Class A fires. Class A fires are fires that involve ordinary combustible materials such as cloth, wood, paper, rubber, and many plastics.
Class A Ordinary Combustible
Class B Fire Class B
A fire extinguisher labeled with letter "B" is for use on Class B fires. Class B fires are fires that involve flammable and combustible liquids such as gasoline, alcohol, diesel oil, oil-based paints, lacquers, etc., and flammable gases.
Class B Flammable Liquids
Class C Fire Class C
A fire extinguisher labeled with letter "C" is for use on Class C fires. Class C fires are fires that involve energized electrical equipment.
Class C Electrical Equipment
Class D Fire Class D
A fire extinguisher labeled with letter "D" is for use on Class D fires. Class D fires are fires that involve combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium and sodium.
Class D Combustible Metals
Class K Fire Class K
A fire extinguisher labeled with letter "K" is for use on Class K fires. Class K fires are fires that involve vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances. This is for commercial kitchens, including those found in restaurants, cafeterias, and caterers.
Class K Combustible Cooking

Candle Safety

Facts and Figures:

  • Candle fires accounted for an estimated 4.1% of all reported home fires.
  • Two-fifths (40%) of the home candle fires started in the bedroom.
  • Over the last decade, candle fires have almost tripled from the 5,460 reported in 1990.
  • December had almost twice the number of home candle fires of an average month.
  • Thirty-eight percent of candle fires occurred after candles were left unattended, abandoned or inadequately controlled; Twenty-three percent occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle; Eight percent were started by people (usually children) playing with the candle; Thirteen percent started after the candle user fell asleep.

    Source: National estimates based on NFIRS and NFPA survey (preliminary data).

Safety Tips:

  • Extinguish all candles when leaving the room or going to sleep.
  • Keep candles away from items that can catch fire (e.g. clothing, books, paper, curtains, Christmas trees, flammable decorations).
  • Use candle holders that are sturdy, won't tip over easily, are made from a material that can't burn and are large enough to collect dripping wax.
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  • Don't place lit candles in windows, where blinds and curtains can close over them.
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  • Place candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface and do not use candles in places where they could be knocked over by children or pets.
  • Keep candles and all open flames away from flammable liquids.
  • Keep candle wicks trimmed to one-quarter inch and extinguish taper and pillar candles when they get to within two inches of the holder or decorative material. Votives and containers should be extinguished before the last half-inch of wax starts to melt.
  • Avoid candles with combustible items embedded in them.

Candles and Children:

  • Keep candles up high out of reach of children.
  • Never leave a child unattended in a room with a candle. A child should not sleep in a room with a lit candle.
  • Don't allow children or teens to have candles in their bedrooms.
  • Store candles, matches and lighters up high and out children's sight and reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.

During Power Outages:

  • Try to avoid carrying a lit candle. Don't use a lit candle when searching for items in a confined space.
  • Never use a candle for a light when checking pilot lights or fueling equipment such as a kerosene heater or lantern. The flame may ignite the fumes.