Be Prepared: How to Properly Use a Fire Extinguisher

We should all have at least one fire extinguisher somewhere in our home, but it’s not enough to simply keep one under the kitchen sink. If there is a fire, your safety—and the safety of your home—depends on knowing how to use that fire extinguisher correctly.

In case your fire extinguisher has been sitting around collecting dust, here’s everything you need to know before brushing it off and fighting a fire in your home the right way.


Choose the right fire extinguisher

The first thing you need to know is the different classifications of fire extinguishers, and the second that not all fire, you need to understand what types of fires you may have to deal with and make sure your extinguisher can get the job done.


Most household fires fall into one of the following categories:

Class A: These fires are fueled by solid combustibles like wood, paper, and cloth.

Class B: These fires are fueled by flammable liquids such as oil, petroleum, and gasoline.

Class C: These fires are started or fueled by faulty wiring, fuse boxes, and appliances.

Class K: These fires are started or fueled by cooking oils and greases, animal fats, and vegetable fats.

All fire extinguishers are labeled to indicate which classes of fires they are designed to combat. Most household fire extinguishers are considered multipurpose and labeled for use in A, B, and C classes. Class K Extinguishers are heavier duty and will need to be bought separately. We suggest a 6 liter Fire Extinguisher, as it best fits the Fire Department Connection’s recommendation.

Fire extinguisher labels also include symbols to indicate which types of fires the extinguisher is designed to fight. If there is a circle and a red slash through any of the symbols, that indicates that the extinguisher cannot be used to fight that type of fire.

Household fire extinguishers are also rated for the size of fire that they can safely handle. The higher the rating (equivalent to the number of gallons of water it would take), the larger the fire the extinguisher can put out.

  • Class A fires are rated 1 to 40.
  • Class B fires are rated from 1 to 640.
  • There is no size rating for Class C fires.

Note that higher-rated extinguishers are often heavier, so be sure that you can comfortably handle the size of the fire extinguisher you keep at home.

How to use a fire extinguisher

Once you understand the different types of fire extinguishers and their uses, you need to be able to properly operate one.

The best way to be ready for a fire emergency in your home is to study the steps below and review them regularly so you can protect your home and family.

  1. Identify a clear exit/escape route

Before operating the fire extinguisher, make sure you have a clear evacuation path. If you cannot put out the fire, you’ll need to make a safe exit. Consider this when determining where to store your fire extinguisher, and make sure you’ll have multiple exit options nearby after you retrieve it.

  1. Stand back

Face the fire and keep your back to the clear exit you earlier identified. You should stay between six and eight feet away from the flames as you prepare to operate the fire extinguisher.

  1. Discharge extinguisher

It can be difficult to think clearly during an emergency, so fire safety has a long-standing acronym to help you recall the steps involved in operating your fire extinguisher. When extinguishing a fire, you should PASS:

  • P: Pull the pin on the fire extinguisher.
  • A: Aim the extinguisher nozzle on the hose low, toward the base of the fire.
  • S: Squeeze the handle or lever to discharge the extinguisher.
  • S: Sweep the nozzle back and forth. Keep the fire extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire and move it from side to side until the flames are extinguished.
  1. Keep an eye on things

After the flames appear to be out, continue to watch the fire area to make sure it doesn’t reignite. If the fire does start up again, repeat the PASS process.

  1. Call the fire department

If you didn’t have the chance to call the local fire department before discharging the fire extinguisher, do so now. They will be able to inspect the site of the fire and make sure that it is completely extinguished.

  1. Get to a safe place

Once the fire is out, or if you are unable to extinguish the fire, leave the scene and find a place out of reach of the fire.




Comments are closed.