Do you have the right fire extinguisher?

December 19, 2013

Do you know how to read the label?

The winter months are the most likely time for a house fire. Why? As the temperatures plummet and the cost of heating increases people often turn to cheaper alternatives to heating their homes. Such as wood stoves, fireplaces, and the notorious space heaters. Also, many people are gathering with friends and family for holidays and cooking more which raises the danger of kitchen fires. Some are even trying their hand at something new like deep frying turkeys. Real Christmas trees if not properly cared for pose another significant fire risk. Winter storms increase the chance of power outages and lead some to use inventive and often more dangerous ways to light and heat their homes.

So we want to take the time to nag you about making sure you have working smoke detectors, and ask you to take a moment to look over your fire extinguisher. You do have one of those, right? 

The prices range from $20 to $200.  So how do you know if you have the right fire extinguisher for your home?

All fire extinguishers are tested by the Underwriters Laboratory for safety and performance. They are rated based on the type of fire that they will put out.

  • Class A: Wood, Paper, cloth, trash, plastics (non-metal solids).
  • Class B: Flammable Liquids-Gasoline, oil, grease, acetone (includes flammable gases).
  • Class C: Electrical Fires, Energized electrical equipment fires (anything that is plugged in).
  • Class D: Metal fires involving magnesium, sodium, potassium and sodium-potassium alloys
  • Class K: Commercial Deep Fat Fryers (cooking oil fires)

ABC Fire Extinguishers: are “tri-class” or “multi-purpose” extinguishers which can be used on Class A, B, or C fires. Best option for homes, offices, hallways, apartment buildings, vehicles, boats and RVs.

Carbon Dioxide (Co2) Fire Extinguishers:   Carbon Dioxide (Co2) Fire Extinguishers are used for class B flammable liquids fires as well as Class C Electrical fires as they are electrically non-conductive. Carbon Dioxide is a clean, non-contaminating, odorless gas. Co2 Extinguishers are also used for mechanics and factories because they leave no residue.

Class D Fire Extinguishers: Class D Fire Extinguishers are mainly used for the aircraft industry, auto body shops, factories that work with metals, and other metal fire hazards.

Class K Fire Extinguishers:  Class K Fire Extinguishers are used for fighting class A and class K fires. Class K Fire Extinguishers are ideal in kitchens and in the restaurant industry.
You may have already been familiar with these ratings.  But do you have any idea what the label means when it says 3-A:40-B:C, as seen in our featured photo? I didn’t.

The presence of A, B  and C on this label indicates it is an ABC Fire extinguisher rated for those types of fires.  The numerical ratings before the letter A or B have to do with the size of fire that the extinguisher was designed to handle. There will be no number in front of a C, D or K because no numerical rating is ever placed on C, D or K fire extinguishers.

The number in front of the A represents the amount of water the extinguisher is equivalent to. Each number unit equals 1.25 gallons of water. So multiply that number by 1.25 gallons.  For example, 3-A should be as effective as 3.75 gallons of water.

The number preceding the B indicates the area, in square feet that the extinguisher can handle or cover.  So 40-B means this extinguisher should extinguish a fire that is up to 40 feet by 40 feet in size.

We sincerely hope you will have no need to use your fire extinguisher this winter. Yet, if you do we hope you are prepared and remain unharmed. Your safety matters to us.

If you have questions about home, condo or renters insurance we are here to help. call us at 425-228-7406 or stop by our Renton insurance office.