How to use a fire extinguisher?

Fire extinguishers are not strictly a legal requirement in the workplace, however they are classed as firefighting equipment under the Fire Safety Order part 2-13, and are often stipulated by risk assessment and insurance companies as a requirement within a premise. Those who may have to use a fire extinguisher to extinguish a fire, rather than for escape, should have received appropriate fire safety training on how to properly use one.

Where fire extinguishers are used in an emergency to escape a premise, training is not required (this may be the case if a fire is present in a corridor for example and the extinguisher is used to control, subdue, or even extinguish the fire in order to escape).

Using the correct type of fire extinguisher is the most important consideration. The type of fire extinguisher to be used will depend on the kinds of fire present. Should the wrong extinguisher be used, it can have severe, life-threatening consequences.

In the event of a fire alarm, before fighting a fire, you should call the fire and rescue service (or the fire department) on 999 or 112 in the United Kingdom (or 911 in the United States).

How to use a water fire extinguisher (used for Class A fires)

  1. Make sure the fire does not involve electrics and is not near live electrical equipment unless using a water mist (deionised water) fire extinguisher and the voltage is less than 1,000 volts.
  2. If the fire is small and you are fully trained to extinguish a fire, stand at least 3 metres away with the appropriate extinguisher in hand.
  3. Break the tamperproof seal and pull the pin.
  4. Hold the operating lever in one hand and with the other, remove the discharge hose nozzle from its storage point. Hold the discharge hose 5cm from the nozzle.
  5. While holding the fire extinguisher, ensure it remains in the upright position.
  6. Face the fire extinguisher away from the fire, and gently squeeze the handle for a short sharp burst – this is to ensure it works.
  7. Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire (or back of the fire), gently squeeze the lever and then in a slow sweeping motion begin to sweep the nozzle from side to side across the fire.
  8. With the nozzle of the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire, discharge the extinguisher fully to ensure the fire has been extinguished.

How to use a foam fire extinguisher (for Class A and B fires)

  1. When approaching the fire, try to contain any flowing liquids.
  2. Make sure the fire does not involve electrics and is not near live electrical equipment, unless using a deionised water-based foam fire extinguisher and the voltage is less than 1,000 volts.
  3. If the fire is small and you are fully trained to extinguish a fire, stand at least 3 metres away with the appropriate extinguisher in hand.
  4. Break the tamperproof seal and pull the pin.
  5. Hold the operating lever in one hand and with the other, remove the discharge hose nozzle from its storage point. Hold the discharge hose 5cm from the nozzle.
  6. While holding the fire extinguisher, ensure it remains in the upright position.
  7. Face the fire extinguisher away from the fire, and gently squeeze the handle for a short sharp burst – this is to ensure it works.
  8. (I) For contained liquid fires:

Aim the nozzle at the side of the fire, and gently squeeze the lever and release the extinguishing agent across the fire.

(II) For uncontained liquid fires:

Aim the discharge hose over the fire and gently squeeze the lever; allow the foam to drop onto the fire; and in a slow sweeping motion move the discharge nozzle along the fire, making sure the nozzle is not aimed at the fire as it will spread the flames. Consider using a dry powder extinguisher if available first to help slow the spread and then the foam to prevent the reignition.

(III) For non-liquid fires:

Aim the discharge hose at the base of the fire (or back of the fire), gently squeeze the lever and then in a slow sweeping motion begin to sweep the nozzle from the back to the front of the fire and slowly work across it.

  1. Discharge the extinguisher fully to ensure the fire has been extinguished.
  2. Look for signs of reignition – if there are signs, leave the area by your nearest exit (or suitable evacuation path) and advise the fire and rescue service on their arrival.

How to use a CO2 fire extinguisher (used for Class B and electrical fires)

  1. Make sure you do not place your hands on the fire extinguisher horn during or after use, as the hose will give you a freeze burn to your hands.
  2. If the fire is small and you are fully trained to extinguish a fire, stand at least 1-3 metres from the fire with the appropriate extinguisher in hand.
  3. Break the tamperproof seal and pull the pin.
  4. Raise the horn so it is at a 90 angle to the fire extinguisher cylinder.
  5. Hold the operating lever with both hands.
  6. While holding the fire extinguisher, ensure it remains in the upright position.
  7. Face the fire extinguisher away from the fire, and gently squeeze the handle for a short sharp burst – this is to ensure it works.
  8. (I) For Class B fires:

Aim the discharge horn to the side at the base of the fire, gently squeeze the lever and then in a slow, sweeping motion begin to sweep the nozzle from side to side across the fire, working your way to the back.

(II) For electrical fires:

Aim the discharge horn at the fire and – if possible – turn off the electrics; then aim the discharge hose into the equipment vents or continue to aim at the fire. If the electrics have been switched off before tackling the fire, then aim the discharge horn into the equipment vents or directly at the fire.

  1. Discharge the extinguisher fully to ensure the fire has been extinguished.
  2. Look for signs of reignition – if there are signs, leave the area by your nearest exit (or a suitable evacuation path) and advise the fire and rescue service on their arrival.
  3. Be mindful when placing the used fire extinguisher down, as on a wet surface it will freeze the water and prevent you from moving it.

How to use a wet chemical fire extinguisher (used for Classes A, B and F fires)

  1. When approaching the fire, try to contain any flowing liquids.
  2. Make sure the fire does not involve electrics and is not near live electrical equipment.
  3. Providing it is a small fire, stand at least 3 metres away.
  4. Break the tamperproof seal and pull the pin.
  5. Hold the operating lever in one hand and with the other, remove the discharge hose nozzle from its storage point. Hold the discharge hose 5cm from the nozzle.
  6. While holding the fire extinguisher, ensure it remains in the upright position.
  7. Face the fire extinguisher away from the fire, and gently squeeze the handle for a short sharp burst – this is to ensure it works.
  8. Aim the discharge hose at the side of the fire and gently squeeze the lever to allow the potassium salts to spray a fine mist on to the burning oil or fat. The mist will react to this by creating a soapy film on the surface, and it will – on its own – work across the surface of the fire.
  9. Discharge the extinguisher fully to ensure the fire has been extinguished.
  10. Look for signs of reignition – if there are signs, leave the area by your nearest exit (or suitable evacuation path) and advise the fire and rescue service on their arrival.

How to use a dry powder fire extinguisher (used for Classes A, B, C and electrical fires)

  1. Stand at least 5-7 metres from the fire.
  2. Break the tamperproof seal and pull the pin.
  3. Hold the operating lever in one hand and with the other, remove the discharge hose nozzle from its storage point. Hold the discharge hose 5cm from the nozzle.
  4. While holding the fire extinguisher, ensure it remains in the upright position.
  5. Face the fire extinguisher away from the fire, and gently squeeze the handle for a short sharp burst – this is to ensure it works.
  6. Aim the discharge hose at the base (back) of the fire, gently squeeze the lever and then in a slow, sweeping motion begin to sweep the nozzle from back to front over the fire, and then slowly move across the fire.
  7. Discharge the extinguisher fully to ensure the fire has been extinguished.
  8. Look for signs of reignition – if there are signs, leave the area by your nearest exit (or suitable evacuation path) and advise the fire and rescue service on their arrival.

For uncontained liquid fires:

Aim the discharge hose over the fire and gently squeeze the lever; using a slow sweeping motion move the discharge nozzle along the fire. The powder will give a fast knock down of the flame but reignition could occur once the powder has settled so then use a foam extinguisher over the spill to prevent the reignition.

Dry powder extinguishers are generally not recommended for indoor use in some environments without first completing a Health and Safety risk assessment due to the powder aggravating some respiratory illnesses.

Tips

  • Never use a fire extinguisher to extinguish flames from a fire involving escaping gases.
  • Only tackle a fire in its very early stages.
  • Do not move forward unless it is safe to do so, but you must remain 1 metre from the fire.
  • Do not use more than one fire extinguisher to tackle a fire.

Find out more about our fire extinguisher training courses here and our fire warden training courses here.