How do I select which fire extinguisher?

Question

Does it matter which type of fire extinguisher I choose?

Answer

There are different types of portable fire extinguishers available in Australia. Each type of extinguisher may be rated for one or more classes of fire. In some cases, particular extinguishers are not only considered ineffective against certain classes of fire, they can be dangerous if used in those circumstances.

Classes of fire

Types of fires that can occur can be categorised in these six classes:

Class A – Combustible materials, such as rubbish, clothing, wood and papers.
Class B – Flammable liquids, such as petrol, grease and cleaning alcohols.
Class C – Flammable gases, such as LPG, BBQ gas, natural gas and acetylene.
Class D – Flammable metals, such as metal shavings.
Class E – Electrical fires, such as power equipment, fuse boxes and computers.
Class F – Cooking oils and fats, such as butter, dripping and olive oil.

Fire extinguisher type

Family First specialise in dry powder fire extinguishers, suitable for class A, B, C and E fires. This makes them ideal for most fire situations that would typically occur in the home and office.

For cooking oil and fat fires (class F fires), a fire blanket must be used and not a fire extinguisher. The pressurised force from a fire extinguisher onto burning oil and fat could blow and spread it and make it worse.

Class D fires, which require special powder extinguishers (not dry powder), would not typically occur in a home environment.

Fire extinguisher sizes

Portable fire extinguishers come in a range of sizes and ratings, and the higher the rating, the larger the fire it can be used on. However, larger and heavier extinguishers (which generally have higher ratings) can be more difficult to handle, especially for persons of a lighter build.

It is strongly recommended that the extinguisher you buy is approved by Standards Australia. The range by Family First meet this standard.