Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are your best bet IF you are on the spot when a fire starts and are experienced with it.

I was fortunate to attend damage control school in the Navy and learned the proper way to fight a fire. Fire is a very dangerous beast and can kill you quickly if not managed properly.

The very first thing you should do is GET OUT and make sure your family is safe.

As soon as everyone is safe, you can decide to fight the fire or wait for the fire department to get there.

In the early ‘80s, we had a kitchen fire in a rural house. We were in the back yard when the alarm went off. I decided to fight the fire as we lived 30 minutes from the fire department.

We had in the garage and the kitchen pantry. I used two 10 pound ABC dry chemical units and an 8 ½ pound ABC unit to squelch the fire.

There was tremendous smoke damage, but no structural damage.

The fire department did not arrive for almost forty five minutes after the call. If I had not acted quickly, the house would have burned to the ground as it was a two story wood frame structure.

Okay, enough of the trip down memory lane.

The bottom line is HOW PREPARED ARE YOU?

Let’s talk briefly about the different ratings of fire extinguishers.

CLASS A fires are the most common type of fires. They consist of ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber and plastics. Only a Class A fire can be put out with water.

CLASS B fires are flammable liquids, gases and greases.

CLASS C fires are energized electrical equipment or wiring also called “electrical fires”.

CLASS D fires are combustible metals. Examples of these metals are magnesium, titanium, sodium, potassium, zinc and powered aluminum. These materials burn extremely hot and require a special extinguishing agent.

Fire extinguishers are available in the following variations: Class A; Class BC; Class ABC; Class D and many specialized ones.

The ABC fire extinguisher is the most common and the most versatile for fighting fires in the home.

How to use a fire extinguisher?

Get training. Nothing compares to experience with an actual fire.

The basic rule is P-A-S-S (Pull – Aim – Squeeze – Sweep);

PULL the pin;

AIM Low, point the nozzle at the base of the fire;

SQUEEZE the handle, start at a distance of about 8 feet; and

SWEEP from side to side until the fire is OUT.

The following is one example of how many fire extinguishers a home should have:

  • A 10 pound ABC. Ours is in the garage attached on the wall next to the door going into the house;
  • A 3 pound BC unit. Our unit is under the kitchen sink. No, it is not mixed in with all the stuff under the sink. It is attached to the front right side of the cabinet. That way it is always up front.
  • A 17 pound BC unit. We have that one in the pantry next to the back door.
  • A 10 pound Halon 1211 unit. This one is good to have handy in your home office near for your computer equipment.

Halon is recommended for BC types of fires. It is a colorless, odorless gas that displaces the oxygen in the air used primarily on computer equipment without leaving any residue.

  • A second 10 pound ABC. It is near the garage door that is easily accessible for any problems in the garage or near the entrance to the garage. If I’m welding outside, I keep the unit near my work area.

Why five extinguishers?
We have experienced several fires and know first hand that you only have seconds to act.

Your family’s safety is the most important thing. Memorabilia, family photo albums and other family history may be hard to replace, but no where as important as a family member.

Contact your local fire department to see if they offer a basic class in fire fighting for the home owner. The fire department can also make recommendations specific for your needs.

NEVER test an extinguisher!

The contents are a powder and will not re-seal itself. Instead, read the pressure gauge. It will tell you if the unit is charged.

DO flip the unit upside down and then back right side up every six months to make sure the contents are not packed in the bottom.

A fire extinguisher is not cheap, but if it can help save one life?

BE CAREFUL AND BE SAFE!

Dave Altman
 

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