Fire Extinguisher 101: Understanding the Basics and How to Use Them

In emergency situations, a fire extinguisher can be a lifesaver. However, it’s essential to have a good understanding of the basics and know how to use one effectively. In this Fire Extinguisher 101 guide, we will delve into the fundamentals of fire extinguishers, including their types, components, and proper usage techniques. Additionally, we will highlight the importance of recognizing when should be a fire extinguisher not used in confined spaces to ensure the safety of individuals.

Types of Fire Extinguishers:

Fire extinguishers are classified based on the type of fires they are designed to combat. Understanding the various types is crucial for selecting the right extinguisher for a specific fire scenario. The most common types include:

Class A Fire Extinguishers: Suitable for fires involving ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, and cloth.

Class B Fire Extinguishers: Designed to extinguish flammable liquid fires, including gasoline, oil, and grease.

Class C Fire Extinguishers: Intended for fires caused by energized electrical equipment. They are non-conductive and safe to use in electrical fires.

Class D Fire Extinguishers: Specifically designed for fires involving combustible metals like magnesium, sodium, and titanium. These are typically found in specialized environments.

Class K Fire Extinguishers: Primarily used in commercial kitchens to tackle fires caused by cooking oils and fats.

Components of a Fire Extinguisher:

To effectively use a fire extinguisher, it’s important to be familiar with its components:

Cylinder: The main body of the extinguisher that contains the extinguishing agent.

Nozzle or Hose: The outlet through which the extinguishing agent is expelled.

Pressure Gauge: Indicates the pressure level within the extinguisher.

Safety Pin: A removable pin that prevents accidental discharge.

Handle and Lever: Used to operate the extinguisher.

Using a Fire Extinguisher:

When faced with a fire, following the proper technique is crucial for extinguishing it safely. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use a fire extinguisher effectively:

Assess the fire: Evaluate the fire’s size and type. If the fire is too large, spreading rapidly, or if it poses a threat to personal safety, evacuate the area immediately and call emergency services.

Retrieve the fire extinguisher: Ensure you have easy access to a fire extinguisher. Remember, fire extinguishers should be stored in visible and easily accessible locations.

P.A.S.S. Technique: The P.A.S.S. acronym provides a useful memory aid for using a fire extinguisher:

Pull the safety pin: Remove the pin to unlock the extinguisher.

Aim at the base of the fire: Direct the nozzle or hose at the fire’s base, not the flames.

Squeeze the handle: Firmly squeeze the handle to discharge the extinguishing agent.

Sweep from side to side: Move the extinguisher in a sweeping motion, covering the entire area of the fire’s base.

Fire Extinguisher Not Used in Confined Spaces:

It is important to note that certain fire extinguishers should not be used in confined spaces due to potential risks. For instance, carbon dioxide (CO2) fire extinguishers, often used for Class B and Class C fires, displace oxygen and can lead to asphyxiation if used in enclosed areas. Therefore, it is crucial to identify alternative extinguishing agents for confined spaces, such as dry chemical extinguishers, which do not deplete oxygen levels.


Knowing the basics of fire extinguishers and understanding how to use them properly can make a significant difference during an emergency situation. By familiarizing yourself with the types of fire extinguishers and their intended uses, as well as the fundamental components of an extinguisher, you can act swiftly and effectively in suppressing small fires. Remember to always assess the fire’s size and type before attempting to extinguish it, and never hesitate to evacuate and call emergency services if the situation becomes unmanageable. Lastly, keep in mind that certain fire extinguishers should not be used in confined spaces to ensure the safety of everyone involved. With the right knowledge and preparedness, you can play an active role in fire prevention and safety within your surroundings.