Emergency Services / Fire Marshal

Guidelines for Fire Extinguishers and Their Use

Used properly, a portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by extinguishing a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives. Portable fire extinguishers, however, are not designed to fight large or spreading fires.

Reactions to a fire can determine whether or not the incident is controlled. Following established procedures is critical to saving lives and property. It is important that employees learn appropriate emergency procedures.

Before deciding to fight a fire follow RACE:

  • Rescue anyone in immediate danger and remove the person to a safe area;
  • Activate the building fire alarm, then call 911 or 9-911 from a safe location and report the fire;
  • Confine the fire by closing all doors;
  • Evacuate if the fire is spreading beyond the point of origin or the fire could block your exit or you are not sure how to use an extinguisher;
  • Extinguish the fire if you have activated the fire alarm and closed doors, the fire is small and contained, you have a clear exit from the fire and you have been trained on the proper use of an extinguisher within the last year.

Remember -- fire spreads quickly. If you cannot extinguish it in 30 seconds, get yourself out.

To chose the proper extinguisher:

  • For ordinary fires involving solids such as wood, paper, and cloth, choose a water or dry chemical extinguisher with a label that says Class A. Do not use water on flammable liquid or electrical fires.
  • For fires involving flammable liquids, choose a dry chemical or carbon dioxide extinguisher with a label that says Class B. Never use a water extinguisher.
  • For fires involving active electrical equipment, choose a dry chemical or carbon dioxide extinguisher with a label that says Class C. Never use a water extinguisher.
  • For fires involving metals, chose a graphite extinguisher with label that says Class D or use sand. Never use an A, B, or C extinguisher on this type of fire.
  • For fires involving cooking equipment such as deep fat fryer chose a wet chemical extinguisher with a label that says Class K. Never use a water extinguisher.

To use an extinguisher

Remember the acronym PASS, keep a clear exit behind you and stand 6-8 feet away from the fire.

  • Pull the pin to activate the handle.
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire
  • Squeeze the handle to expel the extinguishing agent. (When the agent first hits the fire, the fire may briefly flare up. This should be expected.)
  • Sweep the extinguishing agent from side to side pushing the fire away from you. Discharge the entire contents of the extinguisher.

Once the fire is out, the user should carefully back away from the fire with the extinguisher ready until the user is safe. Never turn your back on fire as it could flare back up.

When to Fight a Fire

The only time a fire extinguisher should be used to fight a fire is when the fire department has been notified, there is a clear exit behind the person using the extinguisher and the fire is small, self-contained, and not spreading rapidly.

Never Fight a Fire

Never attempt to extinguish a fire with a fire extinguisher until after the fire alarm has been activated and occupants are evacuating the building.

If the fire is spreading beyond the point where it started.

If you don’t know what is burning – then you won’t know what type of fire extinguisher to use.

If there is not an escape exit behind the person attempting to fight the fire.

If the fire can block the only exit.

If you might inhale toxic smoke.

If the individual is not thoroughly familiar with effective fire extinguisher use.

If the available fire extinguisher is not rated for the type of fire being fought.

If your instincts tell you not to. If you are uncomfortable with the situation for any reason, get out and let the fire department fight the fire.

If you have any questions or if you’d like to schedule extinguisher training, call the Denton County Fire Marshal’s Office at (940) 349-2840.