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Fighting Small Fires
These devices can put out or contain small fires, but only if you know how to use them. Before even considering using a portable extinguisher, make sure you have access to a clear exit. Also ensure that you are using the right extinguisher for the type of fire you are trying to put out. Look for these symbols on the label:
Type A - Ordinary Combustibles
These include common household items such as paper, wood and cloth.
Type B - Flammable Liquids
Gasoline, cooking oils or fats, oil based paint and kerosene are just some of these.
Type C - Electrical Equipment
Wall outlets, power cords, small and large appliances, wiring and fuse boxes fall under this category.
Note: Never use a "Type A" extinguisher on flammable liquids. This is likely to spread the fire and make it worse, or splash burning liquid onto you.
P.A.S.S. - How to Use an Extinguisher
Here's a simple way to remember the steps to take when using a portable extinguisher. Start by standing 2 to 3 metres back from the fire and ensure that you have an open exit route behind you.
Then remember the word pass:
- Pull the pin. The pin is there as a safeguard and locks the handle. Pulling it out enables it for use.
- Aim low. The hose or nozzle should be pointed at the base of the fire to best put it out.
- Squeeze the lever above the handle. This will shoot the extinguishing substance from the hose or nozzle. Keep in mind that the most small extinguishers hold only 8 to 10 seconds worth of extinguishing power.
- Sweep from side to side. As you move slowly toward the fire, keep the hose or nozzle aimed at the base of the fire. If the flames appear to be out, release the handle and watch closely. If the fire ignites again, repeat the process.
- Before you use an extinguisher to fight small fires, make sure everyone else has left the area and that firefighters have been called using 911.
- Call your fire department to inspect the fire area, even if you are sure you have extinguished the fire.
- Once a month, inspect your extinguisher for damage and make sure it is properly charged (see manufacturer's instructions for details).
- If you use an extinguisher, it must be recharged by a professional. If it is a disposable unit, throw it out.