Fire extinguishers in the home

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A fire breaking out in the home can put you, your home and your loved ones in danger. Having the right fire extinguisher and fire blanket and knowing how to use them are an important component of a home fire safety plan.

A neglected candle, a faulty power board or an accidental oil spill on a stovetop flame - many things can spark a fire at home. Along with regularly checking that your fire alarm is working and being aware of safety procedures to avoid a house fire such as switching off electrical appliances when not in use and never leaving open flames unattendedi, it's essential that you and your family members know what to do if one occursii. Not only should you discuss a fire escape plan and meeting checkpoint, a fire extinguisher and fire blanket should be available.

If a fire starts that you think is beyond your control, or you are unsure whether you can prevent it from spreading quickly without jeopardising your safety, do not attempt to put it out. Instead, close the door to contain the fire, evacuate the premises, ring emergency services on 000iii, and wait for the fire and rescue service to arrive.

A fire extinguisher and fire blanket should be available in the event of an emergency.

Types of fires

Before attempting to put out or control a fire, it's crucial that you know the source. This is because using the wrong type of fire extinguisher could have disastrous effects and fuel the fire further, putting yourself and your family at risk of harmiv.

These are the classifications for different types of firesiv,v, with Class A, B, (E) and F being the most common types of household firesvi.

Class Cause Flammable material examples
A Carbon-based materials Wood, paper, cloth, rubber, plastics, textiles, grass and coal.
B Flammable or combustible liquids Petrol, kerosene, oil, tar, paint and wax.
C Combustible gases Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), butane, propane, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and acetylene.
D Combustible metals Sodium, potassium, magnesium and aluminium shavings.
(E) Electrical fires are usually considered 'class (E)'. Electricity is a source of heat in itself and it can cause electrocution. Toasters, hairdryers, microwaves, electrical stoves, ovens, hair straighteners, electric blankets.
F Cooking oils and fats Lard and vegetable oils.

Table: Fire classes and flammable material examplesiv,v

Types of extinguishers

It is important that each class of fire be dealt with using the correct type of extinguisher. These can be identified by the band of colour marked on the extinguisherv.

Type of extinguisher Colour Class of fire
Water No band, all red A
Foam Blue A, B
Dry Chemical Powder White A, B, (E)
Carbon dioxide Black B, (E)
Vaporising liquid Yellow A, B, (E)
Wet chemical Oatmeal A, F

Table: Extinguisher types and identification

A good choice for the home is the Dry Chemical Powder A, B, (E) fire extinguisher, which has a white bandv,iv. The Dry Chemical Powder extinguisher is recommended for households because it can put out the many common home fires, such as ones started by candles and faulty electrical goods. The extinguisher uses a powdery substance that deprives the fire of a fuel source by absorbing the fuel moleculesvii.

Your fire extinguisher should be put in a convenient and accessible place in your home that is close to, but not within, areas that are at risk of catching fire such as the kitchen or living roomvii.

How to use a fire extinguisher

While extinguishers are generally easy to operate, you should only use a fire extinguisher if you know how and if you are not putting the safety of yourself or anyone else at risk. The 'how to use' instructions are generally listed on the extinguisher label, but you should make sure that you are familiar with these beforehand because you are unlikely to have the time or calmness required to do so once a fire has started. An easy acronym to remember, in order to use the fire extinguisher, is PASSv:

If your attempt to use the fire extinguisher is unsuccessful you should vacate the room, shut the door, leave the premises and call 000.

A neglected candle, a faulty power board or an oil spill on an open flame in the kitchen - many things can spark a fire in the home.

Fire blankets

Another recommended safety item for the household is a fire blanket. They're useful in the kitchen for fires that are caused by oils or fats (class F fires) and can also be used on a person's clothing that has caught aflameviii. They are made from woven glass fibre and can be used to smother a small fire by cutting off its oxygen supplyviii. Since they are primarily used for kitchen fires, it is best to place a fire blanket at the entrance of the kitchen.

In order to use a fire blanket safely, you must hold it in front of you with the fabric rolled back to cover your hands. Before placing the blanket over the fire, make sure that it is shielding your body, hands and face from the fire. Then, cover the fire completely so that oxygen is unable to reach the fire - do not throw the blanket. Safely turn off the heat source and leave the blanket covering the fire for at least fifteen minutes so that the flammable liquid may cool down. Call 000 if you have not already done soviii.

iFire & Rescue NSW 2012, Home fire safety checklist, viewed 10 September 2014,

iiFire & Rescue NSW 2011, Festive season fire safety, viewed 10 September 2014,

iiiSouth Australian Metropolitan Fire Service 2012, Fire Extinguishers, viewed 10 September 2014,

ivStandards Australia, AS 2444-2001 Portable fire extinguishers and fire blankets - Selection and location, viewed 13 November 2014,, page 26

vQueensland Fire and Emergency Services 2014, Information Sheet - Fire Extinguishers, viewed 10 September 2014,

viSouth Australian Country Fire Service, Common Causes of Fire, viewed 10 September 2014,

viiStandards Australia 2001, Australian Standard Portable fire extinguishers and fire blankets - Selection and location (AS 2444) , viewed 10 September 2014,

viiiQueensland Fire and Emergency Services 2014, Information Sheet - Fire Blankets, viewed 10 September 2014,