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What are the different types of fire extinguisher colours?

Jul 25, 2020 | Fire

When it comes to fire extinguishers, having the right type for your business or property is vital. Knowing what to use depending on the type of fire is equally as important.

Fire extinguishers are designed to tackle specific types or ‘classes’ of fires so it’s important to find out which one you are most at risk to and which fire extinguisher would be the safest and most effective to use depending on your situation. 

Below, we aim to explain everything you need to know about the different types of fire extinguishers, and answer questions like ‘which extinguisher should you use on a burning chip pan?’ or ‘what type of fire extinguisher has a yellow label?

Read on for our helpful ‘all you need to know’ fire extinguisher guide.

Classes of Fire

There are six different classes of fire which are categorised by which substances they involve. It is the presence of these substances in your business premises that help you to decipher which types of extinguisher you need, and in which areas of your property they need to be: 

  • Class A – fires involving solid materials such as wood, paper or textiles. 
  • Class B – fires involving flammable liquids such as petrol, diesel or oils. 
  • Class C – fires involving flammable gases such as butane, propane or methane. 
  • Class D – fires involving burning metals. 
  • Class E (Electrical) – fires involving live electrical apparatus. This is indicated by an electrical bolt and not an ‘E’. 
  • Class F – fires involving cooking oils such as in deep-fat fryers (chip pans).  

Here in the UK, fire extinguishers must adhere to the BS EN3 Standard, which specifies that their body is red – a familiar trope of traditional extinguishers. The differing types of extinguishers are then told apart by their individual coloured band, which indicates what agent they contain. 

Fire Extinguisher Types and Uses 

 

All types of fire extinguisher colours should be stored by the exit close to the source of the fire risk.

 

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Water Mist Extinguishers

 

Water extinguishers tend to be the most common extinguishers found in businesses. They are suited to tackle Class A fires and distribute water at an extremely high pressure to extinguish flames. The colour label for water extinguishers is bright red and they also tend to be the least expensive, easiest to maintain and least hazardous of all fire extinguishers. They are best placed next to fire exits on floors that have been deemed a Class A fire risk during your latest risk assessment. 

Water Fire Extinguisher

What types of businesses need a water fire extinguisher?

They are often found in retail premises, shops, offices, hotels, hospitals, schools, warehouses and domestic properties. 

 

How do water extinguishers work?

Water extinguishers operate through using a jet nozzle or spray where the high-pressure water pours out and has a cooling effect on the fire’s fuel. This takes away the ability for the fire to keep burning and ultimately puts the flames out of the affected area. 

 

What you shouldn’t use a water extinguisher on?

Water fire extinguishers should not be used for the following types of fire: 

  • Kitchen fires with burning fat or oil 
  • Fires caused by flammable liquids, gas or metals 
  • Fires that involve electric equipment

 

Foam Fire Extinguishers

  A foam extinguisher is most commonly used for Class B fires and is a fire extinguisher with a cream label. Due to the fact that these fire extinguishers are water-based, they can also be used on Class A fires. They tend to be more expensive than Class A extinguishers and should be stored at exit points where a Class B (or A) fire risk has been recognised.
Foam Fire Extinguisher

What types of businesses need a foam fire extinguisher?

You might be a business owner who is wondering which fire extinguisher to use for flammable liquids? Well, foam extinguishers are required in buildings where flammable liquid is stored and held, alongside buildings where organic materials are found. Some examples include distilleries, shops, schools and hospitals.

 

What are cream label fire extinguishers used for?

Foam extinguishers work by creating a cooling effect on the fuel that causes the fire, alike water extinguishers. Yet, when used on burning liquids, the foaming agent in the extinguisher (AFF Foam) creates a barrier between the flames of the fire and the fuel, which puts the fire out.

 

What you shouldn’t use a foam extinguisher on?

A cream extinguisher should not be used for the following fires:

  • Fires caused by burning oil or fat (kitchen fires) 
  • Fires that involve electrical equipment 
  • Fires caused by flammable metals 

 

Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers

 

Commonly known as ABC extinguishers, dry powder extinguishers are a good multi-purpose choice and can be used on Class A, B or C fire scenarios. It’s important to note that this type of extinguisher should never be used in an enclosed space as the powder is harmful and can be easily inhaled, plus the fact it’s difficult to clean once used!

Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher

What colour is the Dry Powder fire extinguisher?

Well, a dry powder extinguisher has a blue label and is the best fire extinguisher for fabrics. They can also be used for fires involving electronic equipment, although they do not cool the fire so it can potentially re-ignite. Specialised dry powder extinguishers (L2 & M28) can put out combustible metal fires (like titanium), as they form a crust that stops the fire spreading.

 

What types of businesses need a dry powder fire extinguisher?

As powder extinguishers shouldn’t be used inside buildings, the types of businesses it is recommended a blue fire extinguisher is used for are car garages, LPG dispensing plants, welders and businesses who have large boiler rooms.

 

How do dry powder extinguishers work?

This extinguisher separates the fuel of the fire from the oxygen element thus causing the fire to cease.

 

What you shouldn’t use a blue extinguisher for

Dry powder extinguishers shouldn’t be used for:

  • Kitchen fires with cooking oil 
  • Fires that are indoors (unless absolutely necessary) 

 

CO2 Fire Extinguishers

 

CO2 extinguishers are ideal for places with a lot of electrical equipment, as they can stop electrical fires. CO2 extinguisher use can vary but you will likely find a CO2 extinguisher in office blocks and computer server rooms because they are the safest to use here.

A CO2 fire extinguisher has a black label and can also be used on fires caused by flammable liquids such as petrol. They tend to be more expensive than other fire extinguishers and don’t always offer post-fire security because the CO2 will disappear, and a fire can re-ignite.

CO2 Fire Extinguisher

What type of businesses need a CO2 extinguisher?

Businesses with lots of electrical equipment can benefit from a CO2 extinguisher, for example, big server rooms, office blocks or technology shops.

 

How do CO2 extinguishers work?

CO2 extinguishers work by smothering the fire, cutting off the supply of oxygen that allows it to burn. They don’t cause damage to the electrical items or cause the items to short circuit; however, they can asphyxiate in confined spaces.

 

What you shouldn’t use a CO2 extinguisher on?

A carbon dioxide fire extinguisher shouldn’t be used on the following fires:

  • Burning metals 
  • Kitchen fires 
  • Fires caused by materials 

 

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers

  Wet Chemical fire extinguishers are the ONLY suitable extinguishers to be used on Class F fires, so think F for ‘frying pan’ or remember this one as the chip pan fire extinguisher. These fires include the likes of cooking oils and fats such as lard, olive oil and butter. They have a yellow label and are very effective when used correctly, plus they can also be used on Class A fires.
Wet Chemical Fire Extinguisher

What type of businesses need a wet chemical extinguisher?

Wet chemical extinguishers should be used in businesses such as commercial kitchens, restaurants and cafes.

 

How do wet chemical extinguishers work?

The chemical contained within the fire extinguisher is potassium and it exits the extinguisher as a fine mist. This mist cools the flames on the burning oil and chemically reacts to form a soap and water like solution, sealing the surface and preventing re-ignition.

 

What you shouldn’t use a wet chemical extinguisher on?

Don’t use a wet chemical extinguisher if:

  • It’s a fire involving liquids or gasses
  • The fire has electrical items
  • It’s a combustible metal fire

Fire Extinguisher Commissioning

Your fire extinguisher doesn’t adhere to the UK fire extinguisher legislation until it has been commissioned. This means any fire extinguisher you have must be thoroughly checked and approved as fit for use by an experienced professional. There are several things that must be deemed safe for use and commissioning means checking that extinguishers are:
  • without damage
  • the correct weight and pressure
  • hoses and horns are attached
  • installed properly
Once you’ve had your fire extinguishers checked by a professional, like us here at Timar, you will receive a certificate verifying that they have been commissioned in line with UK regulations.  

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

When it comes to looking after your fire extinguishers, there are typical questions that arise such as how do you clean fire extinguisher powder and how often should I be getting my fire extinguishers serviced?

Professional fire extinguisher servicing and maintenance is an essential part of any fire protection system.

A service should be carried out once a year by a competent person to ensure that your extinguishers are up to standard. This service includes checking for corrosion, partial or complete discharge and a general once over of the weight and pressure of your extinguishers.

All extinguishers are recommended to be replaced every 10 years, and for water, foam, powder and wet chemical extinguishers, every 5 years a detailed examination is required.

 

Types of Fire Extinguisher – Conclusion

By now you should have a good understanding of the various types of extinguishers and what they are used from. Hopefully we’ve answered the question “which extinguisher is suitable for all fire risks?” And have provided a good starting insight as to what your considerations should be for your facility.

At Timar, we offer the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of detection and fire alarms, including fire extinguishers, for a wide range of businesses from pubs and universities to schools and churches in Essex, London and Surrounding areas.

If you’re in need of some advice regarding fire extinguishers or other Fire or Security solutions, you can book a no-obligation survey and quotation by calling us today on 01268 857080.

Alternatively you can fill out the form on our web page and we will be more happy to help with your query.

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