The 7 Fire Extinguisher Types and When to Use Them

Posted on: 6 June 2018

It isn't without reason that handheld fire extinguishers can be found almost everywhere in Australia. They provide us with an extra level of safety in places like busses, boats, and buildings, if you know where to look. However, with such a large variety of fire extinguisher specialisations, it's unfortunate that they must be read to be understood, which can be a pain in an emergency situation. Of course, this is unless you know the standard Australian colour-coding scheme (AS/NZS).

Under the specifications of the AS/NZS, all extinguishers are painted signal red, and have a thick coloured band circumventing the top portion of the extinguisher; a portion of at least ten percent of the extinguisher's surface, so you can't miss it. These band colours of extinguishers, their respective contents, and the class or classes of fire they are ideal against are:

  • Signal red (the same colour as the rest of the extinguisher): Water - Fire class A
  • Oatmeal (brown): Wet chemical - Fire classes A and F
  • Ultramarine Blue: Foam - Fire classes A and B
  • White: Dry chemical - Fire classes A, B, C, and E
  • Lime Green: Dry powder - Fire class D
  • Black: Carbon dioxide - Fire classes B and E
  • Golden Yellow: Vaporizing liquid - Fire classes A, B, and E

In addition, below are the Australian fire classes referenced above:

Class A: Combustible Material Fires

These include commonly combustible materials like wood, rubbish, cardboard, paper, and fabrics.

Class B: Flammable Liquid Fires

These liquids include almost all common flammable liquids, such as petrol and industrial chemicals. Do not use a solid stream of water against this type of fire, as it will simply cause the fuel, and hence the flame, to spread.

Class C: Flammable Gas Fires

These include fires caused by common gasses such as natural gas. Do not use a solid stream of water to combat this fire, for the same reasons above.

Class D: Flammable Metal Fires

These include uncommon outside of industrial settings, flammable metals include lithium, potassium, group 4 elements, etc.

Class E: Electrical Fires

Special consideration is necessary for electrical fires, which are fires involving potentially energized or live electrical equipment. In fast-paced emergencies like those involving fire, it's easy to forget that water conducts electricity.

Class F: Cooking Oil and Fat Fires

The deceptive and dangerous kitchen fire shouldn't be combated with water. This water can potentially sink below the oils and/or fats, before being vaporized (or boiled) by the high temperature of said oil, vaporization that will then eject the flammable oils/fats above it, kind of like a cannon of fire. 


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