Fire and Fire Extinguisher FAQs

What does a fire need to begin?

Fire is a chemical reaction involving rapid burning of fuel. It needs three elements to occur.

  • Oxygen
  • Fuel - Any combustible material that will burn
  • Heat - Energy necessary to increase the temperature

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Can I use any fire extinguisher to put out a fire?

No. Fires and fire extinguishers are categorized into different classifications. Use:

  • Class A Fire Extinguisher for Class A Fires - Wood, Plastic, Paper and Rags
  • Class B Fire Extinguisher for Class B Fires - Gas, Oil, Grease and Paint
  • Class C Fire Extinguisher for Class C Fires - Electrical Equipment
  • Class D Fire Extinguisher for Class D Fires - Combustible Materials
  • Class K Fire Extinguisher for Class K Fires - Cooking Fats in Commercial Cooking Equipment

Some fire extinguishers are marked with multiple ratings such as AB, BC and ABC. These extinguishers are capable of putting out more than one class of fire.

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How large of a fire can I put out with a fire extinguisher?

This depends on the size of the fire extinguisher that is available and if it is used correctly. It is very important to remember that fire extinguishers run out quickly.

  • If you have a 10 pound fire extinguisher it can put out a fire approximately 3'x3' in size.
  • If you have a 30 pound fire extinguisher it can put out a fire approximately 5'x5' in size.

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How do I use a fire extinguisher?

Use the PASS system

  • Pull - Pull the pin! This will allow you to discharge the extinguisher.
  • Aim - Aim at the base of the fire! If you aim at the flames, the fire will roll back toward you. The extinguishing agent will fly right through the fire and will not extinguish the flames.
  • Squeeze - Squeeze the top handle or lever. This will depress the button that releases the pressurized extinguishing agent in the extinguisher.
  • Sweep - Sweep from side to side until the fire is out. This will allow the fire not to spread out to the side.

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How do I ensure my fire extinguisher is good?

Check the plastic seal holding the pin in the extinguishing handle to ensure it has not been tampered with or used before.

Look at the pressure gauge on the top of the extinguisher to make sure the needle is in the green area. If it is, the extinguisher is fully charged and okay to use. If it is in the red area labeled recharge, do not use, your extinguisher needs to be recharged. If it is in the red area labeled overcharge, use caution because there is excessive pressure inside the extinguisher and it may be difficult to use.

Lift to feel the weight of the extinguisher. Is it full? The extinguishing agent should move freely inside the extinguisher when tipped upside down. If it doesn't, gently tap the extinguisher on a hard surface to dislodge the agent. Check to see if the agent is moving freely. If not, continue this process until it is released.

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What should I do if I discover a small fire?

Call 911 to report the fire so they can dispatch help.

You may attempt to put out the fire if:

  • The fire is in the incipient stage (has not spread beyond it's starting point).
  • You have been previously trained on how to properly use a fire extinguisher.
  • You feel comfortable using the fire extinguisher.
  • You have an escape exit.

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When should I NOT put out a fire?

Never fight a fire if:

  • The fire is spreading beyond the spot of origin.
  • You can't fight the fire with your back to an escape exit.
  • You don't have adequate fire equipment (the right type of extinguisher for the fire you are fighting).
  • You have not been trained on how to use a fire extinguisher.
  • You don't know what is burning. There may be something in the fire that may explode or produce toxic smoke.

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What are some rules I should remember about fires?

  • Make sure you call 911 for help BEFORE you attempt to put out the fire.
  • Be certain that you will not endanger yourself or others when attempting to put out a fire.
  • The time to use a fire extinguisher is in the incipient stage of a fire.
  • If the fire is spreading quickly, it is best to simply evacuate the building, closing doors and windows behind you as you leave.
  • If you don't have the correct type or large enough fire extinguisher, it is best not to try to fight a fire.

Always remember: If in doubt, evacuate!

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Contact Information

Cathleen Eldridge, Associate Director
Office: Sibley Hall 421
Phone: 564-5009
Fax: 564-5082
Email: eldridcm@plattsburgh.edu