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putting out fires

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Can a small fire typically be put out with a water-hose if you get to it well before it gets large?
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Fire Extinguisher Basics

This is what we teach our CERT volunteers regarding fire extinguishers:

DO NOT FIGHT A FIRE IF - You don't know what is burning!

Wrong extinguisher can make things worse
Risk of toxic fumes, explosion hazards
Note presence of NFPA labels and placards!

Class A - "Ordinary" combustibles
such as paper, wood, rubber, plastics textiles.

Works by cooling. Numerical rating indicates amount of agent, duration, and rate of discharge on test fires. Area of Class A fire which a "non-expert" can extinguish, with proper training

1-A is equivalent on Class-A fire to five liters of water.
2-A contains has twice as much extinguishing agent.

Class B - "Flammable liquids"
Oil, gasoline, solvents

Works by blanketing the fuel. Interrupts chemical reaction at fuel surface.
Class B ratings signify the area in square feet of flammable liquid fire a unit will extinguish when used, by a trained, "non-expert."

Class C - "Energized Circuits"
Electrical equipment and computers

Class "C" units have no numerical rating.

Class "C" rating implies no capacity, but only indicates that the extinguishing agent is non-conductive, safe on energized equipment. Works by displacing oxygen, smothering fire.

Portable Fire Extinguishers

Capacity - 1.5 to 25 lbs. of extinguishing agent
Range - Typically 3 to 15 feet
Duration - Discharge their contents in only 5 to 30 seconds!

Common types:

Class A - Air-Pressured Water (APW)
Water + CO2 propellant
ONLY for Class A fires, wood / paper, etc.
Spreads burning liquids!
DANGER of electric shock if used on on live circuits!

Class B or ABC Multi-rated DRY CHEMICAL
Best for general use. Reduced risk of re-ignition
A 10 lb. unit empties in 8-10 secs. Effective range of 6 ft. to 15 ft.

Class BC - CO2
Best on burning liquids / electrical
SHORT range - 3 to 8 ft.
10- pound unit empties in 5 to 10 seconds!
Use short spurts! DISPERSES QUICKLY!
Continue applying after the fire is out!
Unit gets VERY cold - hold properly

Class BC - Halon
Best for computers / electronics
Weight-for-weight TWICE as effective as C02
No residue, easy clean-up
VERY SHORT range, 3 to 6 ft.
Like C02, Discharges QUICKLY!
Like C02, Disperses QUICKLY!
Continue discharge after flames are extinguished

Vehicle Fires Usually Start In the:
Electrical shorts under dash, often caused by improperly installed (unauthorized ) accessories
Discarded cigarettes igniting trash or upholstery

Fuel or oil system leaks onto hot engine
Pre-trip inspection, and proper maintenance

If a motor vehicle catches fire during operation:

PULL ENTIRELY OFF THE ROAD - Into a paved parking lot, or open field
NEVER into a gas station!



TURN OFF THE IGNITION! - Stops flow of current to equipment
EXIT THE CAB! - Identify the source of smoke or fire

1) You know what is burning, and fire is small / contained.
2) Extinguisher is available and you have been trained
3) Fire Department has been called, and you can fight the fire from outside
of the cab or with your back to a clear exit.


TURN OFF THE IGNITION! - Stops flow of current to equipment

EXIT THE CAB! - Identify the source of smoke or fire

DO NOT OPEN THE HOOD! - (air intensifies fire!)

KEEP BYSTANDERS AWAY! - until the Fire Department arrives
100 feet in front of or behind vehicle, stay away from vehicle sides, exploding tire hazard!


Upon discovering burning odor or smoke:

Call 911 First!
Disconnect Equipment
Remove combustibles, if you can do so without danger to yourself
Notify Building Security

Remove persons in immediate danger!
Ensure doors are closed! (confine fire/smoke)
Activate the building alarm !
Call the Fire Department !
Treat ALL fires as DANGEROUS!

Continue a complete building evacuation.

Do not attempt to fight a fire UNLESS you are trained

Building is being evacuated (Fire alarm has been pulled)

Fire Department has been called (Dial 911!)

Fire is NOT spreading (small and contained)

EXIT IS CLEAR (fight fire with your back to an exit )

Proper extinguisher is at hand, and...

You have been trained and know how to use it!

You use "Buddy System" - have someone back you up!
Get assistance BEFORE trying to fight a fire!

Remember the P(t)ASS word:
Keep your back to an unobstructed exit,
Stand at least 6 to 8 feet from the fire, then:

PULL the pin
(Test ONLY upon your approach to the fire)
Otherwise the powder extinguishing agent may clog the nozzle if unit is squeezed and released.

LOW at the base of the fire

the trigger / lever

Discharge cone or stream from side-to-side

WATCH the fire area. If the fire flares up again repeat!

If you can't control the fire, LEAVE immediately!

Call the fire department to inspect and "overhaul" the scene!

Recharge or replace any partially-used fire extinguisher!

For further information:

Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department
4100 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, VA 22020
(703) 246-3801 or (703-385-4419 TTY

Portions © 1995-2000 by Dr. Robert Toreki, used by permission
Fire Safety and Fire Extinguishers
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