PASS explanation of how to use a fire extinguisher

Class A Fire Extinguishers: Uses and Tips

Understanding the various fire extinguisher types out there and which type of fire each one should be used for is crucial knowledge. Everyone should have a clear and concise idea of which extinguishers they should keep on hand for fire protection.

While some places require special fire extinguishers, such as commercial kitchens and industrial plants, many common household fires can be handled with a Class A extinguisher.

So, what exactly is a Class A fire extinguisher? How does it differ from the others? And when and how do you use it? Let’s take a look.

fire extinguisher on wall

Class A Fire Extinguishers

Check out this video for great information on fire extinguisher types and uses.

Not all fires are alike, so you can’t put them out with the same extinguisher or materials. While grease fires require a specific alkaline chemical to suffocate the flames (Class K), electrical fires are handled with a CO2 extinguisher (Class C).

Class A fire extinguishers are created to handle ordinary combustible materials. These extinguishers fight common fires that start in homes, offices, and many other spaces.

While other extinguishers can assist in eliminating fires from the Class A category, different types of fires cannot be cleared up with a Class A-only extinguisher.

What Is Inside a Class A Fire Extinguisher?

Fire extinguisher classifications

There are various forms of Class A fire extinguishers. Each extinguisher can fight Class A fires, but only a few can be used in other situations.

  • Class A: Class A fire extinguishers are typically made from pressurized water. A Class A water extinguisher can be used to put out fires from wood, paper, clothing, rubber, and other common materials.
  • Class AB: Class AB fire extinguishers are made from a specialized foam, powder, or wet chemical extinguishing agent and can put out Class A fires and Class B fires (flammable liquid, oil, paint, and gas).
  • Class ABC: A Class ABC fire extinguisher puts out fires caused by the above materials and electric fires. These dry chemical extinguishers are made from a powder compound extinguishing agent and are the most common option in homes today.
  • Class AC: Class AC fire extinguishers are only recommended for Class A ordinary combustible fires and Class C electrical fires. These also use a specialized dry compound.

You will typically see Class ABC fire extinguishers in homes and other commercial settings because they can tackle almost any type of common fire.

The top three leading causes of home fires today are cooking, heating, and electrical equipment. According to the National Fire Protection Association, these three causes, along with intentional fire setting and smoking products, caused:

  • 86% of reported home fires
  • 83% of home fire injuries
  • 95% of home fire deaths

While cooking is noted as the number one cause of home fires by a substantial amount, they aren’t always grease fires. In fact, most fires that start from cooking food have to do with forgetting about what you are doing. In many cases, a Class K extinguisher isn’t needed, and an ABC extinguisher will work just fine.

How to Use a Class A Fire Extinguisher

PASS explanation of how to use a fire extinguisher

Now that you know when to use a Class A fire extinguisher, you need to know how to use it properly. While it might seem pretty cut and dry, it is best to understand the product and know all the parts for it to work effectively every time.

All Class A fire extinguishers are operated in the same manner. The water, liquid chemical, foam, or dry powder is stored inside a large canister with a nozzle and hose attached to the top.

To use a Class A fire extinguisher:

  • Get a firm hold on the canister’s lever and the hose.
  • Pull the pin from the nozzle and release the safety mechanism.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly, aiming low toward the base of the fire.
  • Sweep the hose from side to side, covering the entire area that is in flames and surrounding it.

It is important to remember that even though you want the fire out as soon as possible, moving steadily and slowly will ensure you get complete coverage and the fire is eradicated. Going too fast can lead to a lack of proper coverage and wasting much of your extinguishing product without hitting your target.

Are Class A Fire Extinguisher Chemicals Toxic?

After using a fire extinguisher, many people are concerned about the clean-up and whether or not the chemicals used are toxic or harmful to their health.

Most fire extinguisher chemicals are not toxic. However, it is essential to remember that it can still be dangerous in different ways. One of the most popular chemicals in Class A fire extinguishers is monoammonium phosphate (MAP), which is very corrosive. Leaving this product on your skin can cause irritation, rashes, and other uncomfortable side effects.

Inhaling or swallowing these chemicals can also irritate and be painful to your eyes, nose, mouth, and lungs.

Class A Fire Extinguishers Tips

Here are a few tips to remember the next time you purchase, use, or maintain a Class A fire extinguisher.

  • Simple water or water mist extinguishers can freeze in cold temperatures.
  • Water extinguishers can cause serious damage to electrical equipment and other materials near the fire you are putting out.
  • There are various sizes of fire extinguishers. Typically homes should keep 5lb canisters in easy-to-access locations.
  • You can easily identify Class A fire extinguishers by looking for the letter A on the canister.
  • Before using the extinguisher, identify a clear escape route. This will ensure you have a direct path out of the building if the fire doesn’t dissipate.

Purchase a Class A Fire Extinguisher for Peace of Mind

If you don’t already have a fire extinguisher, you should buy one. Picking up a quality fire extinguisher and other crucial fire safety equipment (like alarms and ladders) will provide much-needed peace of mind that your family is safe and your home is protected from fire damage.

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