While you may assume that all fire extinguishers are the same, different fire extinguishers are designed to deal with different types of fires. This means they specialize in dealing with fires fed by various fuels.
Not only is it essential to use the correct type of fire extinguisher to put out a fire quickly and efficiently, but using the wrong classification of fire extinguishers can even be dangerous, as it could cause the fire to spread!
As you would expect, Class C fire extinguishers are designed for use on Class C fires involving electrical equipment. Since water and other liquid extinguisher agents can conduct electricity and worsen things, Class C fire extinguishers are essential in locations where large-scale electrical equipment is used.
How Can We Help?
To help you understand how you can respond to the unique dangers presented by Class C fires, we will explain what a Class C fire extinguisher is used for, when they should be used, and where you can order your own!
Let’s dive right in!
What Is a Class C Fire Extinguisher?
As mentioned above, a Class C fire extinguisher is a unique piece of fire safety equipment designed to extinguish a fire involving energized electrical equipment. Since these types of fires involve high-voltage electricity, they are incredibly dangerous and difficult to extinguish without the correct equipment.
Since most fire extinguishers rely on a liquid-based extinguishing agent, they can worsen an electrical fire. These fires can also result in electric shock and electrocution if someone attempts to put them out with water or a non-specialized fire extinguisher.
Class C fire extinguishers use non-conductive extinguishing agents, such as dry chemical powders, to handle electrical fires. These chemicals can smother the fire without allowing spreading the fire or putting the fire extinguisher user at risk of electric shock.
Types of Class C Fire Extinguishers
While all Class C fire extinguishers are designed for the same basic purpose, this classification has several types. The following are the most common options:
- ABC Dry Chemical – These fire extinguishers contain a dry chemical powder that smothers the fire and lowers the temperature of anything it touches. As the name suggests, they can handle Class A, B, and C fires and are incredibly This also explains why they are a popular option in so many commercial and industrial buildings.
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – Since all types of fires require oxygen to keep burning, carbon dioxide fire extinguishers replace the oxygen and ‘starve’ the fire. Since carbon dioxide is a non-conductive gas, it is also safe to use on electrical fires, which is why it is a common type of Class C fire extinguisher. They can also be effective against Class B fires involving flammable liquids and gases.
- Halon – Halon works as an extinguishing agent by interrupting the chemical reaction that occurs during a fire. While Class C halon fire extinguishers were common and effective, they are beginning to be phased out due to environmental concerns.
- Clean Agent – Clean Agent Class C fire extinguishers are relatively new, but they are becoming common, especially for businesses and organizations using sensitive electronic equipment. This is because they use a non-conductive gas to extinguish the flames, so no chemical residue is left behind. It can put out electrical fires without damaging any surrounding equipment not damaged by the fire itself.
When to Use a Class C Fire Extinguisher
As discussed above, fire extinguishers with a Class C rating are suitable for fires involving energized electrical equipment, but what exactly does that mean? Basically, any fire that involves or was started by electricity should be extinguished with a Class C fire extinguisher.
This can include exposed wiring, commercial and residential electrical appliances, large electronic devices, electrical motors, and electrical machinery and tools. A short circuit, overloaded outlet, or accidental electrical malfunction often causes these fires.
Even if the fire has spread beyond the electrical equipment and is not burning other fuels, using a fire extinguisher that relies on a liquid-based conductive extinguishing agent can be dangerous.
Using a non-Class C fire extinguisher can spread the fire, but it could result in mild to severe electrical shock to the fire extinguisher user.
Tips for Using a Class C Fire Extinguisher
While using a Class C fire extinguisher is similar to using any other type of fire extinguisher, there are specific requirements and safety precautions you should adhere to. The following are some of the most important and often overlooked tips for using a Class C fire extinguisher:
1. Make Sure That the Fire Extinguisher Actually Has a Class C Rating
This is incredibly important and is always worth double-checking. Failing to use a non-conductive extinguishing agent can be extremely dangerous for electrical fires.
Not only should you double-check to make sure that the fire extinguisher has the correct rating and has not been switched out with another type of fire extinguisher, but you should also ensure you have correctly identified that it is a Class C fire.
2. Always Stand a Safe Distance While Using a Class C Fire Extinguisher
You must stand 6 to 8 feet from the flames when using a Class C fire extinguisher. Some Class C extinguishers will also have specific guidelines printed on the label that should be followed.
3. Direct the Spray Properly
Always point the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire and use a slow, sweeping motion to cover as much of the fire’s base as possible.
4. Evacuate if the Fire is Spreading Too Fast or if it is Releasing Toxic Fumes
If a Class C fire spreads rapidly or releases high volumes of smoke and fumes, you should know when to evacuate. While fire extinguishers are instrumental pieces of fire safety equipment, they have limitations, and your physical safety should always prioritize preventing property damage.
5. Follow the Correct Steps for Using the Class C Fire Extinguisher
Like any other type of fire extinguisher, you need to follow specific steps to use a Class C fire extinguisher correctly. While you should always read the manufacturer’s instructions, as they may differ slightly, the following is a basic guide for the steps you should follow:
- Ensure that the fire and the fire extinguisher are both Class C
- Maintain a safe distance from the fire
- Pull the pin or safety ring on the extinguisher
- Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire and squeeze the trigger handle
- Once the extinguishing agent is expelled, sweep from side to side along the base of the fire
- After the fire is fully extinguished, continue to stand a safe distance, as damaged electrical equipment can trigger reignition
- If it was a large-scale fire, call the fire department to have it assessed for safety
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between Class C and Class B fire extinguishers?
Class C fire extinguishers are designed to handle fires involving energized electrical equipment, so they use non-conductive extinguishing agents to put a fire out.
Class B fire extinguishers are designed to put out fires that involve flammable liquids like gasoline, cooking oil, and grease. These extinguishers achieve this aim by using a dry chemical powder or a foam, which suffocates the fire so it can no longer burn the flammable liquid.
How do I know if a fire is a Class C fire?
Check for signs of electrical equipment and exposed wiring. Sparks, puffs of smoke, and flames that emanate from an electrical source are sure signs of a Class C fire.
How often do I need to have my Class C fire extinguisher inspected?
Class C fire extinguishers must be inspected regularly and maintained adequately, like all fire extinguishers. While certain manufacturers will insist on more regular inspections, a good general rule is to inspect the fire extinguisher visually at least once per month.
This means ensuring it is visible, free from dents and rust, and in a highly accessible location. A certified fire extinguisher inspector should conduct professional inspection and testing at least once per year.
They must also be inspected, recharged, and possibly replaced following every use.
Now that you understand what Class C fire extinguishers are used for and why they are so important, it is time to ensure you have a reliable and regularly inspected Class C fire extinguisher.
If you already have an appropriate number of Class C fire extinguishers for your home, office, or industrial space, you should ensure they are tested and have not expired.
If you do not have a Class C fire extinguisher, we recommend placing your order today. At Ecenrode Welding Supply LLC, we carry a range of American-made extinguishers that feature drawn-steel shells, protective polyester paint, and fully metal valves. These high-quality fire extinguishers are backed with a six-year warranty.
If you are interested in placing an order, or you would simply like to learn more about our fire extinguishers, click below:
For More Information on Fire Extinguisher Selection and Use
If you want to learn more about the differences between each fire extinguisher classification, we highly recommend reading The National Fire Protection Association’s detailed explanation of Fire Extinguisher Types.
The United States Department of Labor has also made OSHA regulations regarding fire extinguisher use and standards on their website – OSHA Emergency Standards – Portable Fire Extinguishers.
We also highly recommend reading Simple Weld’s informative breakdown of ABC Fire Extinguishers – Essential Knowledge for Every Homeowner.