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Your Ultimate Guide to Fire Extinguisher Types in New Zealand

Date: 14-12-2020

They may all look the same, but there are five different fire extinguisher types on the market. 

The type of fire extinguisher you need depends on the premises and fuels you’ll encounter that you need to extinguish. It’s important to buy the right one for the situation. 

But without the proper information, you won't be able to put out every kind of fire with one type of fire extinguisher. 

This guide will walk you through the process of determining fire extinguisher types. While there are five main types of extinguishers, some are broken down into different variations. 

What Are the Five Fire Extinguisher Types?

Different types of fuels require a specific fire extinguisher to put them out. These fire emergencies are also referred to as “classes” of fires. This type of categorization can help organize your thoughts regarding specifics. 

The five main fire extinguisher types are water, foam, dry powder, CO2, and wet chemical. 

Of these types of fire extinguishers, water and dry powder both have variations. Water mist, water spray, and dry powder specialists are all variations that are important for different fires. 

There’s no “all-around” extinguisher, although there are arguments that water extinguishers are the most useful for most fires. Each class of fire needs to be dealt with based on specifics. 

Classes of Fires

We’ve mentioned the different classes of fires a few times, but how does each break down?

The specifics of classes are determined by six situations: Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, Electrical, and Class F fire: 

  • Class A fires - made up of combustible materials (flammable solids including wood, paper, fabric, etc.)
  • Class B fires - flammable liquids (gasoline, turpentine, paint, etc.) 
  • Class C fires - flammable glasses (butane, methane, hydrogen, etc.)
  • Class D fires - combustible metals (potassium, magnesium, and aluminium)
  • Electrical fires - spread through electrical equipment (once the electrical component is removed the class changes)
  • Class F fires - cooking oils (encountered in the kitchen, typically a chip-pan fire)

Extinguish each class of fire with different types of fire extinguishers: 

  • Class A fires - water, foam, dry powder, wet chemical
  • Class B fires - foam, dry powder, CO2
  • Class C fires - dry powder
  • Class D fires - dry powder
  • Electrical fires - dry powder, CO2
  • Class F fires - wet chemical

Knowing the fire extinguisher types for each class simplifies putting out the fire. 

Water Extinguishers

Suitable for Class A fires, water extinguishers work well on wood, straw, coal, rubber, solid plastics, and soft furnishings. 

This type of extinguisher is the simplest of the group and also the least expensive in comparison to others. In some cases, these fire extinguishers feature an additive to make the water more effective in extinguishing the fire. 

Because of the internal components of the extinguisher, water fire extinguishers also the easiest to maintain. 

These fire extinguisher types only contain water and put out the fire by spraying the affected area, working to cool it and absorb the heat from the burning objects. Water extinguishers are often what you see in schools, offices, the workplace, and other domestic premises. 

Dry Powder Extinguishers

To put out burning solids, liquids, and gases, you need a dry powder fire extinguisher. 

They work on the fire by forming a crust that smothers the flames, stopping them from spreading. The difficult task with gas or liquid fires is containing them; hence the existence of dry powder extinguishers. 

One disadvantage dry powder extinguishers have is they don’t soak into the materials they’re extinguishing. This material is effective but could lead to the fire reigniting if it’s not extinguished.

Foam Extinguishers

A good alternative to water and dry chemical extinguishers are foam fire extinguishers

Foam agents are effective with the same materials water is, along with diesel fuel and alcohol. Foam fire extinguishers form a blanket across the surface, which cools and smothers the fire to extinguish it. 

They're a non-toxic alternative and can be used in the same situation where flammable liquids are stored, transported, and processed as an energy source. 

CO2 Extinguishers

As human beings, we inhale oxygen and exhale CO2. Imagine CO2 fire extinguisher as a "pressurized human" capable of blowing out large quantities of CO2 and leaving no residue.

These fire extinguisher types are effective on liquid and electrical fires and are often found in workplaces that this emergency could occur. CO2 does a great job of suffocating the flames with a white gas, without causing damage to the surrounding area. 

This is a better use of the extinguisher, considering another type would likely affect/damage the components of an electrical fire, causing long-term issues. 

Electrical fires are one of the most dangerous because they spread fast.

Protect yourself and make sure you're using gloves before use. These fire extinguisher types are known to get extremely cold during discharge, causing nerve damage in the hands.  

Wet Chemical Extinguishers

Class F fires beware: a wet chemical fire extinguisher is your worst enemy. 

In the kitchen, fats and cooking oil fires are rampant. There are no other options when it comes to putting these fires out. 

Inside the extinguisher tube, there is a solution of alkali salts in water that are pressurized. When they’re in use, a mist cools the flames preventing them from splashing and spreading. 

These are one of the more expensive types of fire extinguishers on the market but are very specific when it comes to their need. 

Safety First

Your safety is of the utmost importance. Knowing the fire extinguisher types you should use can help extinguish the fire quickly. 

You need to inform yourself before you can act during an emergency. That’s where Amare Safety comes into play. Our website has a wide range of products, information, and catalogues to ensure your safety comes first. 

Take control of the situation before it spreads. Reach out today and contact us regarding your safety needs. 

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