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ABC Fire Extinguisher Guide: Types and Uses

A fire extinguisher saves lives and property if used properly against small fires. Follow these tips for selecting and using a fire extinguisher.

Understanding Fire Extinguisher Types

Optimize your fire fighting success by pairing the correct extinguisher with its associated fire type.

Type A: Combustible Materials

  • Wood
  • Paper
  • Cloth
  • Rubber
  • Plastic

Type B: Combustible Liquids

  • Flammable liquids
  • Grease
  • Paints and Stains
  • Alcohol
  • Gasses

Type C: Electrical

  • Short circuits
  • Overloaded outlets


Selecting an Extinguisher

choosing a fire extinguisher

Fire extinguishers come in two types: Rechargeable and Disposable. Rechargeable extinguishers may be reused after service. Disposable extinguishers must be replaced after the pin is pulled.

Experts recommend storing at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your home. So, it’s probably makes sense to store Type A Extinguishers close to living areas.  But what about the kitchen or garage, where it’s likely that a mix of flammable materials and sources combine? Combination A-B-C Fire Extinguishers are available for general use and work wonderfully in home applications.

Select the largest size extinguisher you and your family members can lift and operate. Of course, once you have your new fire extinguisher(s) home, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement, mounting and proper use.


Using a Fire Extinguisher

For safe operation of most household fire extinguishers, remember the word PASS!

  • P – PULL the pin
  • A – AIM low, at the base of the fire
  • S – SQUEEZE the lever slowly and evenly
  • S – SWEEP the nozzle from side to side

Fire safety professionals offer these additional tips:

  • Keep the room’s exit to your back, so you can get out quickly if needed.
  • If the room you’re working in fills with smoke or the fire becomes hard to control, leave immediately.
  • Check your home’s fire extinguishers monthly to ensure their pressure meter reads green or full.
  • Replace or recharge extinguishers immediately after use.
  • Always evacuate the premises and dial 911. Never re-enter your home until the fire department says it is safe. Let the professionals determine if the fire is truly extinguished – something dangerous could be out of view waiting to reignite.


For more information on creating an evacuation plan for your family, read our guide.