The Different Types of Fire Extinguishers

a hand holding a fire extinguisher, ready to trigger

It’s essential that you understand the different types of fire extinguishers, and which ones you need to have for your business. It’s a legal requirement that you have the right extinguishers, and that you get them regularly serviced and inspected.

To help, we’ve come up with a guide to the different types of fire extinguisher, including some details on what types of fire each extinguisher is designed for. You should always consult a trained fire safety professional when installing, servicing or selecting fire extinguishers for your business.


What are the different types of fire extinguisher?

There are five broad categories of fire extinguisher. Each of these uses a different extinguishing agent to tackle different types of fire (read on to find out more about the fire categorisation system). Within each category, there are lots of products and other types of extinguisher. For example, not every water extinguisher is the same, so it’s vital to do your research to ensure you’re choosing the right extinguisher.

The five main types of fire extinguisher are:

  • Water
  • Foam
  • Powder
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Wet chemical


Water Extinguishers

Water fire extinguishers are the most popular type of extinguisher. They’re suitable for use on Class A fires (see details below), and are common in buildings across the country, like schools, hospitals, shops and office buildings.

Water fire extinguishers shouldn’t be used on electrical fires or kitchen fires.


Foam Extinguishers

Foam extinguishers are required for buildings where flammable liquids such as paint or petrol are stored. They can be used on Class A or Class B fires, and so are another common type of extinguisher used across the UK.

Foam fire extinguishers also shouldn’t be used on electrical or kitchen fires.


Dry Powder Extinguishers

Dry powder extinguishers are also known as ABC extinguishers – as they can be used on Class A, B or C fires. However, they shouldn’t be used in enclosed spaces, and as such are more suited to locations such as garage forecourts, welding businesses or LPG storage facilities.

Dry powder extinguishers shouldn’t be used on electrical fires (except some specialist powder extinguishers), kitchen fires, or fires in enclosed spaces.


Carbon dioxide extinguishers

CO2 extinguishers are designed for use to tackle electrical fires. They’re commonly used in server rooms or offices with lots of tech. They can be used on Class B or Electrical fires.

Carbon dioxide extinguishers shouldn’t be used on Class A, C or kitchen fires.


Wet chemical extinguishers

Wet chemical extinguishers are used for fighting Class F fires. They’re commonly found in kitchens and restaurants.

They shouldn’t be used to tackle electrical fires, or fires involving petrol or paint.


What are the classes or types of fire?

As well as knowing the types of fire extinguisher, you’ll also need to understand that types of fires are classified into different groups. The types of extinguisher described above are designed for use on specific classes of fire, so you’ll need to look at the fire risks in your business to decide which ones you need.

  • Class A – fires involving solid materials, like textiles, wood, cardboard, paper, fabrics
  • Class B – fires involving flammable liquids like petrol, paint or diesel
  • Class C – fires involving flammable gases like butane or methane
  • Class D – fires involving flammable metals
  • Electrical fires – fires involving electrical equipment
  • Class F – fires involving cooking oils, like deep fat fryers


What colours are fire extinguishers?

There’s an easy way to tell the different kinds of fire extinguishers apart based on the colour of the label. While most fire equipment is red to ensure it’s easy to see, the colours of the labels on the extinguishers are a quick way to tell which type it is.

Here’s our quick guide to the colours used:

  • Water extinguishers: red label
  • Foam extinguishers: cream label
  • Dry powder extinguishers: blue label
  • Carbon dioxide extinguishers: black label
  • Wet chemical extinguishers: yellow label

If you need an experienced fire safety pro to get the fire extinguisher provision in your building sorted, get in touch with Fire Control Services. We can help you choose the right fire extinguishers to meet the legal requirements of your space, and our full maintenance package includes regular inspections and testing. Get in touch today.

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