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Safety Management Insights

Different Types of Fires and How to Fight Them

Posted by Doug Shoemaker on Dec 12, 2019 10:44:22 AM

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There is no doubt that accidental fires are dangerous and need to be put out immediately. However, not all of them can be extinguished the same way. Depending on the fuel of the fire, it can be classified into one of five categories. The category indicates the type of extinguisher that's effective against that specific fire type. Once you learn about all the fire types and how to put them out, you will be able to act faster in case of an emergency.

Class A

The most common type of fire is a Class A fire. Class A fires are often the result of igniting fabrics, wood, paper, trash, or plastics. Lighting a match or knocking over a candle, for example, can create a Class A fire. Most accidental fires belong to Class A and can be extinguished with water, foam, dry powder and wet chemical extinguishers.

Class B

Class B fires aren't as common as Class A fires, but they are more dangerous. They involve flammable liquids and gases such as gasoline, paint, alcohol, petroleum grease, propane, methane, and butane. According to the Fire Equipment Managers’ Association, water shouldn't be used to put out a Class B fire as it can make it worse. For liquids, CO (carbon dioxide), foam, and dry powder extinguishers are the right approach to tackle it as they remove the oxygen supply feeding the fire. Dry powder is more effective for flammable gases.

Class C

Electrical equipment is related to Class C fires. According to New Eagle Insurance, plugging too many things into an electrical outlet can start an electrical fire. Class C fires can also start due to the malfunction of faulty appliances, old wiring, and even worn-out breaker boxes. They often occur inside old homes and industrial settings, although they are possible in new buildings. Ideally, the first step to extinguish a Class C fire is to disconnect the equipment responsible for the fire from the power source. Then, if possible, use a CO or dry powder extinguisher to put the fire out. Refrain from using water or any other chemical that may conduct electricity as it can exacerbate the flames.

Class D

Some metals can be ignited. The possibility of that happening inside a home is low, but inside a laboratory or any building processing combustible metals, according to the Mundelein Fire Department, it is a real risk. Titanium, potassium, magnesium, aluminum and sodium are flammable under the right conditions. Class D fires can occur if these previously mentioned metals are exposed to extreme heat. Moreover, they may spread and get more intense if water or foam are used on them. Only dry powder should be used to extinguish a Class D fire as powder absorbs the heat from the fire.

Class K

There is a fire type that is a real hazard inside kitchens. It is called a Class K fire. Class K fires are produced when liquids such as cooking oils, animal or vegetable fats get ignited. Leaving a pan unattended for too long is one of the causes of this type of fire. Trying to extinguish it with water is a big mistake as it may result in spreading the flames. Instead, turn off the heat, remove the fire from the heat source, and use a wet chemical extinguisher if needed. Wet chemical extinguishers produce a foam over the burning oil, preventing oxygen from fueling it.

As you can see, understanding the different fire types has massive implications. You never know when a fire might start, and having the right knowledge will make all the difference. Learn and memorize all the types of extinguishers. You will be on your way to make the right decisions and protect yourself and others whenever an emergency arises.

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