City Services

Portable Fire Extinguishers

A portable fire extinguisher can be a very effective tool in saving lives and property. Use portable fire extinguishers to extinguish small, contained fires. Portable fire extinguishers have limitations. They are not designed to fight large fires or those that may spread quickly. Portable fire extinguishers are appropriate for fighting fires such as those on the stove-top, in the oven, or in a wastepaper basket. Use an extinguisher only if the fire is in its early stages.

Before You Attempt to Fight a Fire, Make Sure That:

  • If your building has a fire alarm, it has been sounded. If not, alert the occupants.
  • Everyone has left or is in the process of leaving the building.
  • The Fire Department has been called.
  • The fire is small and confined.
  • You have a clear escape route that will not be blocked by fire.
  • You choose the right type of extinguisher for the fire.
  • You have read the instructions and know how to use the extinguisher.

Remember, do not fight a fire under any other circumstances! Instead, leave the building, close the doors behind you, and immediately call the Fire Department.

Choosing a Fire Extinguisher:

Only choose extinguishers that have been tested by an approved testing laboratory and labelled for their intended use. The extinguisher must be appropriate for the type and size of fire being fought. It is important to select the appropriate extinguisher for the correct fire classification. Using the wrong type of extinguisher can make the fire worse and is dangerous to the operator.

Installation and Maintenance:

Install extinguishers in plain view, near an escape route and away from stoves and heating equipment.

Extinguishers need to be cared for. Read operator's manual for inspection, installation, and maintenance instructions. Rechargeable models MUST be serviced after every use. (See the yellow pages under Fire Extinguishers). Disposable extinguishers are very limited and can be used only once.

What is Fire?

Fire is a combination of oxygen, fuel and heat. This is called the fire triangle. If you remove any one element of this triangle, the fire will go out.

Classes of Fire:

The 3 most common classes of fires are A, B, and C. The other class of fire is D.

This symbol indicates an extinguisher that may be used on ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, plastic, or cloth. This symbol may be found on water, foam, or multi-purpose extinguishers.

This symbol indicates an extinguisher that is appropriate for use on flammable or combustible liquids. The symbol may be found on multi-purpose dry chemical, dry chemical, and carbon dioxide extinguishers.

This symbol indicates an extinguisher that may be used on fires involving energized electrical equipment. The symbol may be found on carbon dioxide, multi-purpose dry chemical, and dry chemical extinguishers.

 This symbol indicates an extinguisher that may be used on some types of combustible metals  including combustible magnesium, sodium, and potassium. The symbol may be found on dry chemical extinguishers. You will rarely encounter a class D extinguisher in your home or office.

Use the P.A.S.S. Word

To use a portable fire extinguisher effectively, remember the 4 step P.A.S.S. Word

  1. Pull the Pin: Holding the extinguisher nozzle pointing away from you, remove the pin, seal, or lever release mechanism. Usually it is a pin.
  2. Aim low: Point the extinguisher nozzle or hose at the base of the fire. Always hold the extinguisher vertically, never horizontally.
  3. Squeeze the Lever Fully: This will release the extinguishing agent through the nozzle. Releasing the lever will stop the discharge.
  4. Sweep from Side to Side: Sweep the nozzle from side to side aiming at the base of the fire. As the flames closest to you go out, you can move closer to the remaining fire and continue the sweeping motion until the fire is extinguished.