Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher, located in the kitchen. Better still is to install fire extinguishers on each level of a house and in each potentially hazardous area, including (besides the kitchen) the garage, furnace room, and workshop.
Choose fire extinguishers by their size, class, and rating. “Size” refers to the weight of the fire-fighting chemical, or charge, a fire extinguisher contains, and usually is about half the weight of the fire extinguisher itself. For ordinary residential use, extinguishers two and a half to five pounds in size usually are adequate; these weigh five to ten pounds.
“Class” refers to the types of fires an extinguisher can put out. Class A extinguishers are for use only on ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, and cloth. Generally, their charge consists of carbonated water, which is inexpensive and adequate for the task but quite dangerous if used against grease fires (the pressurized water can spread the burning grease) and electrical fires (the water stream and wetted surfaces can become electrified, delivering a possibly fatal shock). Class B extinguishers are for use on flammable liquids, including grease, oil, gasoline, and other chemicals. Usually their charge consists of powdered sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
Class C extinguishers are for electrical fires. Most contain dry ammonium phosphate. Some Class C extinguishers contain halon gas, but these are no longer manufactured for residential use because of halon’s adverse effect on the earth’s ozone layer. Halon extinguishers are recommended for use around expensive electronic gear such as computers and televisions; the gas blankets the fire, suffocating it, and then evaporates without leaving chemical residue that can ruin the equipment. Another advantage of halon is that it expands into hard-to-reach areas and around obstructions, quenching fire in places other extinguishers cannot touch.
Many fire extinguishers contain chemicals for putting out combination fires; in fact, extinguishers classed B:C and even ARC are more widely available for home use than extinguishers designed only for individual types of fires. All-purpose ARC extinguishers usually are the best choice for any household location; however, B:C extinguishers put out grease fires more effectively (their charge of sodium bicarbonate reacts with fats and cooking oil to form a wet foam that smothers the fire) and so should be the first choice in a kitchen.
“Rating” is a measurement of a fire extinguisher’s effectiveness on a…