How To Use A Fire Extinguisher

Table of Contents

Fire losses amount to millions of rands per annum in damage to buildings, materials, and assets, as well as loss of life, for this reason we need to know the basics of how to make sure that our working or home environment is as “Fire Safe” as possible.

In this blog we will have a closer look at the different types of fires as well as the different type of fire extinguishers and more specifically how to operate a fire extinguisher safely and correctly. 

Preparing for Action

Whenever you are faced with a fire situation, whether at home or at the office there are a few key points to remember. Firstly, always remain calm and do not panic, identify what type of fire you are faced with, determine if you have the correct fire extinguisher for the type of fire and if it is safe for you to try and extinguish the fire. Using the incorrect type of fire extinguisher on the type of fire may be disastrous as you can either spread the fire or injure yourself.

Before trying to extinguish the fire, you must know the location of your closest fire extinguisher as you only have a few seconds to get the correct type of fire extinguisher before the fire gets out of control.

fire extinguisher

The PASS Technique in Detail

When using a fire extinguisher, it is as simple as remembering the acronym PASS.

P – break the safety seal and PULL the safety pin out, be careful not to squeeze on the handle as this will make it more difficult to PULL the safety pin out;

A – Aim the nozzle of the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire and not directly at the flames. The base of the fire is the area where the flames originate from;

S – Squeeze the handle in order to discharge the extinguishing medium in the fire extinguisher;

S – Sweep the nozzle from side to side in order to cover the entire area that is burning.

Handling Different Types of Fire Extinguishers

There are mainly 4 different types of fire extinguishers available, each designed for specific types of fires.

Water fire extinguisher:


Red label

Stored pressure gauge

Jet nozzle




Non-synthetic textiles 

Water fire extinguishers are not to be used on combustible liquids, metal or electrical fires.  

Water extinguishers are mostly used on Class A fires.

Foam fire extinguisher:


Cream label

Stored pressure gauge

Jet nozzle


Combustible liquids like (oil, petrol)

Foam fire extinguishers are not to be used on electrical fires, as they are water based.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) fire extinguishers:


Black label

No stored pressure gauge (CO2 is already a pressurised gas)

Horn with handle


Flammable liquids and gases and electrical fires

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a gas that is 1.5 times heavier than air. When carbon dioxide is discharged onto a fire, it forms a dense cloud that displaces the air surrounding the fuel. 

Dry Chemical Powder (DCP) fire extinguisher


Blue label

Stored pressure gauge

 Dispersion nozzle


All classes of fires

When using a DCP fire extinguisher on certain aluminium alloy compounds, this may create phosgene gas, which is non-life supporting.

DCP fire extinguishers are not recommended for use on sensitive electronic and electrical equipment (such as computers or electrical switchboards). DCP fire extinguisher are made for use on Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class D fires. 

Practical Scenarios and Tips

Make sure to inspect your fire equipment on a monthly basis to make sure that everything is operationally ready for use as and when required, remember to shake your DCP fire extinguishers before usage to make sure that the powder is nice and loose. 

When extinguishing a fire outside make sure that the wind is from behind you in order to push the smoke and flames away from you. 

All fire extinguishers mounted on the outside of any premises must be protected against the environmental elements, thus provide a cover over your fire extinguishers.

Training and Practice

As the extinguishing of fires may not be an everyday occurrence at home or work, it is normal for you to forget the basics of how to use a fire extinguisher, or even the different types of fires and fire extinguishers. We therefore recommend that you do at least quarterly refresher/practical sessions in order to refresh your knowledge on how to use a fire extinguisher safely and correctly.

Understanding Limitations

Fire extinguishers are there to extinguish fires when they have just started and before they get too big and out of control. You have one chance to extinguish that fire, if you don’t succeed at the first attempt, then inform everyone on the premises about the danger and prepare to evacuate as your safety always come first.


Take the following into consideration before you attempt to extinguish a fire by using a fire extinguisher:

  • NEVER fight a fire:

    • If it is too dangerous;
    • If your escape route might get cut off;
    • If the fire continues to grow despite your best efforts;
    • If there are any explosive gases, cylinders or fuels nearby;
    • If you are not sure how to use the extinguisher correctly;
    • If you are unsure that the content of the extinguisher is the right one for the type of fire you are faced with.

In conclusion, the most important aspects to remember when considering the use of a fire extinguisher will be:

  • Do I have the correct fire extinguisher for the type of fire;
  • Is it safe for me to try and extinguish the fire;
  • If anything should go wrong, will I be able to move away quickly;
  • If you have answered yes to the above questions, try to extinguish the fire and remember to use PASS.

Fire losses amount to millions of rands per annum in damage to buildings, materials, and assets, as well as loss of life. Absolute Health Services are here to demonstrate and train you in the correct and safe operating procedure of fire extinguishers.

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