After reading reports that Kidde was recalling about 40 million fire extinguishers, I began to question how many local homes do not have one or more fire extinguishers? Not having one is comparable to the Ostrich who sticks his head in the sand assuming it will never happen to him.
When a fire starts in your home, it will commonly double in size every minute it is allowed to grow unabated. A fire extinguisher may help you extinguish the fire, allow you to escape a burning structure, or slow the fire’s growth while you await the fire department’s arrival. When you have the proper extinguisher located in the proper area of your home, if the unimaginable occurs, it will be an extremely valuable tool. Insurance companies recognize the value of fire extinguishers commonly giving discounts when you do have a properly maintained fire extinguisher.
A few years ago, while sitting on their couch, a friend’s young daughter discovered where daddy kept the fireplace matches. She started trying to lite one and when she succeeded, she panicked, throwing the match down on the couch. As it started to burn she ran upstairs to get her father. By the time she got upstairs, the home’s smoke detectors began sounding. He rushed to get the kids out of the house and called 911 to report the fire. He then ran back into his home to try to fight the fire. In the 2-3 minutes that likely elapsed, he found the couch fully engulfed, the window drapes as well as the carpet under the couch burning. He found their fire extinguisher, approached the fire and began spraying aimlessly at the fire. Within seconds, his fire extinguisher was empty. He had knocked down the fire, but was unable to extinguish it. He ran out of the house choking on the smoke that had filled his lungs. He waited the 4-5 minute eternity for the fire department to arrive. His efforts with the fire extinguisher slowed the fire’s growth; it was the fire department who extinguished the remaining fire.
The fire taught him a few lessons. His home was not as kid proofed as he thought. He should never have risked his own life by going back into the house. That little wall mounted extinguisher he had in the kitchen was grossly in adequate for the fire he encountered. The wall mounting location was not the ideal location. And, if he had known the proper technique to apply when discharging an extinguisher, he may have extinguished more of the fire. Today he has several extinguishers spread around his home and these are properly rated for the fire potentials he has.
So does it really matter what extinguisher you get? YES!!!
First thing to know is a little fire science. For a fire to burn, it must have a fuel, oxygen and a source of heat. Take away any one of the three, and you force the fire to go out. Cooling a wood or paper fire with water will help extinguish the fire. Putting a cover on a pan whose contents are burning serves to rob the fire of the oxygen it needs to continue burning. In many cases simply shutting off the burner on the stove will be sufficient to extinguish the stove top fire as it reduces the heat needed to sustain the fire.
Fire Extinguishers are rated for the fuel source that is burning as either an “A”, “B”, “C” and in industrial settings there is a “D” rated extinguisher for combustible metals.
An “A” rated extinguisher is for use on combustible materials like wood, paper, textiles and even plastics. A common “A” rated extinguisher, is made of stainless steel and generally holds 2.5 gallons of water treated with an additive designed to coat the fuel and slow the vaporization process as it cools the fire.
“B” rated extinguishers are designed to be used on flammable or combustible liquids such as grease on your stove or oil based paints, lacquers, and motor oil commonly found in your basement or garage. It coats the surface of the liquid and smoothers the fire. If using a “B” rated extinguisher on a stove top grease fire, remember the extinguisher is pressurized to aid is discharging the contents. If you spray at the liquid grease while too close, you may cause the burning fuel to splash out of the pan back at you or around the kitchen allowing the fire to begin burning in other locations.
“C” rated extinguishers are suited for fires in “live” electrical equipment. While simply unplugging the power source may be sufficient, sometimes that is not feasible or there may be a reserve power or battery involved that keeps the appliance energized. Applying water will likely expose you to electrical shock. The “C” rated extinguisher uses a non-conductive material to extinguish the fire.
Extinguishers are usually rated for more than one class of fire. When you see an extinguisher rated for ABC class fires, it is suited for all three fire classifications. It will show a number before each letter which indicates its effectiveness for each class of fire.
This article was inspired out of the recall of Kidde fire extinguishers; the most common brand of fire extinguisher. They have recalled more than 40 million fire extinguishers. Chances are that if you have a red or white fire extinguisher with a plastic handle or push button “Pindicator”, it is either a Kidde brand fire extinguisher or another brand but manufactured by Kidde. If you think you may have one of the affected fire extinguishers you should contact Kidde. Call Kidde toll-free at 855-271-0773 from 8:30am to 5pm Monday-Friday or 9am to 3 pm weekends or go on-line to www.kidde.com. Once there, click on “Product Safety Recall”. At that website you can get information on which models are involved, get details on why the recall, register for a free replacement, and to get information on what to do with the recalled extinguisher.