Different Types of Fire Extinguisher

Understanding the different types of fire extinguishers is crucial for ensuring safety in both domestic and commercial settings. Fire extinguishers are the first line of defence against small fires, and knowing which type to use can prevent a fire from spreading and save lives and property. Each type of extinguisher is designed to tackle specific classes of fire, and using the wrong one can be ineffective or even dangerous. This article provides a comprehensive guide to the various fire extinguishers available in the UK, their uses, and important safety considerations.

Different Types of Fire Extinguishers
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    What are the Fire Extinguisher Types?

    Understanding the different types of fire extinguishers is essential for effectively responding to various fire emergencies. Each extinguisher is designed for specific fire classes and scenarios, making it crucial to recognise and use the appropriate one for safety and efficacy.

    1. Water Extinguishers

    • Description: Water extinguishers are the most common type, suitable for Class A fires involving solid combustibles like wood, paper, and textiles.
    • Colour Code: Bright red.
    • Use Cases: Ideal for offices, schools, and domestic settings with general combustible materials.
    • Not to Use On: Electrical fires, kitchen fires (oil and fat), or flammable liquids and gases.

    2. Foam Extinguishers

    • Description: Foam extinguishers are versatile, effective on Class A and B fires, involving liquids like petrol, paints, and fats.
    • Colour Code: Cream.
    • Use Cases: Useful in various environments, including workshops, garages, and premises with flammable liquids.
    • Not to Use On: Kitchen fires involving cooking oil, electrical fires unless they are dielectrically tested.

    3. CO2 Extinguishers

    • Description: CO2 extinguishers are primarily for electrical fires and also work on Class B flammable liquid fires.
    • Colour Code: Black.
    • Use Cases: Ideal for offices and locations with a lot of electrical equipment like server rooms.
    • Not to Use On: Class A fires, cooking oil fires, or flammable metals.

    4. Powder Extinguishers

    • Description: Powder extinguishers, also known as ABC extinguishers, are effective on Class A, B, and C fires, making them versatile for various scenarios.
    • Colour Code: Blue.
    • Use Cases: Good for use in vehicles, boats, and locations with mixed fire risks.
    • Not to Use On: Indoors unless absolutely necessary due to the visibility problems the powder creates and the potential damage to electrical equipment.

    5. Water Mist Extinguishers

    • Description: Water mist extinguishers use fine water spray particles to fight various fires, including Class A, B, C, and some electrical fires.
    • Colour Code: White.
    • Use Cases: Versatile for various settings, especially where residue from other extinguishers could cause damage.
    • Not to Use On: Generally safe on most fires, but effectiveness can vary, so always check the manufacturer’s guidelines.

    6. Wet Chemical Extinguishers

    • Description: Wet chemical extinguishers are specifically designed for Class F fires involving cooking oils and fats but are also effective on Class A fires.
    • Colour Code: Yellow.
    • Use Cases: Essential for commercial kitchens and food processing areas.
    • Not to Use On: Flammable liquid and gas fires, or fires involving electrical equipment.

    How to Use Fire Extinguishers?

    1. Assess the Situation: Ensure the fire is small, contained, and not spreading rapidly. Your escape route should be clear and safe.
    2. Alert Others: Raise the alarm and ensure everyone in the area is aware of the fire and evacuating. Call the fire department even if you think you can handle the fire.

    Step-by-Step Guide on Using Extinguishers (P.A.S.S. Technique)

    1. Pull: Pull the pin at the top of the extinguisher, breaking the tamper seal.
    2. Aim: Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire from a safe distance.
    3. Squeeze: Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
    4. Sweep: Sweep the nozzle from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out.

    When Not to Use a Fire Extinguisher and the Importance of Evacuation

    • Do Not Use If: The fire is too large or out of control, the environment is filled with smoke, or you are unsure of the correct extinguisher type.
    • Evacuation: Always prioritise safe evacuation over attempting to fight the fire. If the situation worsens or the extinguisher is ineffective, leave immediately.

    Fire Extinguisher Maintenance and Inspection

    It is very important that Fire Extinguishers are maintained properly and inspected regularly. 

    How Often and Why Extinguishers Need Servicing

    • Regular Servicing: Fire extinguishers should be serviced annually by a qualified professional to ensure they are in working order and have not expired.
    • Importance: Regular servicing ensures the extinguisher will function correctly during an emergency and is a legal requirement in many jurisdictions.

    Who Should Perform Inspections and Maintenance

    • Qualified Professionals: Maintenance and servicing should be performed by individuals certified in fire extinguisher inspection and maintenance.
    • Monthly Checks: In addition to annual professional servicing, a responsible person should perform visual checks monthly for any obvious signs of damage or tampering.

    Signs That an Extinguisher May Need Servicing or Replacement

    • Physical Damage: Dents, rust, or leakage.
    • Pressure Gauge: The needle is outside the green zone, indicating overcharging or undercharging.
    • Broken Seals: Tamper seals or safety pins are broken or missing.
    • Expired: Past the manufacturer’s recommended operational lifespan.

    UK Regulations and Standards for Fire Extinguishers

    • Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005: Requires fire extinguishers to be present in all commercial premises in the UK and mandates regular risk assessments.
    • British Standards (BS 5306): Provides guidelines for the installation and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers.
    • CE Marking: All fire extinguishers in the UK should carry a CE mark, indicating compliance with European standards.

    Responsibilities of Business Owners and Premises Managers

    • Risk Assessment: Regularly conduct and document fire risk assessments to identify the appropriate type and number of extinguishers needed.
    • Training: Ensure staff are trained in the correct use of extinguishers and understand fire evacuation procedures.
    • Maintenance: Arrange for annual servicing of extinguishers by a competent person and conduct monthly visual inspections.

    Documentation and Records for Compliance and Safety Audits

    • Service Records: Keep logs of all maintenance, servicing, and inspections, including dates, findings, and any actions taken.
    • Training Records: Document training sessions, participants, and content covered.
    • Risk Assessments: Maintain updated records of fire risk assessments and any changes made to fire safety procedures.

    Recent Advancements in Fire Extinguisher Technology

    • Smart Extinguishers: Integration with building management systems for alerts and monitoring.
    • Eco-Friendly Agents: Development of more environmentally friendly extinguishing agents to replace harmful chemicals.
    • Recycling Programs: Initiatives to recycle or safely dispose of old extinguishers and reduce waste.
    • Green Manufacturing: Efforts to reduce the carbon footprint in the production of fire extinguishers.

    Future Predictions for Fire Safety Equipment

    • Advanced Monitoring: Increased use of sensors and IoT technology for real-time monitoring and faster response.
    • Integration with Firestopping Reporting Technology: Tools like FireArrest will become more integrated, offering comprehensive safety solutions from prevention to suppression.


    Choosing and using the right fire extinguisher is more than a regulatory requirement; it’s a fundamental aspect of maintaining safety. By understanding the different types of extinguishers, their appropriate uses, and the legal obligations surrounding them, businesses and individuals can significantly enhance their preparedness for fire emergencies. Continuous learning and adherence to safety standards are vital in evolving with new technologies and regulations. Let’s commit to maintaining a safe environment by staying informed, prepared, and proactive in our approach to fire safety.


    In the UK, the main types of fire extinguishers are water, foam, CO2, powder, water mist, and wet chemical, each designed for different classes of fires and identified by a unique colour code.
    The type of fire extinguisher needed depends on the class of fire: Class A (solids like paper, wood), Class B (flammable liquids), Class C (gases), Class D (metals), electrical fires, and Class F (cooking oils and fats). The extinguisher’s label and colour code will indicate its suitable use.
    UK workplaces must comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, ensuring adequate fire extinguishers are provided and maintained, staff are trained in their use, and fire risk assessments are regularly conducted.
    Fire extinguishers should be professionally serviced once a year and visually inspected by a responsible person monthly to ensure they are in good working condition.
    The designated ‘responsible person’, usually the business owner or premises manager, is responsible for ensuring fire extinguishers are maintained, staff are trained, and all legal requirements are met.
    No, water extinguishers should not be used on electrical fires due to the risk of electrocution. CO2 or dry powder extinguishers are typically used for electrical fires.
    If you’re unsure or not confident in using a fire extinguisher, prioritize evacuating safely and immediately call the fire brigade. Only use an extinguisher if you are trained and it is safe to do so.
    Emerging trends include smart fire extinguishers with integrated monitoring systems, eco-friendly extinguishing agents, and advancements in lightweight and more effective extinguishing materials.  
    Different Types of Fire Extinguisher UK Infographic