Fire Extinguisher 101

Four different fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are a crucial element of fire safety in any environment, serving as the first line of defence in the event of a fire. Understanding the significance of fire extinguishers and the various types available is essential for maintaining a safe environment. In commercial buildings, their presence is not only important but mandated by regulations to ensure the safety of employees and visitors. However, the precise number and location requirements can vary depending on the building’s size and use.

In this blog, we’ll delve into their importance, explore the different types at your disposal and discuss existing regulations.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are never a ‘one size fits all’ situation. Different types of fires – for example, electrical and cooking oil fires – require different methods of extinguishing.

Water-Based Fire Extinguishers

The primary function of water-based extinguishers is for blazes involving solid combustible materials such as wood, paper and fabrics. However, for flammable liquid-based fires – for example, a chip pan fire – it can cause violent explosions on contact. Naturally, water-based extinguishers are also not useful in cases of electrical fires.

Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers

These types of extinguishers can be used on flammable solids like paper and wood, as well as flammable liquids and gases and some lower voltage electrical fires. However, because they extinguish fires using fine particles, they are not recommended for use inside. If inhaled, these particles can be dangerous to your respiratory system.

Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers

CO2-based extinguishers are primarily for use on flammable liquids. However, they are also safe to be used on electrical fires. Much like dry powder extinguishers, they are also not recommended to be used in small spaces.

Foam Fire Extinguishers

One of the more versatile types of extinguishers, it can be used on fires involving solids and burning liquids – excluding cooking fires. Foam extinguishers can also be used on some electrical fires up to 35kV when using the correct safety precautions.

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers

The final type is the wet chemical extinguisher – used for cooking oil and fat-based fires. They use a fine mist of potassium acetate that cools the flame front and saponifies the surface of the oil.

Regulations Around Fire Extinguishers

In Commercial Buildings

To meet UK requirements, any commercial building must have at least two ‘class A’ extinguishers on each floor that are correctly inspected and maintained. In this context, class A fire extinguishers include the following:

3-litre foam extinguisher
6-litre foam extinguisher
9-litre water-based extinguisher

In some smaller premises, only one of these would be required per floor, but it is always advisable to consult an expert when you are installing fire extinguishers on your property.

Extinguishers are usually to be placed near fire exits and fire alarm points. However, as a rule, building users should never be over 30 metres away from an extinguisher. You should also consider risk factors in your property, such as deep fat fryers, and add in extra extinguishers.

Changing Regulations Around Fire Extinguishers

Foam-based fire extinguishers often contain something called an Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF). Some of these AFFFs contain Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA). From July 2025, all foam-based fire extinguishers containing PFOA must be replaced.

How We Can Help

With all of these regulations and requirements, it can be a daunting task to ensure you are correctly equipping your property with fire extinguishers. For expert advice, contact Martyn Young Fireproofing Consultancy today on 07585 896648


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