It’s very important to have at least one fire extinguisher in the home. That’s especially true in the kitchen, which is where fires usually start. But it’s also important to know how to use one.
“We do not recommend portable fire extinguishers in the home unless the homeowner has received proper education and training,” says Fire Chief Ian Josephson of the City of Chilliwack Fire Department. That training could come from the fire department or a qualified service provider.
Chief Josephson says to make sure the fire extinguisher is in a place where you can easily get to it. He also recommends additional fire extinguishers placed strategically in your home. Other than the kitchen, that includes in a workshop, garage, basement, camper and cottage. Ideally, it should be mounted just inside the door.
When to call the fire department
Common sense rules everything, says Laura King, public education representative for the National Fire Protection Association in Canada.
“We want to make sure people have every resource that is available, every type of protection,” she says. “If there is a grease fire in the kitchen, for example, you can’t be running up and down the stairs to get a fire extinguisher.”
The general rule is you shouldn’t have to travel more than 12 metres (40 feet) to grab a fire extinguisher as that wastes precious time when you’re trying to put out a fire.
It’s also very important to know when it’s time to call the fire department after a fire starts.
Both King and Josephson agree that having a smoke alarm to provide an early warning of a fire is a priority. So is having a safe and quick evacuation plan for all those who live in the house – exit first, then call 911.
After all, a fire can grow and spread rapidly. You’ll quickly be overcome by smoke and toxic fumes. If the fire does not go out after using one extinguisher, back out of the room, close the door if you can, get outside and call 911.
Using a Fire Extinguisher
How do you work a fire extinguisher? Remember the word PASS:
- Pull the pin, and hold the extinguisher with the nozzle directed away from you. Release the locking mechanism.
- Aim low – point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
Homeowners also need to understand there are different types of fire extinguishers for different types of fires:
- Class A (fires involving wood, paper, cloth, ordinary trash)
- Class B (fires involving flammable liquid or gasoline, oils, grease, paints and propane)
- Class C (fires involving electrical equipment)
- Class D (fires involving metals, not as likely to occur in homes)
- Class K (for larger grease and oil fires usually found in commercial kitchens, like restaurants)
That’s why it is recommended that homeowners purchase a multi-purpose, ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher. These can be used for all types of home fires, including grease fires in the kitchen. And, make sure whatever fire extinguisher you buy has a “ULC” label. That proves the extinguisher meets product safety requirements for use.
You should also regularly check the fire extinguishers you have in your home to make sure they are operating properly. Here is a great story on how to inspect it. Make sure you get them serviced once a year by someone certified.