Fire extinguishers are not the only way to put out a fire. Fire blankets are convenient and cleanup friendly and can come to the rescue when a small fire breaks out in a kitchen or workshop. So, what are the major differences between the two? Find out below.
Different Types of Fire Blankets
There are different types of fire blankets. The design and construction depends on the material, size, and how they are stored.
Fire blanket types include:
- Cotton impregnated with fire retardant chemicals
Common storage locations for fire blankets include:
- Wall mounted
- Shelf – stored
- Carry bag
- Floor bin (often vintage fire blankets)
- Inside a wall-mounted fire extinguisher cabinet on the top shelf
Most residential apartment or commercial buildings will have fire blankets mounted next to a fire extinguisher, or inside the wall-mounted fire extinguisher cabinet (with the glass front) on the upper shelf.
You need to choose fire blankets that are suited for your specific fire. The fire blanket must be big enough to cover the entire fire. It should also wrap around the fire on both sides. You may need two separate fire blankets, however this may not be as effective as using one large one.
Compared to fire blankets, fire extinguishers come in a range of more specialized types designed for a specific range of fires. ABC is the most common type of fire extinguisher.
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What Types of Fires Can Fire Blankets Put Out?
Fire blankets can put out a decent sized range of small fire types. These include:
- Small kitchen fires (grease, cooking oil)
- Small wood or paper fires
- Small Electrical fires
- Small gas or chemical fires
The most common use of fire blankets are for small class A or B fires. Fire blankets can also be used to put out a fire on a person’s clothing.
Fire blankets work by cutting off oxygen to a fire. They are very effective at putting out small fires that do not react well to water, especially stovetop fires burning cooking fats. However, they can only do well for fires that are smaller than the blanket itself.
However, compared to fire extinguishers, fire blankets cannot put out as many different types of fires.
Fire blankets are only suited to putting out small fires, or protecting a person wrapped up in it to escape a fire. Fire blankets are primarily use for protection and escape, rather than extinguishing or suppressing large fires.
Effectiveness of Different Fire Blanket Materials
Each different fire blanket material excels at putting out certain types of fires.
Fiberglass fire blankets are great for putting out grease or oil fires in kitchens or workshops where using water will make them worse. A fiberglass fire blanket is great to pair with a class ABC, class B/C or class K fire extinguisher.
Wool fire blankets are very good at putting out industrial fires that involve electrical equipment or chemicals. Additional flame retardant material makes them even better at this. Many commercial buildings have wool fire blankets accessible which can be wrapped around people escaping a large fire. Wool fire blankets are great to pair with Class ABC, Class A or Class B or C fire extinguishers.
Cotton fire blankets are very good for home fires and wrapping them around babies and pets during an escape. They have non-toxic fire retardants applied that make them safer to handle. Cotton fire blankets are good to pair with a home class ABC fire extinguisher.
Aluminized fire blankets are good for extremely high-heat situations, such as blacksmith shops, ironworks, welding or industrial manufacturing and transportation of flammable materials. They can help protect against ultra-hot magnesium, lithium battery or chemical fires. Aluminized fire blankets work excellent together with Class B/C, Class D, M28 and L2 fire extinguishers.
Special water based gel-soaked fire blankets may be made of wool and have enhanced fire protection ability. These work to both put out fires, and smother a person who is caught on fire and risks severe skin burns. This type of fire blanket is more expensive, costing $200+ each.
Are Fire Blankets Easy To Use?
Fire blankets are very easy to use and nearly anyone can learn how. To use one, simply pull it out of its bag or container and throw it over a fire.
The blanket should block the oxygen feeding the flames, which will put the fire out.
Fire blankets are very good at protecting a person while escaping from a burning building. They just need to wrap their torso and head with a large fire blanket. A person who is caught on fire can wrap the blanket around them to smother the flame.
Fire extinguishers, however, can be heavy to hold, and are only good for blasting a fire at a safe distance to put it out. For escaping a burning building, a fire extinguisher may not help keep a person as safe as using a fire blanket.
Can Children Use Fire Blankets?
Yes, children can learn to use fire blankets. As long as they understand what they are used for and big enough to unfurl one. Children also need to be taught fire escape procedures and how to respect the risks associated with fires.
Children may have a hard time learning to use a fire extinguisher properly, especially large ones which they cannot carry. An ordinary blanket can be used to mimic a fire blanket while instructing a child on how to use one.
Fire Blanket vs Fire Extinguisher Cost
Fire blankets generally cost between $5 – $100 USD depending on the brand, material and size. Fire extinguishers cost between $30-$1,000 USD each.
Large, high quality, wool, cabinet mounted fire blankets cost around $100 – 200 each and are suitable for apartment buildings and commercial offices.
Smaller, cheaper fire blankets, for use in kitchen and small home fires are usually sold in packs of 2 or more, rather than individually.
If they are not damaged both fire blankets and fire extinguishers can be reused. Fire blankets just need to be cleaned, refolded and stored again.
In a Nutshell
Fire blankets and fire extinguishers complement each other when paired for the right type of fire and usage. It’s not an either-or proposition — it’s always best to have both on hand, located where you can easily reach them in case of a fire.