What Type of Fire Extinguisher Do I Need?

Before we get to the kinds of fire extinguishers required for different disasters, we need to understand the various types of fire.

The type of fire extinguisher you need depends on the type of fire you need to put out:

  • Class A Fires – fires caused by combustibles like wood, metal, cloth, paper, rubber, and plastics. 
  • Class B Fires – fires caused by flammable liquids like gasoline and grease.
  • Class C Fires – fires caused by energized electrical equipment or wiring. 
  • Class D Fires – fires caused by flammable metals.
  • Class K Fires – fires caused by cooking or vegetable oil, animal fats, or grease (kitchen fires).

Here is a big table of fire extinguisher types and their uses to help you choose:

Type of Fire ExtinguisherType of Fire To Use OnLocations To UseWhere NOT To Use
Water
• Class A
Class A
• Flammable solids (paper, wood, plastics, cloth, trash, rubber)
• Barns
• Warehouses
• Storage Units
• Paper Mills
• Textile Factories
• Kitchens (grease fires)
• Near flammable liquids or gases
• Near live electrical equipment
Wet Chemical
• Class F
• Class ABF
Class A or K
• Flammable solids (wood, paper, cloth, rubbish)
• Cooking oil and fats
• Kitchens
• Restaurants
• Bars
• Hotels
• Warehouses
• Offices
• Factories
• Near flammable liquids or gases
• Near live electrical equipment
Foam
• AFFF
• AFFF Foam
• Spray Foam
Class A, B, or C (*with reservations)
• Flammable solids (paper, wood, cloth)
• Flammable liquids (petrol, diesel, oil)

*If passes 35kV conductivity test, can be used on electrical equipment
• Offices
• Warehouses
• Garages
• Hotels
• Factories
• Near flammable gases
Standard Dry Chemical
• Dry Powder
• ABC
• Multi-purpose
Class A, B, or C (*with reservations)
• Flammable solids (paper, wood, cloth)
• Flammable liquids (petrol, diesel, paint)
• Flammable gases (butane, methane, hydrogen)

*Electrical equipment less than 1000v
• Cars
• Boats
• Lithium batteries
• Garages
• Warehouses
• Industrial facilities
• Power and chemical plants
• Outdoors
• Flammable liquid storage and transport
• Near electrical equipment over 1000v
• Inside small enclosed rooms or spaces
• On flammable metals
Special Dry Chemical
• M28
• L2
Class D
• Flammable metals (sodium, magnesium, aluminum, titanium, zirconium) – M28 extinguishers only
• Lithium – L2 powder extinguishers only
• Fires involving metal
• Cars
• Machinery
• Factories
• Power plants
• Industrial facilities
• Near flammable liquids or gases
Carbon Dioxide
• CO2
• Class B
Class B or C
• Flammable liquids (diesel, petrol, oil)
• Electrical equipment (computers, generators, power tools)
• Schools
• Hospitals
• Offices
• Factories
• Warehouses
• Kitchens (grease fires in cooking pans)
Water MistClass A, B, or C
• Flammable solids (wood, paper, cloth)
• Flammable liquids (petrol, diesel, oil)
• Electrical fires (computers, outlets, generators)
• Kitchens
• Offices
• Warehouses
• Garages
• Near flammable metals
• Some Industrial facilities

Fire Extinguisher Types

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Or, choose which type of fire extinguisher you need based on the type of fire:

Type of Fire (Class)Fire Extinguisher To Use (Class)
Lithium-Ion Battery Fire (Class B)Class ABC (Multi-purpose) or Class BC
*DO NOT USE Class D
Kitchen Fire (Class B, C, K)Class B – Dry Powder or Foam or Class B, C – Wet Chemical or Class ABC – Multi-purpose or Class K
*DO NOT USE Water fire extinguisher
*DO NOT USE C02
Garage Fire (Class A, B, C, D, K)Class ABC (Multi-purpose) or Class B
or dry powder
Barn Fire (Class A, B, C)Class ABC – Multi-purpose or wet chemical or water
Car Fire (Class B, C)Class ABC – Multi-purpose
*DO NOT USE water fire extinguisher
 Dry Chemical or Clean agent or Halogenated
*DO NOT USE water
*DO NOT USE foam
*DO NOT USE C02
Office Fire (Class A)A or Class ABC – Multi-purpose or C02 or foam
*DO NOT USE dry powder extinguisher
*DO NOT USE water
extinguisher
Laboratory Fire (Class A, B, C, D)Class ABC – Multi-purpose or water mist or
C02 or Metal fire extinguisher or dry powder
Gasoline Fire (Class B)C02 or Dry Chemical Or ABC or Class B
*DO NOT USE water extinguisher
Alcohol or Ethanol Fire (Class B)C02 or Dry Chemical Or ABC or Halon based or B or BC
*DO NOT USE water on an alcohol-based fire
Xylene (dimethylbenzene) Fire (Class B, D)Class ABC, B, D, or Water spray or Alcohol resistant foam or Dry chemical or Carbon dioxide
Wood Fire (Class A)A water fire extinguisher or ABC or wet chemical
Natural Gas Fire (Class C)Class C, ABC, Dry Chemical or Alcohol resistant foam
*DO NOT USE liquid-based fire extinguisher
*DO NOT USE water
Welding Fire (Class D)C02 or Dry powder Or ABC
*DO NOT USE water-based fire extinguisher
Plastic Fire (Class A, B)A water-based fire extinguisher or wet chemical or ABC
Grease Fire (Class A, B, K)Dry chemical or ABC or C02 or Class B
*DO NOT USE water-based extinguisher
Rocket Fuel Fire (Class B, C)Class B or C02 or Ethylene Glycol Cartridge or Dry Powder or Foam
*DO NOT USE water
Electrical Fire (Class C)ABC dry powder or C02
*DO NOT USE water-based extinguisher
*DO NOT USE mono ammonium phosphate powder
*DO NOT USE foam
Electric Vehicle Fire (Class B, C, D)Class D or Class ABC – Multi-purpose or Dry chemical or clean agent or halogenated or dry powder
*Do NOT USE water fire extinguisher
Type Of Fire Extinguisher

All of these classes require different kinds of fire extinguishers to put them out.

Fire extinguishers must be red or chrome colored. Labels will be red, white, cream, with blue or black bands across them. The exception is the Class D sodium chloride dry powder fire extinguisher which can be found in a yellow container.

Different manufacturers will have different label designs and colors. Make sure the fire extinguisher has the type clearly marked in large font on the label.

Important Fire Extinguisher Considerations

The type of fire extinguisher used is very important when putting out various types of fires. But what also matters includes:

  • The size of the fire extinguisher
  • The location of the fire extinguisher

These two matter nearly as much as the type of fire extinguisher used to put out a fire safely. If you cannot access the fire extinguisher, or it does not have enough propellant, it will not be effective at putting out the fire.

For more information on these, see our post What Size Fire Extinguisher Do I Need?

What Is The Most Common Type Of Fire Extinguisher?

There is in fact more than one common fire extinguisher type. These include:

  • Water fire extinguishers
  • Foam fire extinguisher
  • ABC dry powder fire extinguishers
  • Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers
  • Wet chemical fire extinguishers

If you cannot decide which type of fire extinguisher to choose, a water-based fire extinguisher or ABC multi-purpose fire extinguisher will be your safest bet.

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Nick Klamecki, Author
About Nick Klamecki, Author

Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use. Learn more about Nick here or connect with him on LinkedIn | Medium

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