As much as fire is important in enabling to perform rituals or cook favorite meals, it can also cause wreak havoc and irredeemable damages. In recent times, it has damaged properties worth millions of dollars, caused untimely deaths, and so much more. This is the reason why you should have an effective method of putting out fire back at home or at the workplace. In this case, a fire extinguisher. With an extinguisher, you will be able to put out any form of fire instantly. The big puzzle is, how does it work? In this article, we shall take a closer look at how fire extinguisher work for better understanding.
What are common fire extinguishing agents?
As we speak, there are different types of extinguishing agents that can help you put out the fire. Each of these fire extinguishing agents is ideal to be used on a particular class of fire. First off, note that there are four classes of fire that can be put off by different agents. These are; class A for ordinary combustibles like wood or paper, class B for flammable gases or liquids, class C for the electric type of fire, class D for combustible metallic fires like potassium, and class K for the cooking type of fire. We shall take a closer look at the common fire extinguishing agent and where to apply them.
1. Dry chemical
The above-mentioned agent is normally made up of very small particles of potassium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate, ammonium phosphate, and other additives. These components normally help to interrupt and destroy chemical reactions of the fire triangle. In other words, it creates a barrier between fuel and oxygen elements from class A fires. However, extinguishers with potassium bicarbonate and sodium bicarbonate are also rated for Class C and Class B fires. On the other hand, extinguishers with ammonium phosphate are ideal for Class A, B, and C fires.
2. Clean agent
This is an electrically non-conductive and halogenated extinguishing agent. It works by eliminating halocarbon agents which interrupt any chemical reaction from the fire triangle. When in use, it usually evaporates, leaving behind no residue. Currently, the acceptable clean agent that is used in most extinguishers includes halocarbons such as Halon 1211, Halotron I and FE36, and carbon dioxide.
Remember that carbon dioxide extinguishers are normally ideal to be used for Class B and C fires. Those extinguishers containing Halon 1211 and halocarbons are also suitable for Class B and C fires. However, larger units containing the Halon 1211 and halocarbons are normally rated for Class A fires.
3. Wet chemical
The agent mentioned above extinguishes fire by removing heat from the fire triangle. Consequently, it prevents re-ignition by creating a barrier between the fuel elements and oxygen. In fact, it is known to create a thick form of blanket that floats on the surface of the cooking oil or fat fires. Basically, it should be used for Class A and K fires.
4. Water Mist
This extinguishing agent usually puts out by removing the heating element from the fire triangle. It is actually a good alternative to clean agent extinguishers. Extinguishers containing this agent are ideal for Class A fires. However, you can still use them on Class C fires, and everything will be a success.
5. Carbon dioxide
Chances are that you have heard about this extinguishing agent in the recent past. It normally puts out the fire by removing the much-needed oxygen from the fire triangle. Besides oxygen, this agent is very effective in removing heat from the fire triangle as it offers a very cold discharge. It is ideal for Class B and C fires. However, it is not effective for Class A fires.
6. Cartridge Operated dry chemical
This fire extinguishing agent works by interrupting the chemical reaction of the fire triangle. To be specific, it usually interrupts and separates the oxygen element from the fuel element. Consequently, it is ideal to put out the fire in Class A fires.
To start with, this extinguishing agent is either in form of film-forming fluoro protein foam (FFFP) or aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF). Form agents work by dispelling oxygen elements from the fire triangle. For optimal results, you should utilize this agent on Class B fires.
8. Dry powder
You will note that the above-mentioned extinguishing agent comprises of granular or powder particles that help in putting out Class D combustible metal fires. Some of the components that make up this agent include graphite, sodium chloride, copper, and so on. To work, this fire extinguisher agent puts off fire by eliminating fuel from oxygen element.
See more : Best Fire Extinguisher For Kitchen
Types of fire extinguishers
Now that we have examined the various types of extinguishing agents, time is ripe for you to know the types of fire extinguishers you should expect in the market. They include the following:
1. ABC Powder Fire extinguisher
Unlike other fire extinguishers, this one is a multi-purpose extinguisher. Therefore, it can be applied in many areas and for various kinds of fire. As its name suggests, it is applicable for Class A, B and C fires. Therefore it is one of the most preferred extinguishers out there.
You will note that this extinguisher normally sprays a very fine chemical powder whose main component is monoammonium phosphate. When in use, this powder covers the fire like a blanket and thereby suffocates it. With this extinguisher, you can be sure that you will be able to break the chain reaction, whether you are dealing with gas or liquid fire.
2. Wet chemical fire extinguisher
The above-mentioned fire extinguisher is ideal for Class K fires. Typically, these are fires that involve cooking items such as animal and vegetable oils and fats. It is important to note that these extinguishers are known to contain potassium which is very effective in putting out fire.
At first, the mist spray helps to cool down the fire. As this goes on, the mist reacts with the cooking medium forming a thick sap-like substance which helps in sealing the surface of the liquid causing fire. By doing this, the extinguisher helps in preventing re-ignition and further spread of fire. Besides the class K fires, this extinguisher is ideal for Class A fires where materials such as paper or wood has caught fire.
3. Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher
Since this extinguisher contains a lot of Carbon dioxide component, you can be sure that you will be able to put out fire more effectively. Basically, this extinguisher normally helps eliminate oxygen which is one of those agents that is needed for combustion to take place.
Without oxygen, fire will be extinguished, leaving no residue behind. Since no residue is left behind, you can be sure that you will not have to clean up the mess after using the extinguisher. This type of extinguisher is suitable for Class B fires.
4. Water Mist Fire extinguisher
When it comes to versatility, this fire extinguisher does not disappoint. You will note that it usually uses the latest technology that is suitable for most classes of fire. To be specific, this fire extinguisher normally releases the tinniest water molecules that help put out the fire. As a result, oxygen levels get reduced, and consequently, the fire gets suffocated.
Besides suffocating the fire, the water particles help to cool the fire by lowering its temperatures. Finally, this extinguisher normally used de-ionized water. Water of this nature does not act as a conductor and therefore can be used to put out electrical fires. Besides electrical fires, you can use the extinguisher to put out liquid and gas fires. Therefore, this extinguisher is normally ideal to be used on Class A, B, C, and K fires.
5. Clean Agent fire extinguisher
Typically, this fire extinguisher contains Halon gas which is known to extinguish fire by reducing the levels of oxygen and curtailing the chain reaction. Since this gas is stored in its liquid form, when sprayed in the air, the liquid changes into gas.
The good news is that this gas is safe for use even where humans are present. Since it is non-conductive and clean, it is ideal to be used in business premises. Besides being non-conductive, it leaves no residue and has a short atmospheric lifetime. Generally, it is eco-friendly. This fire extinguisher is ideal to be used on class B and C fires
6. Foam fire extinguisher
To start with, this fire extinguisher is ideal for class A and B fires. Once the foam spray hits the air, it covers the fire. As a result, vapor is concealed from the liquid thus prevented from rising to provoke the fire .Consequently, the fire gets contained.
Besides this, the foam is also known to offer some cooling effect thanks to water available in the mixture. In most instances, this extinguisher is ideal for gasoline fires but can also be used on Class A fires that involve materials such as wood.
How does a fire extinguisher work?
Since we have looked at the different kinds of fire extinguishers you might find in the market, it is important that you know how this equipment. However, let’s first understand much about fire. Fire is scientifically described as a triangle that entails three substances; air, fuel. When the bone of these is removed or broken, it stops. Therefore, fire extinguisher work by breaking off one, two, or all of the three elements.
To start with, you will realize that the extinguisher is more or less like a giant aerosol can with two different substances.
In most instances, one of these substances is solid, liquid or gas in nature. Inside, also exist a propellant that is basically a pressurized chemical that eliminates one, two, or all of the substances from the fire when the extinguisher is in use. The substance removed entirely depends on the type of extinguisher. However, note that since the propellant stored here is already pressurized, strong canisters are always needed to prevent the extinguishers from exploding.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the first thing to do in a fire?
In the event of a fire, the first step is to run out of the building, yell; ‘Fire!’ to alert others, and call 911 for immediate help. If you reside in a building that has elevators, you can consider using the stairs instead. Besides this, you should leave all your items behind and run for your safety. If there is a fire assembly point, you can run towards that point so as to remain safe.
Which is the best agent to extinguish an electrical fire?
In case you encounter an electrical fire, it is imperative that you use fire extinguishers with both mono ammonium phosphate and sodium bicarbonate agents. Typically, these agents are ideal for Class C fires. This is because these agents are non-conductive in nature.
What is the main cause of death in a fire?
One of the main reasons why most people die in the event of a fire is due to smoke inhalation of toxic gases. In most cases, these gases are produced during combustion. With the absence or reduced levels of oxygen in the body, the chances of surviving are very slim, and therefore you might succumb and die.
What are the 4 steps in using a fire extinguisher?
When using a fire extinguisher, the first step is to pull the pin at the top of the extinguisher and break the seal. Thereafter, head to where the fire is and aim it at a distance. Here, you should aim the nozzle towards the base of the fire. Aiming at the base of the fire, squeeze the handles together so as to discharge or release the agent inside the extinguisher.
If you want to stop the discharge, you should release the handles. Finally, move the nozzle from side to side as you approach the fire. Most importantly, direct the extinguishing agent at the base of the flames. If you are dealing with class A fires, you should not just leave immediately as smoldering hot spots might reignite the fuel. Therefore, you should probe those spots and ensure that you leave no stone unturned.
Can water make the fire worse?
Yes. If you are dealing with Class B or C fires, water cannot be helpful but instead, might help in spreading the flammable liquid, thereby facilitating the spread of fire. Ideally, you should put out such fire using foam, powder, or better still, carbon dioxide fire extinguishers.
Although fire is important in our lives, it can cause irreversible damages. Since it is hard to predict when there will be fire damage, it is imperative that you always have a fire extinguisher on your premises. This could be your home or office. This way, you will be able to put out the fire in case it occurs. Consequently, you will be able to salvage valuable items and even save lives. Invest in a fire extinguisher today, and you will not regret it.