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Fire Extinguishers

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Make sure you, or someone else CALLS 911 FIRST!

Do not jeopardize your personal safety when attempting to use a fire extinguisher.


Home Portable Fire Extinguishers have limits

Fire Extinguisher ImageUsed properly, a portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the Fire Department arrives. Portable extinguishers for home use however, are not designed to fight large or spreading fires. Even against small fires, they are useful only under certain conditions.

Extinguishers should not be used by small children.

The operator must know how to use the extinguisher; there is no time to read the directions during an emergency.

The extinguisher must be within easy reach and in working order, fully charged.

The operator must have a clear escape route that will not be blocked by fire.

The extinguisher must match the type of fire being fought.  Extinguishers containing water are unsuitable for use on grease and electrical fires.

The extinguisher must be large enough to put out the fire.  Many portable extinguishers discharge completely in as few as 8 - 10 seconds.

Choosing Your Extinguisher

Select ONLY fire extinguishers that have been tested by an independent laboratory and labeled for the type and size of fire they can extinguish. Use these labels as a guide to purchase the kind of extinguisher that suits your needs.

Fire Extinguisher Types Graphic


Classes of Fire

There are three basic classes of fires.  All fire extinguishers are labeled using standard symbols for the class of fire they can put out.  A red slash through any of the symbols tells you the extinguisher cannot be used in that class of fire.  A missing symbol tells you only that the extinguisher has not been tested for a given class of fire. The extinguisher must be appropriate for the type of fire being fought. Multi-purpose fire extinguishers, labeled ABC, may be used on all three classes of fires. If you use the wrong type of extinguisher, you can endanger yourself and make the fire worse. In some cases, it may be dangerous to use any type of fire extinguisher. An extinguishing agent released under pressure could spread a grease fire in a frying pan rather than put it out for example.



Extinguisher LabelExtinguisher Sizes

Portable extinguishers are also rated for the size of fire they can handle. This rating will appear on the label, for example, 2A:10-B:C. The larger the numbers, the larger the fire the extinguisher can put out, but higher rated models are often heavier. Make sure you can hold and operate an extinguisher before you buy it.

Installation and Maintenance

Extinguishers should be installed in plain view, above the reach of children, near an escape route, and away from stoves and heating appliances. Extinguishers require routine care.  Read your operator's manual to learn how to inspect your extinguisher.  Follow manufacturer's instructions for maintenance. Rechargeable models must be serviced after every use (There are service companies listed in the Yellow Pages under "Fire Extinguishers"). Disposable fire extinguishers can be used only once and after that they must be replaced.

Remember the PASS-word

Keep your back to an unobstructed exit and stand 6' - 8' away from the fire.  Follow the four step PASS procedure:

Fire Extinguisher Use Graphic

  • PULL the pin: This unlocks the operating lever and allows you to discharge the extinguisher.  Some extinguishers may have other lever-release mechanisms.
  • AIM low: Point the extinguisher nozzle (or hose) at the base of the fire.
  • SQUEEZE the lever above the handle: This discharges the extinguishing agent. Releasing the lever will stop the discharge (Some extinguishers have a button instead of a lever).
  • SWEEP from side to side: Moving carefully torward the fire, keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire and sweep back and forth until the flames appear to be out. Watch the fire area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat the process.


Charter Township of Ypsilanti  •  7200 S. Huron River Dr. Ypsilanti, Mi 48197  •  (734) 544 - 4000

Mon. - Fri., 8:30am - 4:30pm  •  Closed 12:00pm - 1:00pm daily