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How a Fire Extinguisher Works

How a Fire Extinguisher Works

It is important to learn how a fire extinguisher works. No matter how careful we are in our day-to-day lives, the chance of an accident happening is always present. Sometimes one of the most unfortunate events that can take place is a fire. Fires can spread quickly, and pose a tremendous risk to both property and persons in the area.

Fortunately, however, the are ways that a fire can be prevented. One of the most effective ways to combat fires before they become out of control is a fire extinguisher, and learning about how these devices are operated and work is an important aspect of owning them.

Chemical Agents

Typically, fire extinguishers contain numerous different chemicals, with certain extinguishers better suited to certain fires. The most common types of fire extinguishers are pressurized with either carbon dioxide or nitrogen, to propel an active material towards the fire. This active ingredient can be potassium bicarbonate in the form of a powder, water, or an evaporating fluorocarbon agent.

While many people believe that the physical smothering of the fire is what extinguishes it, the truth is that there is a chemical process involved that greatly aids the physical act of suppressing the fire. Most of the active materials that are used to combat fires begin to decompose at about 158 degrees Fahrenheit. When these chemicals decompose, they release carbon dioxide, which, along with the physical insulation that the foam provides, smothers the fire and keeps it from spreading.

Usage Matters

Learning how to use the fire extinguisher is very important. There are four simple steps that must be followed. First, pull the pin that is on top of the extinguisher. Next, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, not at the flames themselves. This is important because you need to take away the source of the fuel. With your aim set, squeeze the lever slowly, which will release the agent where you aim. As you are discharging the agent, it is important to sweep the extinguisher from side to side, as this covers the entirety of the fire in the chemicals. Always distance yourself safely away from the fire and keep your arms out in front of you in a locked position when you you use the extinguisher.

By keeping these things in mind, you will understand how a fire extinguisher works and be able to effectively utilize the extinguisher in a safe and effective way. However, personal safety should always be taken into consideration, and it is not recommended to use the fire extinguisher on larger fires that spread to the ceiling. Finally, keeping your fire extinguisher in proper working condition can save lives.

Learn more about the history of fire extinguishers or contact us if you have questions or need a fire extinguisher inspection or service.