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Your Guide to Types of Fire and Fire Extinguishers

There are different types of fire extinguisher for different types of fire – the type or types you require will depend on the potential fire hazards in your premises.  Using the wrong extinguisher to fight a fire can be exceptionally dangerous, so you should choose carefully and always pay attention to the instructions for use.

Class of Fire

Class A

  • Ordinary combustible materials (e.g. wood, paper, cloth or fabric).

Class B

  • Flammable liquids (e.g. oils, spirits or petrol).

Class C

  • Flammable gases (e.g. propane or butane).

Class D

  • Flammable metals (e.g. magnesium or lithium)

Electrical Fires

  • Fires involving electrical equipment. Before dealing with the fire the power source should be isolated, then the fire dealt with according to class (if the power source cannot be isolated, or if there is a residual risk, then dry powder or CO2 extinguishers should be used – do not use water extinguishers on this type of fire).

Class F

  • Fires involving cooking oils and fats (e.g. sunflower oil, lard or olive oil).

Types of Fire Extinguisher and Uses


  • For use on Class A fires (fires involving solid materials e.g. wood, paper or textiles). Pressurised system that cools fires and materials.  Ideal for offices and commercial premises

Wet Chemical

  • For use on Class A, B or F fires (fires involving solid materials, flammable liquids or cooking oils and fat). Rapidly knocks flames out, cools burning oil and reacts to form a soap-like solution which seals the surface of the flame and prevents re-ignition.  Ideal for offices, commercial premises and commercial cooking premises.

(AFF) Foam

  • For use on Class A and B fires (fires involving solids and flammable liquids e.g. petrol, diesel and paint). Aqueous film forming foam extinguisher that that smothers fires.  Ideal for offices, commercial premises, large warehouses or distribution facilities.

ABC Powder

  • For use on class A, B and C fires (fires involving solids, flammable liquids and flammable gases e.g. propane or butane). Very efficient at smothering fire but there can be danger of re-ignition due to lack of cooling effect.  Ideal for offices, commercial premises and all round domestic use.


  • For use on electrical fires or class B fires (fires involving electrical equipment or flammable liquids). Starves fire of oxygen and leaves no residue (though it does not have cooling effect so there is a danger of the fire re-igniting).

Tips on Carrying Out a Comprehensive Fire Risk Assessment

When making your risk assessment, consider the following:

  • All emergency routes and exits (placement, signage and access)
  • Fire detection and warning systems (suitability and maintenance)
  • Fire fighting equipment (suitability and maintenance)
  • The presence of dangerous substances (requirements for, storage and use)
  • Your emergency fire action plan (with reference to nature of premises and staff)
  • Needs of any vulnerable people (elderly, young or disabled)
  • Availability of Information on fire safety measures and procedures to staff and visitors to the premises
  • The training of staff in fire safety (also consider their capabilities when allocating responsibility for tasks)