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How and When to Use a Fire Extinguisher
Fires and burns are a leading cause of home injuries and deaths. Using a fire extinguisher to put out a small fire can save lives and property, but you have to know exactly what to do. If you are not sure or have never used an extinguisher, your safest choice is to get everyone out and call the fire department.
If you want to use a fire extinguisher on a small fire, here are tips to know:
Before the Fire
- Only adults should use a fire extinguisher.
- Choose an extinguisher that will work on all types of fires. These are usually called “ABC” type extinguishers.
- Choose the largest extinguisher you can handle – bigger is better.
- Read all the directions. Know how to use an extinguisher. If possible, get training from your local fire department or workplace that will let you practice putting out a fire.
- Keep the instructions so you can review them from time to time.
- Mount the extinguisher near an exit door, out of reach of children.
Fighting a Small Fire
- Make sure everyone else is leaving the home.
- Ask someone to call the fire department from outside.
If the fire is small and not spreading, quickly get your extinguisher. Start with your back to the exit, making sure the fire does not block your escape route. Stand 6 -8 feet away from the fire. Then, remember the word PASS:
- PULL the pin out to unlock the operating lever.
- AIM low: Point the extinguisher nozzle (or hose) at the base of the fire.
- SQUEEZE the handle to release the extinguishing agent. Be prepared! It will come out with force.
- SWEEP from side to side, moving carefully toward the fire. Keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire, sweeping back and forth until all the flames are out. Watch the fire area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat the process.
Important: If the fire does not go out quickly, or if you feel at risk in any way, leave immediately and let the fire department handle it. Fighting a fire can be dangerous. Only adults who know how and when to use an extinguisher should ever try to put out a fire. Children should not use fire extinguishers.
Slide a Lid
- If you have a small pan fire on the stove, put on an oven mitt.
- Carefully slide a cookie sheet over the pan. A lid can also be used. This cuts off the oxygen and allows the fire to go down.
- Turn off the heat at the burner.
- Leave the pan covered and in place. Do not try to move it!
- Let the pan cool down before you take away the cookie sheet or lid.
Using a Fire Extinguishing Spray
- Do not use a regular “ABC” fire extinguisher if a pan on your stove catches on fire. These can spread the fire or tip the burning pan over.
- You can use a fire extinguishing spray on a pan fire. Make sure it is tested for use on grease and cooking oil fires.
- Stand back about 4 feet from the stove.
- Aim the spray can at the base of the flames and spray onto them.
- Spray until the flames go out and you have completely smothered the source of the fire.
- Turn off the heat at the burner.
- Leave the pan in place until it has completely cooled.
After a Fire
- Even if you believe the fire is out, have the fire department inspect your home to look for hidden hot spots that could flare up later.