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Fire Types and Extinguishers

Getting to know the types of Fire Extinguishers and what type of fires they work on can be life saving information.

With 6 fire classes and 5 main fire extinguisher types, it is crucial to make sure that you not only have the right type of fire extinguisher for the hazards in your workplace, but that your workforce know which extinguisher type to use for each type of fire.

Below we have put a simple list to highlight each class of fire, alongside the main types of Fire Extinguishers available. At the end you can find a link to download a free “Know your Fire Extinguishers” sheet that can be displayed in your premises, on site or given to your workforce for guidance.

Classes of Fire

Class A

Fires involving organic solids (such as textiles, paper or wood)

Class B

Fires involving flammable liquids (such as petrol or oils)

Class C

Fires involving flammable gasses

Class D

Fires involving burning metals


Fires involving electrical appliances (unofficially thought of as “Class E”)

Class F

Fires involving cooking oils (such as in deep-fat fryers).

The 5 Main Types of Fire Extinguisher

Water (Red Label)

Designed for Class A Fires, these extinguishers work by using the water to cool the fuel, removing the heat element that will eventually extinguish the fire. Water extinguishers should only be used on Class A fires, as using on other classes of fire can often result in additional hazards.

Use on – Class A Fires

Foam (Cream Label)

Foam extinguishers are often used as a replacement for Water in a number of workplaces as it can tackle both Class A and B fires effectively. The foam has similar effects to water in that it it cools the fuel however in addition when used on Class B fires the foam also separates the fuel from its oxygen supply.

Use on – Class A and B Fires

Dry Powder (Blue Label)

Sometimes known as the ABC Extinguisher due to the fire classes they can extinguish, the powder smothers the fire, separating the fuel from its oxygen source. Care must be given to where these extinguishers can be used as the powder can be easily inhaled and the residue difficult to clean. 

Use on – Class A, B and C Fires (Can be used on Electrical Fires where under 1000v). A specialist “L2 or M38” Extinguisher can be used only on Class D Fires.

Carbon Dioxide CO2 (Black Label)

Used on Electrical fires, the CO2 extinguishers suffocates the fire by starving it of oxygen, however in a confined space they also reduce the amount of oxygen available to breathe which must be considered during assessment. In addition, operators must not hold the discharge horn during use as this can freeze over and cause freeze burn. 

Use on – Electrical and Class B Fires

Wet Chemical (Yellow Label)

Wet Chemical extinguishers are designed for Class F fires and work by removing heat and putting a barrier between the fuel and oxygen so a fire cannot be re-ignited. They can be used on Class A fires, however a water or foam extinguisher is more common for this class of fire.

Use on – Class F and A Fires

This article is to be used as a guide. Some characteristics may change between extinguishers and this guide, especially where less common extinguishers (such as Water Mist) are used.

Always familiarise yourself with the fire extinguishers around you and learn your evacuation routes.

Remember – If in doubt, ask.

If you need help regarding your responsibilities when it comes to Fire Safety, or with Health and Safety in general, then get in touch with the Orchard Compliance Solutions team on 0800 118 1674 or

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