How to Pick a Fire Extinguisher

Extinguisher Type

Type of Fire

Water Extinguisher


Ordinary Combustibles

Fires in paper, cloth, wood, rubber, and many plastics require a water type extinguisher labeled A.

Class A Logo
Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher



Dry Chemical Extinguisher

Dry Chemical

Flammable Liquids

Fires in oils, gasoline, some paints, lacquers, grease, solvents, and other flammable liquids require an extinguisher labeled B.

Class B logo

Electrical Equipment

Fires in wiring, fuse boxes, energized electrical equipment, computers, and other electrical sources require an extinguisher labeled C.

Class C Logo

Extinguisher Type

Type of Fire

Multi-purpose Extinguisher


Ordinary Combustibles, Flammable Liquids, or Electrical Equipment

Multi-purpose dry chemical is suitable for use on class A, B, and C.

Class A, B, and C Logos

Class D


Fires involving powders, flakes or shavings of combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, and sodium require special extinguishers labeled D.

Class K

Kitchen Fires

Fires involving combustible cooking fluids such as oils and fats.

Class K Logo

NOTE: Your present fire extinguishing equipment may not put out a fire involving vegetable oil in your deep fat fryer.

TRASH–WOOD–PAPER fire extinguisher

What do the A B C ratings mean on Fire Extinguishers?



Fire extinguishers with a Class A rating are effective against fires involving paper, wood, textiles, and plastics. The primary chemical used to fight these fires is monoammonium phosphate, because of its ability to smother fires in these types of materials.





Fire extinguishers with a Class B rating are effective against flammable liquid fires. These can be fires where cooking liquids, oil, gasoline, kerosene, or paint have become ignited. Two commonly used chemicals are effective in fighting these types of fires. Monoammonium phosphate effectively smothers the fire, while sodium bicarbonate induces a chemical reaction which extinguishes the fire.



Fire extinguishers with a Class C rating are suitable for fires in “live” electrical equipment. Both monoammonium phosphate and sodium bicarbonate are commonly used to fight this type of fire because of their nonconductive properties.


Fire Extinguisher Ratings

Fire extinguishers are classified by fire type. The A, B, C rating system defines the kinds of burning materials each fire extinguisher is designed to fight. The number in front of the A, B, or C indicates the rating size of fire the unit can extinguish.


To achieve a Class “A” rating, the extinguisher must be capable of putting out the wood crib, wood panel and excelsior (shredded paper) tests. Ratings are based on the size of the material that can be repeatedly extinguished.

Rating Wood Crib
Wood Panel
1-A 20 x 20 x 20 8 x 8 6
2-A 25 x 26 x 26 10 x 10 12
3-A 30 x 30 x 30 12 x 12 18
4-A 33 x 30 x 30 14 x 14 24
6-A 38x 38 x 38 17 x 17 36
10-A 48 x 48 x 48 17 x 17 36



To achieve a class “B” rating, the extinguisher must repeatedly put out a flaming liquid fire. Ratings are based on the size of the fire.

Rating Pan Size
(sq ft)
Gallons of
1-B 2.5 3.25
2-B 5.0 6.25
5-B 12.5 15.5
10-B 25.0 31.0
20-B 50.0 65.0
30-B 75.0 95.0
40-B 100.0 125.0



To achieve the Class “C” rating the extinguisher and contents must pass certain electrical conductivity measurements in accordance with UL711 and UL299.

Water – Air-pressurized Water Extinguishers (APW)

Water Extinguisher

Water is one of the most commonly used extinguishing agents for type A fires. You can recognize an APW by its large silver container. They are filled about two-thirds of the way with ordinary water, then pressurized with air. In some cases, detergents are added to the water to produce a foam. They stand about two to three feet tall and weigh approximately 25 pounds when full.

APWs extinguish fire by cooling the surface of the fuel to remove the “heat” element of the fire triangle.

APWs are designed for Class A (wood, paper, cloth, rubber, and certain plastics) fires only.

Class A only Label


  • Never use water to extinguish flammable liquid fires. Water is extremely ineffective at extinguishing this type of fire and may make matters worse by the spreading the fire.
  • Never use water to extinguish an electrical fire. Water is a good conductor and may lead to electrocution if used to extinguish an electrical fire. Electrical equipment must be unplugged and/or de-energized before using a water extinguisher on an electrical fire.

CO2 or Dry Chemical – Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers

Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher

This type of extinguisher is filled with Carbon Dioxide (CO2), a non-flammable gas under extreme pressure. These extinguishers put out fires by displacing oxygen, or taking away the oxygen element of the fire triangle. Because of its high pressure, when you use this extinguisher pieces of dry ice shoot from the horn, which also has a cooling effect on the fire.

You can recognize this type of extinguisher by its hard horn and absent pressure gauge.

CO2 cylinders are red and range in size from five to 100 pounds or larger.

CO2 extinguishers are designed for Class B and C (flammable liquid and electrical) fires only.

Class B and C Label


  • CO2 is not recommended for Class A fires because they may continue to smolder and re-ignite after the CO2 dissipates.
  • Never use CO2 extinguishers in a confined space while people are present without proper respiratory protection.


Carbon dioxide extinguishers will frequently be found in industrial vehicles, mechanical rooms, offices, computer labs, and flammable liquid storage areas.

Multi-purpose – Dry Chemical Extinguishers

Dry Chemical Extinguisher

Dry chemical extinguishers put out fires by coating the fuel with a thin layer of fire retardant powder, separating the fuel from the oxygen. The powder also works to interrupt the chemical reaction, which makes these extinguishers extremely effective.

Dry chemical extinguishers are usually rated for class B and C fires and may be marked multiple purpose for use in A, B, and C fires. They contain an extinguishing agent and use a compressed, non-flammable gas as a propellant.

ABC fire extinguishers are red in color, and range in size from five pounds to 20 pounds.

Dry Chemical extinguishers will have a label indicating they may be used on class A, B, and/or C fires.

Class A, B, and C Logos or Class B and C Label


These extinguishers will be found in a variety of locations including: public hallways, laboratories, mechanical rooms, break rooms, chemical storage areas, offices, commercial vehicles, and other areas with flammable liquids.

Class K – Dry and Wet Chemical Extinguishers for Kitchen Fires

Wet Chemical Extinguisher

Due to the higher heating rates of vegetable oils in commercial cooking appliances NFPA 10, Portable Fire Extinguishers, now includes a Class K rating for kitchen fires extinguishers which are now required to be installed in all applicable restaurant kitchens. Once a fire starts in a deep fryer, it cannot always be extinguished by traditional range hoods or Class B extinguishers.

  • Do not attempt to use a Class A extinguisher containing water or CO2 on a deep fat fryer fire. An explosive type reaction may result.
  • Place a placard near the Class K fire extinguisher which states: “In case of appliance fire, use this extinguisher only after the fixed fire suppression system has been actuated”. Class K fire extinguishers are only intended to be used after the activation of a built-in hood suppression system. If no commercial cooking system hood and fire suppression system exists, Class K extinguishers are not required.
  • Extinguishing agents in many Class K extinguishers are electrically conductive and should only be used after electrical power to the kitchen appliance has been shut off. Class K extinguishers use a variety of agents. Potassium bicarbonate is used in some Class K dry chemical extinguishers, and there are also Class K wet chemical extinguishers which spray a fine mist.
  • Travel distance to a Class K extinguisher shall not exceed 30 feet.
  • Install a 2-A water-type extinguisher or 6L wet chemical fire extinguisher for solid fuel cooking appliances with fire boxes.
  • Inspect, test and maintain Class K fire extinguishers yearly.

Class K Logo


These extinguishers will be found in commercial cooking operations such as restaurants, cafeterias, and other locations where food would be served.