by Will Mason
You may require different types of fire extinguishers, depending on your business and the fire risk involved. There are, in fact, four different categories of extinguishers. For example, an electrical fire is different to that of a paper bin fire, and therefore a different type of extinguisher would be required for each type of fire. Furthermore, the size of the fire is also an important factor and a rating will be indicated on the extinguisher that quickly gives you an idea if the size of the extinguisher is suitable for the fire you are trying to extinguish.
The UK recognises five different classifications, or types, of fire. Fires can be categorised according to the kind of fuel that's burning, a key factor in deciding how to extinguish them as, in many cases, a dangerous situation may arise if the wrong type of fire extinguisher is used. The classifications are:
• Class A - Class A fires contain flammable materials found in both commercial and domestic buildings (such timber, conventional paper, fabrics, straw, coal and car tyres, etc.).
• Class B - Class B fires are generated by ignition of fluids or components that liquefy (e.g. fats, oils, petrol, paints, alcohol and paraffin).
• Class C - Class C fires are generated by ignition of gasses for example hydrogen, natural gas, methane, propane and acetylene.
• Class D - Class D fires contain flammable metals, for example sodium, magnesium, aluminium, lithium and potassium, and require specialist fire extinguishers.
• Class F - Class F fires contain flammable oils and grease. New cooking formulations used in commercial kitchens for food preparation demand a specific wet chemical extinguishing agent which is specifically designed for extinguishing these hot fires, which have the capability to re-flash.
There was in the past a category E, which included fires connected with electrical apparatus, but this was ceased on the grounds that after the power supply has become turned off, an electrical fire can fall under any of the outstanding five categories.
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