FIRE EXTINGUISHERS - MATCHING THE HAZARD    Fire-extinguishers-article

Published 1 June 2016 

This article examines the types of hand held fire extinguishers available, how they can be identified and what hazards they should be used for.

For combustion to take place four elements must be present - fuel, heat, oxygen and a chemical chain reaction.  Removal of one of these elements will result in the fire being extinguished.  Fire Classes have been developed to describe particular types of fire, and extinguisher types have been developed to deal with a particular fire class.

FIRE CLASSIFICATION

This is specified in AS/NZS 1850:2009 Portable Fire Extinguishers - Classification, Rating And Performance Testing, and defines the Class (type) of fire as follows:

 CLASS  DESCRIPTION
 Class A  Fires involving carbonaceous solids (paper, wood, and many plastics)
 Class B  Fires involving flammable and combustible liquids
 Class C  Fires involving combustible gases
 Class D  Fires involving combustible metals (e.g. lithium, sodium, magnesium)
 Class E  Fires involving energized electrical equipment
 Class F  Fires involving cooking oil and fat


EXTINGUISHER TYPES

Each of these Classes has a coloured symbol to NZS 4503:2005, Hand Operated Fire-Fighting Equipment (or AS/NZS 1841.1, slightly different), see below.

There are 5 main (with some variables) extinguisher types these are:

  • Water
  • Foam
  • Dry powder (ABE Dry Powder, BE Dry Powder and Specialist Powder)
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Wet Chemical

Each of these extinguisher types has to have a designated colour band specified in AS/NZS 1841.1:2007, Portable Fire Extinguishers - General Requirements, refer to table below.

Each extinguisher will also have the required fire class symbol for what it should be used for and also the prohibited fire class symbol it would be dangerous to use with (see below).

Extinguishers must be regularly inspected/maintained.

EXTINGUISHER SELECTION

Sources for this table are NZS 4503 and NBS (UK).  Most are fairly standard, however chemical makeup of extinguishant may vary performance slightly, check with manufacturer.

Table Key:
   = most effective to NZS 4503 (Also to NBS)
     = effective to NZS 4503 (Also to NBS)
      = effective only to NZS 4503 (not used by NBS)
     = effective only to NBS (not covered by NZS 4503)
     X = Dangerous if used in this situation

 

     Water      Foam   ABE Dry Powder   BE Dry Powder  Special Powder Metals  Carbon Dioxide  Wet Chemical
 Class A               
 Class B  X            
 Class C              
 Class D              
 Class E  X  X          X
 Class F  X            
 Band Colour  Red  Blue  White  White  Lime Green  Black

Oatmeal

Table notes: Carbon Dioxide extinguishers not suitable for outdoors use. Class F fires, extinguisher best accompanied with a fire blanket. Powder extinguisher capabilities vary select carefully. Specialist advice should usually be sought for combustible metals.

WARNING HALON EXTINGUISHERS

Halon fire extinguishers were banned in 1998 due to greenhouse gases and ozone depletion risks.  Although most have been recovered, the Fire Protection Association NZ (FPANZ) report that there is still potentially a large number out there (not maintained?).  Halon extinguishers can be identified because they are yellow (not red), and should be handed in to the FPANZ for safe disposal.

CLASS SYMBOLS INDICATING SAFE TO USE EXTINGUISHER

 
 

 
   
 CLASS A  CLASS B  CLASS C  CLASS E  CLASS F

CLASS SYMBOLS INDICATING DANGEROUS/PROHIBITED TO USE EXTINGUISHER

         
 CLASS A  CLASS B  CLASS C  CLASS E   CLASS F

 

MASTERSPEC

To specify use the Masterspec section 7381 PORTABLE FIRE EXTINGUISHERS & FIRE BLANKETS (in Standard, Services, Interiors, Structural & Civil).

 

LINKS

Fire Protection Association NZ - extinguishers

http://www.fireprotection.org.nz/information-on/extinguishes-and-hose-reels

Fire Protection Association NZ - Halon

http://www.fireprotection.org.nz/information-on/halon/general-info

https://www.thenbs.com/knowledge/sustainable-earth-sustainable-us



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