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Fire Extinguishers

In the event of a fire, you need to have the confidence to act on the spot. The smaller the fire is, the sooner it goes out. Learn about fire extinguishers to gain the confidence to use one.

Quick Tips

Look for the ABC rating.
Consider purchasing an extinguisher that has an ABC rating. This type can be used on most types of fires.

Only use an extinguisher if you have learned how to do so.
Remember the acronym PASS: Pull the pin; Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire; Squeeze the trigger; Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until it is empty.

Store it correctly.
Store the extinguisher in plain view, out of the reach of children and away from stoves and heating appliances.

Only use on small, contained fires.
Never let the fire get between you and the exit. Most fire extinguishers empty in less than 30 seconds. If the fire is not out by then, leave the premises immediately and call the fire department. Note: many stovetop fires can be safely extinguished without the use of a fire extinguisher. Slide a lid over the pot to smother the flames and turn off the stove.

Limitations of Fire Extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers have limited applications against small fires. When used properly, an extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until firefighters arrive. Fire extinguishers do not replace the need to call Fire Services. Always call 9-1-1 first when a fire occurs, no matter how small.

Fire extinguishers are not designed for use on large or spreading fires. Even on small fires, they are effective only under the following conditions:

extinguisher must be operator must be
  • rated for the type of fire being extinguished
  • large enough for the fire at hand.
  • in good working order, fully charged and within easy reach
  • trained in the proper use of the extinguisher.
  • physically capable of lifting, handling and operating the extinguisher.
FAQs: Fire Extinguishers
What type of extinguisher should I buy?

There are three basic classes of fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers must be labelled to show the class of fire they can extinguish.  

  • Class A:
    Ordinary combustibles such as paper, wood, rubbish, drapes and upholstery. Generally, class A fires are those that are safe to have water applied.
  • Class B:
    Flammable liquids such as gasoline, oils, solvents, paints and flammable gases.
  • Class C:
    Electrical fires involving Class "A" or Class "B" materials with live electrical power - overheated wiring, fuse boxes, stoves, motors etc.

The extinguisher must be tested and listed by The Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada (ULC). Look for the ULC label on the extinguisher.


Be certain that you use the correct type of extinguisher for the fire you are fighting. If you use the wrong type of extinguisher, you can endanger yourself and even make the fire worse. Numbers are also used with letters for extinguishers labelled for class A and B fires. The larger the number, the larger the fire the extinguisher can put out. Extinguishers rated ABC Multipurpose provide the required protection for all of the above types of fire.

How should I care for my extinguishers?

Extinguishers require regular care. Learn how to inspect your extinguisher by reading your operator's manual. Follow the manufacturer's maintenance instructions. Remember to recharge reusable extinguishers and replace disposable models after every use.

Where should I install my extinguishers?

Install your extinguishers in plain view, above the reach of small children, near an exit route, and away from stoves and heating appliances. Ideal locations for your extinguishers are in the kitchen, workshop, upstairs and at the top of a basement stairwell.

When should I use my extinguisher to fight a fire?

Only fight a fire if:

  • the fire is small and not spreading
  • occupants have been alerted
  • everyone has left or is leaving the building
  • 9-1-1 has been called
  • you have a clear escape route that won't be blocked by fire
  • you know how to operate your extinguisher and are aware of its capabilities

Don't fight a fire in any other circumstance. Leave the premises immediately, close off the area and call 9-1-1 from a neighbour's home.

How should I use a fire extinguisher?

Remember "P-A-S-S" when fighting a fire (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep)

  • PULL out the locking pin, breaking the seal. Some extinguishers may use a different release device. Please refer to your operator's manual.
  • AIM the nozzle horn (or hose) at the base of the fire about 3 metres (10 feet) from the fire.
  • SQUEEZE the trigger handle all the way, releasing the extinguishing agent.
  • SWEEP the material discharged by the extinguisher from side to side, moving front to back, across the base of the fire until it appears to be out. Keep your eyes on fire area. Repeat the process if the fire starts up again. Never turn your back on a fire even if you think it is out.

Most extinguishers will operate according to the PASS method. Some extinguishers may not. Read your operator's manual for specific directions. Remember to recharge the extinguisher immediately after use.

How many fire extinguishers do I need?

You must assess your needs and provide accordingly. Obviously the kitchen has many identifiable ignition sources, so one extinguisher should be provided near the kitchen. If you have other obvious ignition sources (wood-burning stove or fireplace, basement or garage workshop e.g.), then place an extinguisher between the hazard and the nearest exit, so that you never get trapped when retrieving your extinguisher.

In case of fire or an emergency, call 9-1-1.

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