Types of Fires and How to Attack Them

While being quite preventable, there is no denying that fire breakouts occasionally occur in the workplace. It’s common knowledge that fires are devastating – they burn, injure, and sometimes kill people; they damage buildings and equipment; and they interrupt business activities, among others. What is not common knowledge, however, is that there are different types of fires, and each has a different extinguishing method. In fact, it’s so serious that using the wrong method for a certain fire class can accelerate the fire. That said, here are the classes of fires and how to attack them:

  1. Class A Fires (Solids)

These are fires involving solids, ranging from paper to cardboard to wood/furniture to even the structure of a building. Class A fires are common in offices and manufacturing plants. The appropriate extinguisher for a Class A fire is the water extinguisher, which is the most popular type of extinguisher because it can handle most fires involving solids. Note, however, that this cannot and should never be used near electrical equipment.

2. Class B Fires (Liquids)

Class B fires are fires involving liquids. Liquids such as cleaning fluids, paints, inks, solvents, adhesives, and chemicals used in production can be flammable or explosive. As rare as these fires are, they are more deadly than other types of fire. So, how do we fight them? The right extinguisher for a Class B fire is the foam or powder extinguisher. Other steps can be taken to minimize risk, such as conducting a COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) Assessment, labeling flammable liquid containers, and storing flammable liquids far from sources of ignition.

3. Class C Fires (Gases)

These are fires involving gases – natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or any other flammable or explosive gases. The way to attack gas fires is to first shut off the gas supply, then use a dry powder extinguisher to stop the fires. Preventive measures should be taken, such as storing gas in properly sealed containers in safe storage areas, and ensuring that operations involving gas are executed by professionals.

4. Class D Fires (Metals)

Metals, which are good conductors of heat, are also good conductors of fire. All metals will soften and melt at high temperatures, which can be a serious problem when metal columns are present in a fire. Water is not used to tackle Class D fires, as it can act as an accelerant. There are certain dry powder extinguishers used, with the powder depending on the type of metal risk. Small metal fires can be killed with dry earth or sand.

5. Electrical Fires

It’s no new story – electrical fires are more common than most other types of fires in the workplace. Electrical fires are conventionally not classified as Class E. Because electricity is both ignition and fuel, it can fit into any of the other classes. To help reduce the risk of this type of fire, electrical equipment and installations must be properly installed, maintained, and inspected regularly. Water extinguishers cannot be used to attack electrical fires, but other types can – like carbon dioxide and dry powder in low voltage situations. Also if possible, power supply should be turned off while attacking the fire.

6. Class F Fires (Cooking Fats and Oils)

This might sound inappropriate at first, but remember that food industries have kitchens too. Big ones. And that’s where such outbreaks occur. Class F fires are mostly caused by deep fat frying and spillages of flammable oils near heat sources. The only approved type of fire extinguisher used here is the wet chemical extinguisher, and a fire blanket can be used for small Class F fires. To prevent the fires in the first place, be sure to never leave food or frying equipment unattended during use.

At Gabson Professional School of Safety and Engineering, we deliver a fully certified professional course on Health, Safety and Environment (HSE). In this course, you’ll learn more about these types of fires, and everything about protecting lives and property at the workplace. Click here to begin. We’re waiting!

Credits: HASpod

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