If you've never had a conversation with a professional about using fire extinguishers, you could easily be forgiven for not knowing the importance of having the right model for a particular job. Fire extinguishers have 6 distinct classes, and using the right tool for the right job can mean the difference between saving or losing lives and property.
Most fire extinguishers deployed in American homes are Class A ones. These are considered suitable for use on materials like wood, fabric, and paper when they catch fire. These come in a variety of sizes, making them ideal for deployment in multiple locations, such as putting one in the kitchen, one in the basement, and another in an upstairs bathroom. They are the most cost-effective models.
Folks who've encountered the Class B system have probably seen them in professional garages and workshops. They are designed for use on things like gasoline, motor oil, and other petroleum products. If you carry an extinguisher in your car, it should be a Class B setup, and the same goes for having one in a residential garage.
Electrical fires call for the use of Class C extinguishers. These are designed with special chemicals that won't react when they're sprayed on open electrical circuits and bare wiring. Offices that have large amounts of network cabling, computers, and servers should consider purchasing these.
Straddling all three of the previous classes in functionality is the ABC model. As it serves all three functions, it is one of the more expensive fire extinguishers you can buy. Folks who only have room for one system, however, should strongly consider ponying up the money to get an ABC model.
Class D extinguishers are particularly specialized systems. These are designed for putting out fires caused by flammable metals and some types of chemicals. If you're working in an environment with materials like magnesium, titanium, or sodium in proximity to heat, you should consider buying a Class D fire extinguisher. These are mostly for use in laboratories, testing facilities, military installations, and some types of factories.
Finally, there is the Class K fire extinguisher. These are designed to deal with fires in environments where organic oils rapidly spread, especially commercial-scale kitchens. Fires under these conditions spread, stick, and burn, essentially acting like napalm. The K model is intended to suppress the fire and reduce the spread of grease or oil.
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