Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers not a catch all solution

I visited the local Sunday market this week and in passing a stall I noticed a chap examining a fire extinguisher. The stall was typical car boot fodder from naff pots and assorted brick-a-brack to ancient spanners and unwanted house contents so how the seller came across a 2 litre wet chemical fire extinguisher is a poser. The chap put it down while he negotiated with the stall holder so I dived in and had a look. I have seen fire extinguishers for sale before in similar markets and all were without exception poor quality rip offs, incomplete or requiring recharging but this one was in pristine condition complete with pull tight seal and extended hose and with the pressure gauge showing a full charge.

The would-be buyer eventually bought it for £4 which given an average retail of £70 was a steal. The seller obviously had no idea of its real worth. A good outcome for the buyer you may think but I overheard him saying that the extinguisher would be ideal for his one man car repair business to satisfy the “fire protection police”. His words not mine.

Wet chemical extinguishers are Class F fire rated specifically for use on cooking oil and cooking fat fires and just don’t work on hydrocarbon based oils and fuels found in garages. Clearly both seller and buyer had no idea what a Wet Chemical Extinguisher is for. To be fair Wet Chemical is often rated Class A for common combustibles like paper and wood but the fire fighting power is miserly compared to equivalent sized foam or powder extinguishers. A 1kg dry powder fire extinguisher would be a more effective safeguard in a small garage environment as at least it is rated for lubricating oils, fuels and flammable gases as well as having the same Class A rating as a 2 litre Wet Chemical Fire Extinguisher.

No doubt the buyer will be content with his bargain for now but in the event the “fire police” call he may be brought to task. Worst still if a fire accident does occur he will have cause to regret not checking the label on the extinguisher. It is not simply a case of buying a fire extinguisher- the term is generic but the individual types of extinguisher have specific uses and do exactly what it says on the can – and no more. See our fire extinguisher chart for reference.