Fire Extinguisher Usage Guide

Fire Extinguisher Reference Table

In this guide, we’ll look at the various fire extinguisher types and the different categories of fire they can be used for. For a quick reference guide to determine which fire extinguisher should be used in which situation, you can use the table below.

For more information, call our customer support team on 01724 281044 or use our contact form.


Class A Fires: Fires involving freely burning materials. For example wood, paper, textiles and other carbonaceous materials. Class B Fires: Fires involving flammable liquids. For example petrols and spirits. Class C Fires: Fires involving flammable gasses. For example propane and butane. Class D Fires: Fires involving burning metals. Electrical Fires: Fires caused by electrical equipment where electric current may be present. Class F Fires: Fires involving cooking oil and fat. For example olive oil, maize oil, lard and butter.
Wood, paper, textiles and other carbon-aceous materials. Flammable liquids, petrols and spirits. Flammable gases, for example propane and butane. Fires involving burning metals. Fires caused by electrical equipment where electric current may be present. Cooking oil and fat. For example olive oil, maize oil, lard and butter.
Water Fire Extinguishers  Water Fire Extinguishers are Signal Red Buy now
Foam Fire Extinguishers Foam Fire Extinguishers are Signal Red with a Cream Panel above the Instructions ABF Foam Only Buy now
Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers are Signal Red with a French Blue Panel above the Instructons Buy now
L2 Fire Extinguishers L2 Extinguishers are Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers in Signal Red with a French Blue Panel above the Instructons Buy now
CO2 Gas Fire Extinguishers CO2 Gas Fire Extinguishers are Signal Red with a Black Panel above the Instructons Buy now
Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers are Signal Red with a Canary Yellow Panel above the Instructons Buy now
Water Mist Fire Extinguishers Water Mist Fire Extinguishers are Signal Red with a White Panel above the Instructions Buy now


* A Powder Extinguisher will leave a residue that can damage sensitive electrical equipment. If possible, use a CO2 Extinguisher.

Electrical equipment can be a factor in many types of fire.
Always isolate the electrical supply before using a water fire extinguisher.

Fire Classifications

Fires are classified by the material which ignites the fire. There are six classes; A, B, C, D, Electrical, and F. 

Class A Fires

Class A fires involve solid combustible materials such as wood, textiles, paper, and some plastics.  Many of these materials are organic and may be referred to as “carbonaceous materials”. Provided there is a sufficient supply of oxygen and enough combustible materials, Class A fires can spread rapidly.

The materials for a Class A fire are common in industrial and commercial settings and residential properties. Therefore, you must be vigilant to prevent them and prepared to extinguish them if necessary. Water, dry powder, wet chemicals, and foam extinguishers are all suitable for Class A fires. 

Class B Fires

Class B fires are fires involving flammable liquids such as oils, petrol, diesel, paint, ethanol and methanol. Flammable liquids have a low flash point, meaning they burn easily when introduced to an open flame or other ignition point. This makes proper storage of such materials essential. 

Flammable liquids are often found in the construction, facilities management, and manufacturing sectors. These work environments are also likely to include the production of sparks which could ignite the flammable substances. Therefore, these workspaces must maintain the highest fire safety standards and strict storage policies. 

Class B fires can be extinguished with dry powder, foam and CO2 extinguishers.

Class C Fires

Fires from flammable gasses such as propane, butane and methane are categorised as Class C fires. Flammable gasses pose a risk of fire or explosion and must be carefully stored and monitored. Even small amounts of flammable gas, such as from a leak, can ignite if exposed to an open flame or ignition source. 

You should use dry powder extinguishers for Class C flammable gas fires. 

Class D Fires

Class D fires are fires which involve ignited metals. Not all metals are flammable. However, aluminium, titanium, lithium, and magnesium (among other metals) can fuel a fire. Class D fires are not common because these metals require high temperatures to ignite. The biggest risk of Class D fires comes from small deposits of flammable metals such as metal shavings. This means the risks are higher in industries that involve metalwork. Places at higher risk, like metalwork workshops, must be regularly cleaned to keep the concentration of small metal deposits to a minimum. 

To extinguish Class D fires, use L2 extinguishers. 

Electrical Fires

Fire classifications do not use a “Class E”. Instead, these fires are simply known as Electrical fires. Electrical fires are fires caused by the malfunction of electronic equipment. Though a fault with electrical equipment may cause the fire, it is the material around the appliance which has been ignited and as such electrical fires may also fall into one of the other classes of fire.

The electrical fire classification is important as it affects how you can extinguish the fire. For example, you cannot use water extinguishers around electrical appliances, even if that is ordinarily an appropriate option for the material which is burning. Removing appliances from the fire changes the fire classification. 

For electrical fires, the best option is to use a CO2 gas fire extinguisher.

Class F Fires

The final fire classification, Class F, is for cooking oil fires. Cooking oil fires are fires from cooking oils, fats, and grease.  These kinds of fires are most common in commercial kitchens and are also a leading cause of accidental residential fires. 

Class F fires can spread quickly, so it is important never to leave cooking unattended so that you can put out (or ideally prevent) them as soon as possible. 

Class F fires can often be put out with a fire blanket. Where a fire extinguisher is needed, use a wet chemical, water mist of ABF foam fire extinguisher. 

Identifying Fire Extinguisher Type

Knowing the correct type of fire extinguisher to use in the event of a fire is essential. But you also need to be able to identify the required extinguisher quickly. 

Under the old standard, the whole body of the extinguisher was painted the appropriate colour code to indicate its use. The new standard is BS EN3 part 5, and an extinguisher is Signal Red with a band of colour above the instructions to signify the use of the extinguisher. The band colours for each extinguisher are:

  • Water Fire Extinguishers - Red
  • Foam Fire Extinguishers - Cream
  • Dry Powder - Blue
  • L2 Powder Extinguishers - Blue
  • CO2 Gas Fire Extinguishers - Black
  • Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers - Yellow
  • Water Mist Fire Extinguishers - White and Red

For more information, call our customer support team on 01724 281044 or use our contact form.

Fire Extinguisher Legislation

UK fire extinguisher regulations are covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Below we have highlighted the main requirements for UK businesses concerning the provision and maintenance of fire extinguishers. 

How Many Extinguishers Does My Business Need?

The minimum requirement for fire extinguishers in business premises is two extinguishers suitable for Class A fires per floor. Extinguishers meeting these requirements are:

  • 3 and 6-litre foam extinguishers
  • 9 litre water extinguishers

Which Fire Extinguishers Does My Business Need?

In addition to Class A extinguishers, you may require other types of extinguishers depending on the equipment in your business. Most businesses will also need CO2 gas extinguishers as these are necessary for premises with electrical equipment. As a minimum, you will require a 2kg CO2 extinguisher. If there is 415-volt rated equipment on the premises, you will need a 5kg CO2 extinguisher.

If your premises has a deep fat fryer, you will require a wet chemical extinguisher. The required extinguisher size will depend on the size of your fryer. Dry powder extinguishers are also required if there is a gas fire risk, in a boiler room, for example. 

Where Should Fire Extinguishers Be Positioned In My Business?

UK British Standards (BS5306) require that you be at most 30 metres from the appropriate fire extinguisher on any particular level of the premises. It is typical for Class A and CO2 extinguishers to be situated by exits and fire alarm call points. Other extinguisher types should be within accessible reach of the specific hazard. For example, wet chemical extinguishers should be within easy reach of deep-fat fryers. Regulations require that fire extinguishers are attached to a stand or fixed to a wall. They should be accompanied by ID signs stating the type of extinguisher and how to use them. 

How Often Do Fire Extinguishers Need Servicing?

Fire extinguishers must be serviced annually by a certified person (someone with the relevant BAFE qualifications or equivalent).

How Often Should Fire Extinguishers Be Replaced?

Water, foam, and powder fire extinguishers are tested by discharge and refilled or replaced every five years. CO2 extinguishers are hydraulically tested every ten years or replaced. All fire extinguishers should be replaced immediately if they are damaged or discharged. 

Buy Fire Extinguishers

Ensure your business premises is prepared to safely and effectively tackle a fire with our range of fire extinguishers. We have a full selection of extinguishers covering all classes of fire and are available in different weights. Shop our fire extinguisher range today or speak with one of our fire safety experts to learn more.