Fire extinguishers are your first line of defense in the case of a fire emergency. Every action and every second counts during a fire, and this tool can save your life and your property. It’s easy to forget about it, since, if you’re lucky, it often sits in its designated location for years untouched. But the thing about disasters is that they only need to happen once to cause serious damage to your life.

The Ins and Outs

Most people, however, probably have never used one. How do they really work, anyways?

The key ingredients of a fire include extreme heat, oxygen, and fuel (wood, gasoline, or whatever is burning). Fire extinguishers work to remove at least one of these ingredients. There are multiple types of extinguishers.

  • Water extinguishers contain water, which is very effective when sprayed directly onto wood, paper, or cardboard. However, it doesn’t work on electrical fires.
  • Carbon Dioxide extinguishers contain compressed liquid, pure carbon dioxide. When sprayed out of the container, it expands into a gas, suppressing the oxygen around the area, suffocating the fire. These are most commonly used in restaurants.
  • Dry chemical extinguishers contain chemical foam or powder form of baking soda or a compound very similar to it. At the high temperatures of a fire, the baking soda will decompose, quickly releasing carbon dioxide and smothering the fire. These are the most common types of fire extinguishers

Each fire extinguisher contains compressed air and one of these three types of suppressant. When the lever is pressed down, the container of compressed air inside the extinguisher is punctured, and the released air rushes out into the extinguisher, forcing the


Fire extinguishers contain a very small amount of suppressant material. It might seem heavy and bulky, but its contents are used up very quickly once activated. This tool is really intended only for fighting small and isolated fires. It prevents them from spreading anywhere else and causing more damage. Larger fires, however, need different equipment and professionals who are trained in fighting large fires.

When using a fire extinguisher, always aim and point the nozzle directly at the source of the fire—the fuel. Do not spray it at the top of the flames; this will only fan the flames without helping to put out the fire at all. Always spray at the bottom of the fire.


There needs to be at least one fire extinguisher on each level of the home. If your home is relatively large, it is a good idea to keep supplemental fire extinguishers around the house, especially in high risk areas like kitchens.

Talk to everyone in the household to regularly refresh everyone’s memory and knowledge on where the fire extinguishers are and how and when to use them.

Stay safe; hopefully you will never need to use any of this knowledge. Share this with your family, friends, and community members. A community with more awareness creates a safer neighborhood for all of us.