Portable Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are intended to extinguish or control small fires. It is understood that a small fire, if not taken care of immediately, may rapidly spread out of control and become a big fire.
In fact, most big fires started out as small ones. It is therefore quite important, that both at home and your workplace you be equipped with proper fire extinguishers as part of your fire safety plan.

Portable fire extinguishers play a significant role in fire safety planning, both for the home and the workplace, the following addresses both but often will refer to situations in the workplace.

Please consider attentively the following, for a portable fire extinguisher to be functional the following conditions must be met:

  • the extinguisher must be right for the type of fire;
  • it must be located where it can be easily reached;
  • it must be in good working order;
  • the fire must be discovered while it is still small;
  • the person using the extinguisher must be trained to use it properly.

The following information is a guideline that discusses basic fire extinguishing methods, the different types of extinguishing agents, different types of extinguishers and their proper selection, their location, identification markings, proper usage, maintenance and inspection.

The information contained herewith is provided voluntarily as a free service. No warranty, guarantee or representation is made by Réseaux de Sécurité Crown Inc. as to the correctness, suitability, fitness, or sufficiency of any information contained in this material. Use of this information means that the user agrees that Réseaux de Sécurité Crown Inc. and its employees or affiliates will not have and are released from any liability whatsoever, however caused or arising, in connection therewith. Users also acknowledge that it cannot be assumed that all acceptable safety measures are contained in this information or that additional measures may not be required in the conditions or circumstances that are applicable to the user or his/her company, and that the user will personally make his/her own assessment of the information contained in this material.

Understanding Fire Extinguishing Methods

Fires are extinguished;

  • 1 . by cooling: Water is used to cool the burning material below the temperature at which it starts to burn.
  • 2 . by smothering: Carbon dioxide (CO2) or foaming agents are used to smother the burning material so that air is excluded.
  • 3 . by removing the fuel: This is usually very difficult to do. An example is turning off a fuel line.
  • 4 . by disrupting the chemical chain reaction or interrupting the flame: Dry chemicals or halon are used to do this.

Planning your safety - Choosing the appropriate types of Portable Fire Extinguishers the ones that suit your needs.

To help yourself in choosing the appropriate portable fire extinguisher(s), understand that the fires are classed according to the type of fuel that is involved in the fire (e.g., paper, grease, oil). Extinguishers are available for use on one or more classes of fire, depending on the extinguishing agent they contain (e.g., water, chemicals)

Different types of fires and the agents used to extinguish such class of fire
Different types of fuel sources Classes of fires Different types of extinguishing agents
Ordinary combustibles
e.g. trash, wood, paper, cloth
Water; chemical foam; dry chemical1
Flammable liquids
e.g. oils, grease, tar, gasoline, paints, thinners
Carbon Dioxide (CO2); halon2; dry chemical; aqueous film forming foam (AFFF)
e.g. live electrical equipment
CO2; halon; dry chemical
Combustible metals
e.g. magnesium, titanium
Dry powder (suitable for the specific combustible metals involved)
  1. Dry chemicals, CO2 and halon can be used on Class A fires, but may not be effective on their own. They need to be supplemented with water.
  2. Halon extinguishers are no longer made, but some may still be in use. Dangerous gases are formed when halon is used to put out fires.

Different types of extinguishers and their specific uses
  • Pressurized pump type
  • Cools fire
  • Use on Class A fires
  • Do not use on Class B and C fires
Multi Purpose Dry Chemical
  • Stored pressure type
  • Smothers fire with layer of powder
  • Use on Class A, B and C fires
Chemical Foam
  • Aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) type
  • Smothers fire with foam
  • Use on Class A and B fires
Compressed Gas
  • Halon, CO2 types
  • Smothers fire with gas
  • Use on Class B and C fires


Manufacturers place markings on portable fire extinguishers to indicate the class or classes of fire they extinguish. One of these marking systems uses letters, symbols and colors, another uses picture symbols indicating uses and non-uses according to class of fire.

Class A fires - Ordinary Combustibles:
such as wood, paper, fabrics, rubber and many plastics.
Extinguishers for Class A fires are identified by a triangle containing the letter . If colored, the triangle is green.
Extinguisher picture markings according to suitability for class A fires
Class A Fires
Class AB Fires
Class ABC Fires
Class B fires - Flammable Liquids & Gases:
liquids such as gasoline, oils, grease, oil based paint, lacquer, tar and flammable gas.
Extinguishers for Class B fires are identified by a square containing the letter . If colored, the square is red.
Extinguisher picture markings according to suitability for class B fires
Class AB Fires
Class ABC Fires
Class C fires - Electrical Equipment:
fires involving energized electrical equipment including wiring, fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery, and appliances.
Extinguishers for Class C fires are identified by a circle containing the letter . If colored, the circle is blue.
Extinguisher picture markings according to suitability for class C fires
Class BC Fires
Class ABC Fires
Class D fires - Combustible Metals or Combustible Metal Alloys
such as sodium, magnesium, titanium, aluminum, steel wool.
Extinguishers for Class D fires are identified by a star containing the letter . If colored, the star is yellow.
Extinguisher picture markings according to suitability for class D fires
Class D fires
Class K fires - Fires in Cooking Appliances that involve Combustible Cooking Medium:
such as vegetable or animal oils and fats.
Extinguishers for Class K fires are not identified by any symbol, simply the letter . No color is used.
Extinguisher picture markings according to suitability for class K fires
Class K Fires

*Note: extinguishers for Class ABC fires can be used almost everywhere, but caution, the powder will leave traces everywhere and the powder can be agressive towards electronic equipment.
This is why in most computer rooms, kitchens... you will find almost uniquely C02 extinguishers.

Selection - What size, What type?

Using the wrong extinguisher to fight a fire can have serious results. For example, if a water-based extinguisher is used on a flammable liquid fire (Class B fire), the fire may flare up, spread, and cause personal injury to the user and others. If a water-based extinguisher is used to fight a fire in or near electrical equipment (Class C fire), the user could suffer an electric shock

Follow these steps in selecting extinguishers for your workplace or premises:

  • 1. Conduct an assessment to identify your fire hazards and determine the type of extinguishers needed. The extinguishers you select must match the classes of fire most likely to occur.
  • 2. Determine the size of the potential fire in each area and how fast it could spread. Extinguishers for Class A and Class B fires are rated for the size of the fire it can handle. The rating appears on the label and is stated as a number varying between 1 to 40 for Class A fires and 1 to 640 for Class B fires. The higher the number the larger the fire the extinguisher can put out. Nevertheless you must consider that the higher the rating, the heavier the extinguisher.
  • 3. Take into consideration other factors that should affect selection:
    • Possible health and safety hazards due to chemical reactions between the extinguishing agent and the burning material, or when using specific types of extinguishers in unventilated areas.
    • The atmosphere in areas where the extinguishers are located must be considered. Extreme cold for example, will make water based extinguishers completely obsolete. Where there are fumes that are corrosive, you must choose extinguishers that can resist corrosion or provide protection against corrosion.
    • Consider the physical capabilities of the user. The size and the weight of the extinguishers should be matched with the user; it becomes ineffective if the extinguisher is not used because the employee or patron could not handle it.
  • 4. Assure that all extinguishers:
    • are approved by a recognized laboratory (all replaced or new extinguishers must be approved by the ULC, Underwriters Laboratories of Canada)
    • don't contain carbon tetrachloride, methyl bromide, or other toxic vaporizing liquids.
  • 5. Do a re-evaluation of the premises when changes take place. i.e., if there are changes in materials being used or changes in a work process.

Location - Where is the extinguisher?

Although the best effort may be taken to select the appropriate extinguisher, the fire extinguisher becomes totally useless if it can't be reached in an emergency. It is vital that the fire extinguisher be easily reached when a fire is still small. Yet assure that the fire extinguishers location does not make it a hazard to employees or patrons, or that they may become damaged, because they were placed in damages way.

The following are general guides on where to locate extinguishers in your premises or workplace.

Assure they are located:

  • so they are clearly visible, as well as their operating instructions and identification marks;
  • in an easily reachable area (i.e. they can't be blocked by material, equipment or machines);
  • in or near corridors, alleys or aisles leading to exits – however assure they do not block aisles;
  • in the area where potential fires hazards exist, but not to close so they do not get damaged or cut off by the fire;
  • where they will not expose users to unnecessary risk, e.g. using a halon extinguisher in an unventilated area.
  • in an area where they won't be damaged by moving vehicles, or other work activities, or corroded by chemical processes;
  • so they won't be affected by the elements (if stored outdoors)

Considerations for special areas

Service rooms that contain electrical equipment;
  • locate fire extinguisher in or near room
On vehicles or in areas where fire extinguishers are subject to jolting or vibration;
  • mount fire extinguishers on brackets designed to withstand the vibration.
Areas where highly combustible materials may be stored in small rooms or enclosed spaces:
  • locate the fire extinguisher outside of the room ( this situation obliges the potential user to exit the enclosed or small area and then make a decision on re-entering the area to fight the fire)


Signs should be posted to identify the location of fire extinguishers, especially large floor areas, where their view could easily be blocked. Signs should be big enough to be seen clearly at a distance.

Proper Extinguisher use

As soon as the fire is discovered

  • Sound the fire alarm and start the evacuation.
  • Call the fire department.

These are important steps for everyone's safety, even if you feel the fire can be brought under control by using an extinguisher.

Tips for safe extinguisher use:

  • Test the extinguisher; assure it works before you approach the fire.
  • Protect yourself at all times.
  • Take care. Speed is essential but it is more important to be cautious.
  • Keep your back to the exit at all times keeping 2 to 2.4m (6 to 8 ft.) distance between you and the fire.
  • Follow the 4-step P-A-S-S procedure:
    • Pull the pin (release the lock latch or press the punch lever).
    • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze or press the trigger.
    • Sweep the extinguisher going side to side.

If the fire does not go out immediately or the extinguisher appears to be getting empty, leave the area at once. Back out with the lever squeezed and the nozzle pointed at your feet. This will help protect you until you are out of the area.

How to Use a Portable Fire Extinguisher Training Video


Fire extinguishers must be properly maintained to ensure that they will work when required, and that they are safe to use when needed. e.g., a carbon dioxide extinguisher could build up a high static charge if it is used when there is a breakdown of the insulation around the discharge horn. This could cause an electric shock to the user.

Acceptable maintenance of extinguishers consists of regular inspections, recharging as needed, and a complete annual check-up and servicing when needed. Records must be kept of all maintenance work carried out, including inspections.

Testing and servicing is generally carried out by a service company - Crown Safety Systems Inc. does testing and servicing for all your extinguishers


Fire extinguishers must be inspected at least once a month and more often where needed. Inspections are visual checks to determine that:

  • The extinguisher is well supported :
    • hangers are fastened solidly.
  • It is accessible:
    • can be easily reached;
    • location signs are clear;
    • class markings are clear;
    • operating instructions are clear.
  • It is in working condition:
    • discharge opening is clear;
    • is fully charged;
    • has not been tampered with;
    • is not damaged;
    • hydrostatic testing has been done.
  • The ring pin is in place.
  • The seal is intact.


Each extinguisher must be completely examined at least once a year, and whenever monthly inspections indicate that this may be needed.

Always replace defective parts and extinguishers, recharge extinguisher as needed, and ensure that hydrostatic tests are carried out according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Set up maintenance schedule for extinguishers so that they are not all out of service at the same time.

Record Keeping

  • Attach a durable tag to each extinguisher that shows:
    • dates of inspections, recharging, and servicing;
    • name of servicing company;
    • signature of person who performed the service.

  • Maintain a permanent record for each fire extinguisher that shows:
    • serial number and type of extinguisher;
    • location of extinguisher;
    • inspection date;
    • description of maintenance work or hydrostatic tests carried out;
    • date of next inspection;
    • date of scheduled annual servicing;
    • inspector's comments;
    • inspector's signature.
Inspection Checklist

Portable Fire Extinguishers

The following are examples of inspection and maintenance that are generally required; they may not represent the requirements of your system. Inspections and maintenance requirements vary for many different reasons.

For more specific information, relating to inspection and maintenance requirements of your fire protection system. You can request a quote online now. If urgent, call (450) 699-1477 and a qualified technician will assist you.

It is highly recommended that qualified technicians perform your maintenance and inspection needs for obvious safety reasons

Monthly Recommended - In-house inspection
  • Visual inspection
  • Extinguishers are well supported - hangers are fastened solidly.
  • Extinguishers are accessible - can be easily reached, location signs are clear, class markings are clear, operating instructions are clear.
  • Extinguishers are in working condition - discharge openings are clear, are fully charged, have not been tampered with, are not damaged, hydrostatic testing has been done.
  • Extinguisher ring pins are in place.
  • Extinguisher seals are intact.

Annual  Crown Safety Systems Inc. - NFPA 10
  • Visual Inspection
  • System Testing
  • Rechargeable dry chemical extinguishers must be emptied and examined internally every six years and hydro-statically tested every twelve years.
  • Carbon dioxide and nitrogen extinguishers must be hydro-statically tested every five years.
  • Maintenance
  • Records
  •   Report
  •   Certificate
  •   Tag

  • Notes
  • Extinguishers must undergo a maintenance inspection annually and records of the inspection dates must be retained for one year.
  • When extinguishers are removed for maintenance, they must be replaced while maintenance is in progress. Set up maintenance schedule for extinguishers so that they are not all out of service at the same time.
  • Always replace defective parts and extinguishers, recharge extinguisher as needed, and ensure that hydrostatic tests are carried out according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Records must be kept of all maintenance work carried out, including inspections.


Crown Safety Systems Inc.

656 St-Jean Baptiste, Mercier, Quebec,

450 699 1477
Toll free 1 888 699 1477
450 692 5050

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