When it comes to fires most people only think of two kinds. Your normal fire that you can throw water over and it will extinguish as you see for campfires. And then a grease fire, which you definitely don’t throw water on, if you want to extinguish. But actually there are five different kinds or classes of fires, and each one requires different things to be able to put out or handle.
Class A fires are the kinds of fires you see with ordinary and average combustibles like wood, paper, trash, or really anything that will leave ash behind after it has burned. These fires tend to be the most common, especially with nature causing them with wildfires. They can also just be put out by pouring water over them, and that tends to be the best way to handle them.
Class B fires utilize flammable and combustible materials usually along with a liquid. These liquids are always flammable and are sometimes known as fire accelerants. The liquids include gasoline, oil, acetone, or even vegetable oils. Because of the accelerant component, these fires are best extinguished by smothering them to the point that they cannot receive oxygen to keep the fires going.
Electrical fires of any kind tend to take up the Class C fires. Any fire started by electrical means have a two part component to putting out the fire. The first is to make sure the electrical circuit is not still active, otherwise you can try to extinguish it all you want, but it will just keep coming back like a trick birthday candle. After you have done that, you must use something that won’t conduct electricity to put the fire out. Generally this is where fire extinguishers come in, and are so common in offices, because electrical fires are the most common in an office.
Class D fires you might have seen when you were younger and your science teacher wanted to show off and drop some magnesium or potassium into water so everyone can freak out as they watch it burn in a circle. These fires are always caused by metals reacting, so they are known as combustible metal fires. Magnesium tends to be the biggest culprit and these metal fires are no joke. Water should never be used on them, as it can just cause the fire to spread even more. Instead you must use a special dry powder agent that will both smother the fire and absorb the heat it is producing, otherwise the fire will just keep spreading.
The last class is the one most people tend to refer to as grease fires. They are your fires caused in the kitchen, usually by an oil of some kind or an animal fat or grease, which makes them harder to get rid of than your basic Class A fires. Most of these fires are best extinguished by means of a chemical usually seen in Kitchen or Galley fire extinguishers. If you have none of those then resort to a combination of removing the fire from heat, and oxygen and dousing it with baking soda. Don’t pour water or flour or try and smother the fire with a towel.
Now that you know your fires though, you can be better prepared to handle each of them. So get out there and be careful!