For any business or home, having a fire safety plan is essential. People need to be able to look out for their own safety as well as each other, so the right equipment needs to be in place. Being aware of the different classes of fire is important as well because each class requires a different extinguishing method. In the UK, fires are classed using the European Standard Classification and they are split into five categories.
A Class A fire is the most common kind of fire that is likely to start. They are normally caused by combustible solid objects like wood, paper, fabric and textiles. A good way to put out a Class A fire is to use a water based extinguisher.
A Class B fire is anything started by a flammable liquid such as petrol or alcohol. To extinguish a Class B fire, you’ll need to cut off the oxygen and this can be achieved through smothering. Potassium carbonate is a useful substance, or you can use a CO2 extinguisher.
This kind of fire is caused by flammable gases like propane and petroleum. Class C fires are one of the most dangerous because they have the potential to cause explosions. In order to put a Class C out you’ll need to make sure the gas supply has been isolated. The majority of fire extinguishers are ineffective against a Class C fire, with the only option being a dry powder extinguisher.
Class D fires are started by certain types of metals. Alkali metals like magnesium, potassium and aluminium can ignite when they come into contact with air and water. So, if you were to put water onto metal fires this could increase the intensity of the flames and lead to an explosion.
In the case of an industrial fire with a lot of burning metal then a safe approach is to let the fire burn itself out. Class Ds tend to generate a lot of ash, which builds up and starves a fire’s oxygen supply. A specialist dry powder fire extinguisher can also be used.
Class F fires are started by cooking oil and fats. They can be difficult to extinguish because of the high temperature and the fact water is likely to cause flames to spread out. Special wet chemical extinguishers contain a solution that cools a Class F fire and emulsifies a surface to stop it from re-igniting.
Due to electricity being a source of ignition, electric fires technically aren’t a seperate class. To stop this kind of fire the electricity source needs to be cut off as quickly as possible. The most suitable fire extinguishers are dry powder and carbon dioxide.