Types of Fire Extinguishers – Which Works When?

You see them everywhere! When was the last time you saw a fire extinguisher hanging on the wall and gave it a second thought? I’m guessing it was… never. But did you know they’re not all the same?

types of fire extinguishers - which works when?

Fire extinguishers are categorized as the 6 categories listed below.

The table below specifies:

  • Types of fire extinguishers, 
  • Types of fire they help fight, and
  • Locations they’re suited for best use.
Type of fire extinguisherSuitable for fires caused byBest used for
Class AOrganic, combustible materials like wood, cloth, paper, rubber, some types of plastics, etc.Homes and business organizations
Class BFlammable liquids and gasses like petroleum, tar, oil-based paints, solvents, alcohol, kerosene, propane, hydrogen, etc. Homes and business organizations
Class C (in the US)Electricity such as short-circuiting machinery and overloaded electrical cablesHomes and business organizations
Class C (outside the US)Flammable gasses, including methane, hydrogen, propane, etc.Homes and business organizations
Class DCombustible metals like  lithium, potassium, magnesium, titanium, zirconium, etc.Factories dealing with these gasses
Class K (called Class F outside the US)Flammable liquids and gasses with higher flash points such as cooking oils and fatsCommercial kitchens in hotels, restaurants, catering businesses, etc

Generally, multipurpose fire extinguishers like B-C and A-B-C are available for retail purchase, and they’re ideal for home and office use. All of our top picks work on A, B, and C fires, and some even work on class K!

If you’re worried that you won’t be covered without Class D in your home fire extinguisher arsenal, you can purchase them through specialty outlets, or even completely cease working with combustable metals in residential areas. Please. Do it for the children.

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.