Fire extinguishers

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Please note: This safety advice is offered as guidance only. If in doubt, Get out, Stay out and get the Fire and Rescue Service out!

If you are aware of a fire in your home you must get everyone out as quickly as possible and call the Fire and Rescue Service.

Even in its early stages the fire can develop and spread very quickly. You may feel that you are able to deal with it yourself, but if you are in any doubt - do not tackle the fire - no matter how small it is.

  • Always put yours and other people's safety first.
  • Ensure that someone calls the Fire and Rescue Service.
  • Do not move the object on fire.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguisher

There are three main types of fire extinguisher which are all available for you to use in your home:

  • Dry Powder - standard or multi-purpose
  • Foam or AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam)
  • Water

Dry Powder and Foam each come in two types: only one type of powder and one type of foam is suitable for having at home.

No single type of extinguisher is totally effective on every kind of fire. So before buying one, it's vital to look carefully at what kinds of fires it can be used on.

Standard or Multi-purpose Dry Powder

Red with Blue label

The powder "knocks down" the flames.

These are safe to use on most kinds of fire, but the multi-purpose powders are more effective, especially on burning solids. Standard powders work well only on burning liquids.

  • The powder does not cool the fire well.
  • Fires which seem out can reignite.
  • The powder doesn't penetrate small spaces, like those inside burning equipment.
  • The jet could spread burning fat or oil around.
How to use
Aim the jet at the base of the flames and briskly sweep it from side to side.

Foam or AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam)

Red with Cream label

The foam forms a blanket or film on the surface of a burning liquid.

Conventional foam works well only on some liquids so it's not good for use at home, but AFFF is very effective on most fires except electrical and chip pan fires.

  • "Jet" foam can conduct electricity back to you, but "spray" foam is much less likely to do so.
  • The foam could spread burning fat or oil around.
How to use
For solids, aim the jet at the base of the flames and move it over the area of the fire. For liquids, don't aim the foam straight at the fire - aim it at a vertical surface or, if the fire is in a container, at the inside edge of the container.



The water cools the burning material.

You can only use water on solids, like wood or paper. You must never use water on electrical fires or burning fat or oil.

  • The water can conduct electricity back to you.
  • Water actually makes fat or oil fires worse - they can explode as the water hits them.
How to use
Aim the jet at the base of the flames and move it over the area of the fire.


If you choose to install and use fire extinguishers follow these guidelines.

  • Make sure that British Standards are conformed to and that it carries a Kitemark or British Approvals for Fire Equipment mark.
  • Do not place them over cookers, heaters or other extreme heat sources.
  • Always follow manufacturer's instructions when using and siting extinguishers.
  • Never use water on fat pan fires or electrical fires.
  • Do not use extinguishers on chip or pan fires as the jet from the extinguisher may force burning fat out of the pan.

Fire blankets

Fire blanket

Fire blankets are good to use on fat pan fires on the cooker or for wrapping round someone whose clothing is on fire. They're ideal to keep in the kitchen, but they aren't good for general use.

Look for the British Standard mark (BS 6575) and follow the maker's instructions for positioning and for use

Further information

Community Fire Safety

Telephone: 01743 260 200