With such a bewildering array of fire extinguisher technology available what are the considerations that one would use to select a model? Also, what's a rough sizing guideline?

In addition to an extinguisher does it make sense to own any other fire fighting technology? Obviously, smoke alarms but what else? A fire axe? A fire blanket? A sand pail?

  • 1
    When extinguishing a fire, aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire, not the top. And this is hard to judge, but if the fire is too large for the extinguisher at hand, don't risk your life trying to put it out.
    – BillDOe
    Jul 5, 2015 at 5:15
  • Frankly, get the smallest, cheapest fire extinguisher that will get you a discount with your homeowner's insurance. And then put it somewhere out of the way and forget you own it. If you have a fire then sand, salt, a lid, a blanket, or just about anything else you have at hand to smother it will probably be equally (or more) effective and do far less incidental damage to you and your house. If you can't smother it with something at hand, just get the hell out and call the fire department. Jul 7, 2015 at 4:15

3 Answers 3


Unless you have a really clear idea what to do with one, leave the fire axes to the folks who do know what they are doing with one.

When in doubt, get out. Stuff can be replaced. Dead people can't. Killing yourself by trying to fight a fire is bad enough - if you manage to kill firefighters who go in looking for you, it's worse. If it's small and you can apply an extinguisher without undue risk to yourself, only then try putting it out. Remember that most people are not "burned to death" in a fire - most are asphyxiated.

I shade a bit larger (5 lb., or 2A, 10BC) on what I think is an OK minimum than @mjohns615, but otherwise agree, pretty much. ABC dry chemical is safe to use on any home fire, so you don't have to figure out which extinguisher to grab when you are probably a bit panicky and time is of the essence. I'd rather have more than I need than less, so long as it's not to the point of absurdity. I think the one in the garage/shop is a 10 lb.

The US A/B/C ratings are for a "size of fire that can be put out" for each of the "types" (A being paper/wood, B being oils/fats/grease, C being electrical) and the B/C rating is nearly always 5x higher than the A rating for dry chemical, since dry combustibles have embers which the other two types of fire don't, so they are prone to relighting themselves.

While terribly old fashioned, if you can make space in your life for it, the bucket of sand can be quite effective, and the fire blanket can also. In the kitchen, a box of baking soda and/or salt can also be useful (as is the lid of the pan for a grease fire, if it's handy and you act quickly.) There are also "class K" extinguishers specifically for kitchen grease fires (what we'd ordinarily consider class B) but that's more of a commercial kitchen application than most home kitchens.

Once you have extinguishers, you need to keep an eye on them - most have a gauge to indicate if there's a leak, and if there is a leak, they need to be serviced (mostly for the initially-more-expensive extinguishers) or replaced (most cheap extinguishers.) Likewise, if the extinguisher is used at all, it needs service or replacement (the valves don't seal once powder has gone through them - also the contents are not all there.) You can do the inpection yourself (most homeowners) or you can hire a company (most businesses) to do annual inspections and servicing as needed. If you have a serviceable extinguisher, have it serviced (when needed) by a specialist company.


what are the considerations that one would use to select a model?

  • who is going to service it?
  • who is going to operate it?
  • what sort of flammable materials will it need to extinguish?

what's a rough sizing guideline?

In the UK (and possibly EU wide) all extinguishers are marked with an A rating for example a 13A extinguisher - this is related to the floor-area of the building being protected. This makes me think the US has a similar system.

does it make sense to own any other fire fighting technology?

A fire-blanket is useful to have in a kitchen for the following reasons:

  • It doesn't need annual checking/maintenance/replacement and so is more likely to be in usable condition (if you are anything like me).
  • In use, it is less likely to spread flammable liquids (e.g. burning oil)

Look for a Class ABC fire extinguisher for general purpose home use. Size is a preference, but the 2.5 lbs size should be adequate for the household. You could consider upgrading to 5+ lbs for a garage or shop extinguisher.

It is advisable to always keep an extinguisher in the kitchen and garage. It never hurts to have more!

Class A extinguishers are for ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood, cardboard, and most plastics. The numerical rating on these types of extinguishers indicates the amount of water it holds and the amount of fire it can extinguish. Geometric symbol (green triangle)

Class B fires involve flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, grease and oil. The numerical rating for class B extinguishers indicates the approximate number of square feet of fire it can extinguish. Geometric symbol (red square)

Class C fires involve electrical equipment, such as appliances, wiring, circuit breakers and outlets. Never use water to extinguish class C fires - the risk of electrical shock is far too great! Class C extinguishers do not have a numerical rating. The C classification means the extinguishing agent is non-conductive. Geometric symbol (blue circle)

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