The Right Way to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Consumer Reports explains what type to buy and how to use it, so familiarize yourself before there's an emergency

Fire Extinguisher

“Owning the right fire extinguishers is important,” says Don Huber, director of product safety at Consumer Reports. “But it’s also important to clearly know how to use it in an emergency. You don’t want to be reading the owner’s manual during a fire.”

Choose the Right Extinguisher

Fire extinguisher know-how comes down to two things: type and technique.

Using a fire extinguisher properly won’t do you much good if you’re using the wrong type. Extinguishers are divided into three types—A, B, and C, each designed to combat a specific type of flame.

An A extinguisher is for combustibles such as paper, cloth and wood. If you frequently fry foods in oil, which can lead to grease fires, buy a B extinguisher for your kitchen.

Type C extinguishers, which are designed for electrical fires, are a good idea in a media space, especially if you have expensive electronics, since you can target any smoldering components without destroying nearby equipment.

You can also find combination models that extinguish more than one type of fire. “Combination fire extinguishers are best for home protection because it’s hard to predict what will be burning,” says Bernie Deitrick, who conducts tests of household products for CR.

Our fire extinguisher buying guide has comprehensive advice on which types to use in different spaces, and how to store and maintain them.

Learn How to Use it

The technique for extinguishing a blaze, called the PASS method and explained in the video below, is largely the same, regardless of the fire’s origin.

PASS, which stands for pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep, is the four-step method for using most fire extinguishers. In this order:

  • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim low, pointing the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side.



This article originally appears and is adapted from Consumer Reports


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