How does a fire extinguisher work?

Find out more about how fire extinguishers work.

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13 March 2024 Fire Safety

Fire extinguishers help to fight incipient fires quickly and effectively. But how does a fire extinguisher work and how does the way it works differ depending on the type of extinguisher?

In this article, we take a detailed look at how fire extinguishers work.

The basis of how a fire extinguisher works

The fire triangle describes the conditions or basics for a fire to start. It consists of three elements: Fuel, oxygen and an ignition source.

An effective fire extinguisher intervenes in this triangle to fight the fire. Once the extinguisher is activated, the extinguishing agent, be it water, powder, foam or CO2, is targeted at the source of the fire and released. As a result, the extinguishing agent cools, suffocates or isolates the oxygen and thus extinguishes the fire

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The correct operation of fire extinguishers

The use of fire extinguishers should be practiced regularly. The following steps should always be carried out when using a fire extinguisher:

  1. Remove the fire extinguisher safety catch
  2. Press down the firing head so that the container is pressurized
  3. Hold the hose with the spray gun towards the source of the fire and hold the handle of the fire extinguisher with the other hand
  4. Actuate the spray gun (impulsively) and point it at the source of the fire
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How does a fire extinguisher work?

in detail

How does a water extinguisher work?

  • Mode of action: Water extinguishers use water to lower the temperature of the burning material and cool the source of the fire.
  • Application: Suitable for fires involving solid materials such as wood, paper and textiles.

How does a powder extinguisher work?

  • Mode of action: Powder extinguishers smother the fire by removing the oxygen and stopping the combustion process.
  • Application: Versatile, effective for fires involving solid, liquid and gaseous substances.

How does a foam extinguisher work?

  • Mode of action: Foam extinguishers produce a covering foam that isolates the oxygen and has a cooling effect at the same time.
  • Application: Ideal for fires involving liquid substances such as gasoline or oil.

How does a CO2 extinguisher work?

  • Mode of action: Carbon dioxide (CO2) removes oxygen from the fire and cools the surroundings.
  • Application: Effective for fires involving electrical appliances and sensitive materials.

How does a grease fire extinguisher work?

  • Mode of action: Specially developed for grease fires, grease fire extinguishers smother the fire thanks to a special composition optimized for extinguishing burning fats and oils.
  • Application: Indispensable in kitchens and other areas where fats are used.

Small device, big effect

Fire extinguishers are little heroes in emergency situations. By intervening in the fire triangle in a targeted manner, they can fight fires effectively and quickly. The different types of fire extinguishers make it possible to respond to different classes of fire. An understanding of how these life-saving devices work is crucial in order to be able to act correctly in an emergency.

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