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What Are the Five Different Types of Fire Extinguisher Colours?

Five different types of fire extinguisher

What Are the Five Different Types of Fire Extinguisher Colours?

There are five different fire extinguisher colours. Thanks to legislation (BS EN3) that came into play in the UK in 1997, all fire extinguisher cylinders have a uniform red body, as this makes them easier to see in low-light or smoky conditions. But they are each labelled with a blue, cream, black, red, or yellow band. And this denotes that they each contain a different substance, intended to extinguish a different fire type. Knowing what each fire extinguisher colour represents, where and when to use them, and how to service and maintain them, can dramatically change the outcome of a fire event.

 

Getting to Know the Five Different Fire Extinguisher Colours

 

Classes of fire and fire extinguishers

Why are there different coloured fire extinguishers?

Fires ignited on different substances can react in different ways. If you use water on an electrical fire, for example, you not only risk spreading the fire further, but receiving an electric shock yourself. There have even been some cases of electrocution. So, having

What are the different fire types?

There are six different classes of fire:

Class A – These are fires ignited on solid materials, such as paper, cardboard, wood, fabric, and plastic.

Class B – Class B fires are ignited by flammable liquids, such as fuels, like petrol, paint, and solvents.

Class C – These fires are ignited on flammable gases, such as butane, methane, LPG, or hydrogen.

Class D – Fires ignited on combustible metals, such as lithium, potassium, and magnesium are designated Class D.

Electrical – These are fires caused by electrical equipment, such as server rooms, heaters, televisions, and computers.

Class F – Class F fires are ignited on cooking oils. Consequently, the vast majority occur in the kitchen and usually take the form of chip pan fires.

 

The five fire extinguisher colours and what they represent

Types of Fire Extinguisher Powder

Blue – The dry powder fire extinguisher

Used for: Class A, B, C and D fires, plus electronic equipment of less than 1,000v
Label colour: Blue

Blue fire extinguishers contain powder. They are the fire extinguishers with the widest application, and can be used on class A, B, and C fires. Specialist powder extinguishers can also be used for class D and electrical fires on equipment of less than 1,000v.

Who needs blue fire extinguishers?

Blue fire extinguishers are recommended for a range of business types and locations, including:

  • Construction sites
  • Garages – or any other location where flammable gases or liquids are present
  • Largescale workshops – or anywhere else that uses flame cutting or welding equipment.

Where shouldn’t you use blue fire extinguishers?

Despite their potentially wide application, dry powder fire extinguishers are not recommended for internal use. This is because the fine powder can cause respiratory problems and hamper visibility. The powder is also incredibly difficult to clean away later.

Powder fire extinguishers should also never be used on electrical equipment of more than 1000v, or on fires ignited on cooking oil.

Types of Fire Extinguisher Foam

Cream – The foam fire extinguisher

Used for: Class A and B fires
Label colour: Cream

Cream fire extinguishers contain foam, which is suitable for use on Class A and B fires. And they are probably the most common and widely used of all fire extinguishers. However, they are messy to use and can result in high cleaning costs.

Who needs cream fire extinguishers?

Most buildings should have a cream fire extinguisher on site. Because they can be used on solid materials, such as office furniture and fixtures, there are very few buildings where they will not have a use. They are particularly important in organisations such as hospitals, schools, apartment blocks, offices, and shops, where a high quantity of furniture and/or packaging may be present. 

Where shouldn’t you use cream fire extinguishers?

Cream fire extinguishers should not be used on electrical fires, fires ignited on flammable metals, or cooking oil.

Types of Fire Extinguisher CO2

Black – The CO2 fire extinguisher

Used for: Electrical and Class B fires
Label colour: Black

Black fire extinguishers contain CO2, and their role is to smother fires where other materials may worsen a fire event. They are intended for use on electrical fires and Class B flammable liquid fires. However, it must be noted that precautions should be taken when using CO2 fire extinguishers.

If used without gloves, they can freeze-burn the skin. And because they displace oxygen, they can cause asphyxiation in enclosed spaces. With flammable liquids, if you stand too close, they can inadvertently spread the fire with the pressure of the hose.

Who needs black fire extinguishers?

Any business that holds electrical equipment on the premises should have a black fire extinguisher. Including schools, offices, hospitals, and anywhere else with a server room. Works vehicles will also benefit from keeping a CO2 extinguisher on site.

Where shouldn’t you use black fire extinguishers?

CO2 fire extinguishers should never be used on cooking oil, flammable metals, or Class A fires.

Types of Fire Extinguisher Water

Red – The water fire extinguisher

Used for: Class A fires
Label colour: Red

The red fire extinguisher contains water. This makes it suitable for use on Class A fires only. But because water fire extinguishers make less mess than foam extinguishers, they are very widely used.

Who needs red fire extinguishers?

Most businesses will have a water fire extinguisher on site. This includes hospitals, schools, offices, and warehouses. They are also the most common household fire extinguisher.  

Where shouldn’t you use red fire extinguishers?

Never use a red fire extinguisher:

  • On electrical equipment
  • On cooking oil fires
  • Or on flammable metals.
Types of Fire Extinguisher Chemical

Yellow – The wet chemical fire extinguisher

Used for: Class F fires
Label colour: Yellow

The yellow fire extinguisher contains wet chemicals and is devised for Class F fires – those ignited on cooking oils.

Who needs yellow fire extinguishers?

Yellow fire extinguishers should be present in all commercial kitchens, including cafes, restaurants, and canteens. They should also be made available in any business with cooking facilities.

Where shouldn’t you use yellow fire extinguishers?

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are not suitable for use on:

  • Electrical fires
  • Flammable gas or liquid fires
  • Flammable metal fires.
Fire Extinguisher Servicing Specialist

Fire extinguisher commissioning

Once you’ve selected fire extinguishers for your business, you are legally obliged to have them commissioned – checked for compliance with UK fire extinguisher legislation. This is a precaution to ensure that the extinguishers are safe, properly installed, and correctly assembled. To keep your business compliant with British Standard 5306 Part 3 2009 recommends the annual inspection of fire extinguishers. Our experts who are all fully qualified and certified with BAFE at 1st Class Fire Protection can assist your business with this to keep you compliant.

 

Having the right fire extinguishers in the right places can be hugely important for a successful outcome to any fire event. Understanding which colour fire extinguisher to use in what circumstances is essential to that.

1st Class Fire Protection has been serving the businesses of Norfolk, Suffolk, and the surrounding areas for more than 25 years. Get in touch to discuss the fire extinguisher and fire safety needs of your business.

 

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