Fire extinguishers are essential safety devices that can save lives and property when used correctly. In the event of a fire, knowing how to properly operate a fire extinguisher is a crucial skill that can make the difference between a manageable situation and a catastrophic one. In this article, we will explore the right way to use a fire extinguisher, step by step, drawing upon expert advice and industry guidelines to ensure your safety and effectiveness in handling fires.

Understanding Fire Extinguishers

Before delving into the proper use of fire extinguishers, it’s essential to understand the types of fire extinguishers and the fires they are designed to combat. Fire extinguishers are categorized into several classes, and each class is designated by a letter and color code:

  1. Class A: Suitable for fires involving ordinary combustibles like wood, paper, and textiles (color code: green).
  2. Class B: Designed for flammable liquid fires, such as gasoline, oil, and grease (color code: red).
  3. Class C: Intended for fires involving electrical equipment (color code: blue).
  4. Class D: Used for fires fueled by combustible metals, like magnesium and titanium (color code: yellow).
  5. Class K: Designed specifically for fires involving cooking oils and fats in commercial kitchens (color code: black).

Selecting the Correct Fire Extinguisher

Choosing the right fire extinguisher for the type of fire you’re facing is crucial. Using the wrong type of extinguisher can be ineffective or even dangerous. To select the correct fire extinguisher, follow these steps:

  1. Assess the Fire: Determine the type of fire you’re dealing with. Remember the fire classes mentioned earlier (A, B, C, D, K) and identify the specific class of fire.
  2. Check the Fire Extinguisher Label: Inspect the label on the fire extinguisher to ensure it is suitable for the fire class in question. The label will display the fire classes the extinguisher is rated for.

Operating a Fire Extinguisher

Once you’ve identified the correct fire extinguisher, it’s time to use it. Follow these steps:

Use the P.A.S.S. Technique: The most widely recommended method for using a fire extinguisher is the P.A.S.S. technique, which stands for Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep.

a. Pull: Pull the safety pin or ring from the extinguisher’s handle. This action will break the tamper seal and allow you to discharge the extinguishing agent.

b. Aim: Point the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire, not at the flames. This is crucial because you want to attack the source of the fire, not the visible flames.

c. Squeeze: Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent. Maintain a firm grip on the extinguisher while doing so.

d. Sweep: Sweep the extinguisher from side to side, covering the entire area of the fire. Keep your distance from the fire while doing this, gradually moving closer as the fire diminishes. Be prepared to retreat if the fire flares up again.


  1. Use Short Bursts: Rather than holding down the handle continuously, use short bursts of the extinguishing agent. This will help conserve the extinguishing agent and allow for better control.
  2. Maintain a Safe Distance: Stand at a safe distance from the fire, usually about 6 to 8 feet away. This distance allows  you to aim accurately and avoids putting you in immediate danger.
  3. Be Prepared to Evacuate: If the fire does not seem to be diminishing or starts to spread rapidly, do not hesitate to evacuate the area. Your safety should always be the top priority, and fire can escalate quickly.

Post-Extinguisher Use

After successfully using a fire extinguisher to control or extinguish a fire, there are essential post-use steps to follow:

  1. Call Emergency Services: Even if you’ve managed to put out the fire, call 911 or the appropriate emergency number to ensure that professionals are on their way to assess the situation and provide further assistance if needed.
  2. Monitor for Re-Ignition: Keep an eye on the area for any signs of the fire re-igniting. Fire can smolder and reignite, so remain vigilant until professionals arrive.
  3. Refill or Replace: After using a fire extinguisher, it must be recharged or replaced, depending on the type and size. Always ensure that your extinguisher is ready for use in case of future emergencies.

Fire Systems, Inc.

Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher correctly is a fundamental life skill that can save lives and property. Understanding the different types of extinguishers and the fires they combat, as well as following the P.A.S.S. technique for operation, are essential steps in fire safety. Remember to prioritize your safety, call for professional assistance, and be prepared to evacuate if the fire cannot be controlled. By following these guidelines and practicing fire safety regularly, you can be better prepared to handle fire emergencies effectively.

Contact Fire Systems, Inc. if you’re interested in learning more about fire extinguisher training. We’re an all-services fire protection company that has been in the Atlanta area for over 30 years. Let us help you train your staff on the proper use of fire extinguishers. We can also work with you and devise a customized and complete fire protection plan for your facility. Call us at 770-333-7979 or visit our website.