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  • Writer's pictureCostello Safety

How to use Fire Extinguisher? PASS!

Fire extinguishers can be an important tool in preventing a small fire from growing larger. However, they should not be used to combat large or rapidly spreading fires. The most important thing to do during a fire is to get yourself to safety. Then, call the proper authorities to combat the fire. A building and the property inside are not worth putting yourself or anyone at risk trying to put it out with a fire extinguisher. It is important to understand how to use a fire extinguisher and the limitations they have.



The easiest way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher is to follow the P.A.S.S. method. The PASS acronym was developed to allow people to remember the basic four steps to properly using a fire extinguisher.


  • P- Pull. Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher away and release the locking mechanism.

  • A- Aim. Aim the stream towards the base of the fire. Spraying the flames will not put the fire out.

  • S- Squeeze. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly. Pulling the lever too fast may shoot the stream from your target wasting the valuable firefighting agent.

  • S- Sweep. Sweep the nozzle side to side to combat the fire.


Responding to Fires

When you see fire the first thing you should do is pull the fire alarm and call the local fire department also, notify your immediate supervisor. Make sure you are following company policies and procedures when dealing with a fire. If you are attempting to extinguish a fire you should:

  1. Know what type of combustible material is burning.

  2. Have been trained to use a fire extinguisher correctly.

  3. Make sure the fire is still in the early stages. If the fire gets out of control quickly or you do not know what material is burning or how to properly use a fire extinguisher, you should evacuate the building immediately. Do not enter a building under fire for any circumstances. Always wait for a supervisor to advise you on what to do next after a fire.


Did you know?

The vast majority of portable, handheld fire extinguishers are loaded with a dry chemical powder that will extinguish the majority of fires you might encounter in your daily environment? This powder is not toxic but will make you sneeze and cough if you inhale it. This powder will extinguish Class “A”, “B”, and “C” fires.



  • Class “A” fires involve material such as paper, plastic, wood and other common combustibles.

  • Class “B” fires involve grease, oil or gasoline. Dry chemical extinguishers will work, but these fires can be harder to extinguish and should be approached with extreme caution.

  • Class “C” fires involve burning electrical motors or transformer. This type of fire changes from “C” to Class “A” or “B” as soon as the power is cut off (or shorts out). Dry chemical can be used here also because it will not conduct electricity and will put out “A” or “B” type fires.





Think of a dry chemical extinguisher as spray paint, hair spray, or shaving cream cans – it does not need to be turned upside down to use it. Anytime you need to use a fire extinguisher, remember to sweep the extinguisher’s nozzle back-and-forth at what is actually burning–not at the flames or smoke. The goal is to put a “barrier” between the fuel and the surrounding oxygen.


Fire Extinguisher Limitations

  • A dry chemical fire extinguisher such as the common red “ABC” extinguishers will reach a distance between 5 and 20 feet. It is important to be familiar with the models used in your work areas and the effective distance they can be used for.

  • A 10lb to 20lb dry chemical fire extinguisher will last anywhere from 10 to 25 seconds. Again, this depends on the model and weight you are using.

  • Fire extinguishers are only designed to fight small fires. A rule of thumb a lot of professionals use is the size of the fire should not be any larger than the size of a small trash can.


Safety First for Fire Extinguishers

  • Know the location of the closest fire extinguisher.

  • Don't try to use an extinguisher unless you have been properly trained.

  • Learn which fire extinguisher to use on what type of fire.

  • Most fire extinguishers are rated for more than one type of fire.

  • In case of fire, break the seal and remove the pin from fire extinguisher.

  • Stay 8 to 10 feet from fire.

  • Press the lever and aim the fire extinguisher nozzle toward the base of the fire.

  • Sweep the base of the fire using a steady stream - not short bursts.

  • If the fire is too large and out of control, move quickly and use the evacuation plan established for your work area.

  • Close the door behind you.

  • Always - PAY ATTENTION.


OSHA Standard 1926.150(a)(1) The employer shall be responsible for the development of a fire protection program to be followed throughout all phases of the construction and demolition work, and he shall provide for the firefighting equipment as specified in this subpart. As fire hazards occur, there shall be no delay in providing the necessary equipment.



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