January 15th, 2019, Minneapolis, Minnesota:
FACT: Fire extinguishers can effectively put out 80 percent of all fires, even if the extinguisher is classified as a portable unit. Seventy-five percent of the time the fire department is not required to attend the fire. Almost two million fires are handled entirely by a fire extinguisher in the U.S. every year. All thanks to what appears to be a simple—and sometimes overlooked—safety “accessory.”
But extinguishers aren’t merely accessories! There are a lot of myths and misinformation about to fire extinguishers, so I’ve put together “Fire Extinguishers 101” to get the truth out and save lives and property.
All commercial buildings have safety code requirements that must be maintained, and this includes the presence and placement of fire extinguishers. Some things to consider are:

  • Does your staff know what to do in an emergency and how to use a fire extinguisher correctly?
  • Do they know how to pull the pin and point the hose at the right spot?
  • Are the fire extinguishers inspected regularly with current tags?
  • Are the fire extinguishers placed every 75 feet of travel in common hallways and areas?
  • When you walk a hallway, are the extinguishers visible and easily accessed?


The rule of thumb for home use and placement of fire extinguishers is, to be blunt, if you have to walk far or through the fire to get an extinguisher, it may be too late. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that there be at least one working fire extinguisher for every 600 square feet of living area. Any source of heat or flame should have an extinguisher no farther than 25 feet away at all times wherever there could be a potential fire:

  • Kitchen
  • Garage
    • Car or electrical fire; the biggest fire danger is your car engine
    • Heaters are installed
  • Living room
  • Wherever there is open flame, like candles
  • Near wood-burning fireplaces
  • Mechanical rooms where furnaces and water heaters are located
  • Outside on decks where grills are located

To maintain an operational fire extinguisher, inspect it once a year, recharge it every six years, and rebuild or replace it every 12 years. Family fire drills should include how to use fire extinguishers.


Now that you’ve passed “Fire Extinguishers 101,” let’s move on to “Fire Extinguishers 201.”

The three most common types of fire extinguishers:

  • The water fire extinguisher is filled with a mixture of water and pressurized air. Water extinguishers work by removing heat from the fire. Some also contain a detergent that creates a foam when activated. Every home and business should have this type of fire extinguisher handy. It's considered eco-friendly and affordable.
  • Dry chemical extinguishers are tanks of foam or dry powder with compressed nitrogen as the propellant. They work by smothering the fire. When you put a layer of powder or foam on the fire, you cut off the fuel from the oxygen around it, and the fire goes out.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers contain a mixture of liquid and gaseous carbon dioxide (a nonflammable gas). CO2 is normally a gas at room temperature and pressure. It has to be stored under high pressure to make it a liquid. When you release the pressure, the gas expands enormously and makes a huge white jet. CO2 attacks the fire in two ways: It smothers the oxygen and, when it turns from a liquid back to a gas, it "sucks" in a massive amount of heat from its surroundings, which cools whatever you spray it on.

To operate a fire extinguisher, remember to PASS:

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

By the way, for those of us who live in the cold-weather states it’s reassuring to know that fire extinguishers don’t freeze.


The first fire extinguisher was patented in England in 1723 by Ambrose Godfrey, a celebrated chemist at the time. It consisted of a cask of fire-extinguishing liquid containing a pewter chamber of gunpowder. (Yes, gunpowder.) This was connected with a system of fuses which were ignited, exploding the gunpowder and scattering the solution. (Yes, exploding.) This device was probably used to a limited extent, as Bradley’s Weekly Messenger for November 7, 1729, refers to its efficiency (inefficiency!) in stopping a fire in London.

The modern fire extinguisher was invented by British Captain George William Manby in 1818. It consisted of a copper vessel of three gallons (13.6 liters) of pearl ash (potassium carbonate) solution contained within compressed air.

And there you have it. It’s obvious fire extinguishers are a must-have in your business and home. Brothers Fire & Security recommends the Pyrochem and Ansul brands for the best quality and performance in an emergency. Please don’t base your decision on the cheapest unit.

We offer FREE training to our commercial clients in how to use fire extinguishers, so give us a call and we’ll set up training.

I encourage homeowners to thoroughly research extinguishers and discuss the options with your local fire department. They are very willing to help you in those decisions.


As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients find that they can save 25-30% on their safety services, annual inspections and more. From a single location to franchises throughout the region and the country, our integrated approach saves our clients valuable time, money and stress. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access and kitchen hoods.