Know The Five Classifications of Fire Extinguishers! Let Lippolis Electric Tell You More!

For any of us homeowners, this is a defining moment of decision making. Is the risk of losing one’s life equal to or greater than the need to save the family home? It is a worthy question perhaps only people like those heroic homeowners in California who chose the ‘stay and stand their ground’ model in the face of a raging wildfire can answer. In spite of instinctual self-preservation, there very well may be a part in all of us that says stay and fight but as the Clash so eloquently posed the question back in 1982, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

In an NFPA Journal article by Thomas Welle dated October, 2011, the issue of stay or go was examined in detail. “…the options of the Stay and Defend or Leave Early (SDLE), also known as “stay or go,” (is) an approach that has triggered a good deal of debate in the fire safety community.” “Others are skeptical of stay-and-defend approaches, and see them as terribly, perhaps even tragically, misguided.”

Whichever the case, there is no specific U.S. policy that officially spells out procedures and guidelines in this respect leaving the decision resting entirely on an individual homeowner’s level of risk versus risk-aversion.

Caught in its early stages, electrical fires are suppressible if one has the proper equipment for attacking the flames and the knowledge of how to use it correctly. Because not all fires originate from the same source material, not all fire extinguishers are created equal. A quick examination of the five choices is in order.


The five classifications of fire extinguishers are:

·    Type A – Type A fire extinguishers are designed for use on ordinary combustibles including wood, paper, and cloth.

·    Type B – Type B fire extinguishers are designed for use on flammable liquids including grease, oil, paint, and solvents.

·    Type C – Type C fire extinguishers are designed for use on live electrical equipment including electrical panels, motors, and wiring.

·    Type D – Type D fire extinguishers are designed for use on combustible metals including magnesium and aluminum.

·    Type K – Type K fire extinguishers are designed for use on commercial cooking equipment including cooking oils, animal fats, and vegetable oils.

The NFPA recommends a fire extinguisher in every home and on every floor but which is the right one for the home? Obviously, there is no simple answer as there is no ‘one size fits all’. One approach is to install Type K near the kitchen, Type B in the garage, Type A around wood and paper, and Type C near the electrical panel.

That may seem too much to ask of any household.

If so, then it is important to note then major manufacturers like Kidde and First Alert also make combination extinguishers rated BC and even A,B,C. For those of us generalists, this may be the solution.

But for electrical fires, Type C in some form or variation, will be required.


Attempting to put out a fire on a still energized appliance, wall outlet, plug strip or dimmer could mean a resurgence moments later. Professionals will tell you if you suspect the fire to be electrical in origin or is emitting from an electrical device, the first step is to turn the power off. 

Here a well labeled and indexed electrical panel is critical in moments of split decision. Turning the main circuit breaker off may knock down power to the entire house but in so doing, create additional hazards that may jeopardize other family members seeking egress from the structure. If you feel your electrical panel is not adequately labeled, a call to Lippolis Electric will provide a trained crew of professionals to your door to trace out and identify each circuit.


To help us novices remember how to use an extinguisher, we suggest using the acronym PASS:

·    Pull the extinguisher’s safety pin.

·    Aim the chemical at the source of the flames rather than at the flames themselves, standing at least 6 feet from the fire (or as directed on the extinguisher’s label).

·    Squeeze the trigger and hold it, keeping the extinguisher upright.

·    Sweep the source of the flames until the extinguisher runs dry.


Any potential fire, specifically electrical, may be preventable with the proper recommended updating of equipment and layers of preventable maintenance. Call a Lippolis Electric professional today for additional guidance in the safe management of your home. 


Lippolis Electric, Inc. | 538 Route 22, Pawling, NY 12564 | 845-855-1426 |