Commercial Fire Extinguishers: Common Agents and the Fires They Handle

5 April 2016
 Categories: , Blog


Fire extinguishers are critical elements in a fire protection plan for your commercial premises. These devices are active fire-fighting products that can control and even extinguish localised fires within a building. There are numerous types of fire extinguishers to consider acquiring for your business. Generally, they are classified according to the extinguishing agent contained in the cylinder. The right choice for your operation will depend on the potential fire hazards. You should understand your options in order to select the best fire protection product. Here is a short description of the common fire extinguisher agents and the fires that they can handle.


Water fire extinguishers control fires by initiating the cooling of the pertinent burning material. It is an ideal choice for your premises if the materials that are likely to catch fire are solids like paper, wood, fabrics and plastics. However, this cannot be used in the presence of flammable liquids and electricity because the water will spread the fire and present an electrical shock hazard. The water extinguisher is favourable because the water spray is chemical-free and relatively easy to clean after small office fires.


Foam fire extinguishers are designed to produce a special frothy agent that forms a sealing blanket over a fire. The foam products are manufactured from different fire-retardant chemicals. The formulas are usually proprietary, so it is important to perform research on specific products before purchase. Foam is a perfect choice for flammable liquid fires, like kerosene and petrol, because it will seal out oxygen. In addition, it can be used on 'normal' fires that have caught onto common solids like wood and paper.

Dry Chemical

The dry chemical extinguisher is popular because it can handle most fires. Basically, this type of agent is manufactured in powder form, and it is designed to control and stop the reaction between heat, fuel and fire. This interruption normally prevents the production of fire-sustaining elements and, consequently, extinguishes the fire. The exact types of fires that a dry chemical extinguisher can handle will depend on the exact agent used. Therefore, you should check this aspect before choosing any product. For example, mono-ammonium phosphate can control fires originating from solids, flammable liquids and electricity while sodium carbonate cannot properly control fires caught onto solids.

Carbon Dioxide

These types of extinguishers are filled with pressurised carbon dioxide, and they are perfect for handling electrical fires by cutting off oxygen. For example, if you are concerned about computer or printer fires, this is the best choice since it will leave no residue. 

If you're looking for some fire extinguishers for your business, click here for more info.