What Type of Fire Can a CO2 Extinguisher Put Out?

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The CO2 Extinguisher comes in many different sizes.
The CO2 Extinguisher comes in many different sizes. (Image: fire extinguisher image by Chris Roselli from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

Many people purchase a fire extinguisher and place it in their home to be prepared in the event of a fire. However, with so many different types of fires that could ignite within a home, and with several different types of fire extinguishers available, you should understand what types of fire the different extinguishers will put out.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are divided into four categories with each one servicing a specific type of fire. These are Class A for paper, cardboard, wood and some plastic; Class B for flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, oil and grease; Class C for electrical fires including appliances, wiring, sockets or breakers; and Class D for chemical fires. Each of the cylinders bears a numeric rating signifying the amount of fire it can put out. Each one is also labeled with the letter or letters, from A to D, indicating which type or types of fire it can put out.

The CO2 Extinguisher

Carbon dioxide extinguishers, aka CO2 extinguishers, are filled with carbon dioxide and are highly pressurized. This is a non-flammable gas that renders them ideal for putting out class B and class C fires. The cylinders come in many different sizes to accommodate the different scenarios for storage space and potential usage.

Common Household Extinguishers

There are two common household extinguishers. The APW extinguishers are air-pressurized water extinguishers to be used for class A fires only. They are ideal to keep near a fireplace, but should NEVER be used on kitchen stove fires or electrical fires because they will spread the fire. Dry chemical extinguishers are filled with foam or powder and pressurized with nitrogen. They are suitable for class A, B and C fires, and are labeled with the letters accordingly.

Advantages of CO2 Extinguishers

The CO2 extinguisher can be used in many of the same types of fires as the dry chemical extinguishers. However, the chemical extinguishers can leave a sticky residue that can be damaging to some surfaces while the CO2 extinguisher doesn’t leave any residue behind, making it a better choice for electrical fires on appliances, TVs or computers.

Disadvantages of CO2 Extinguishers

The CO2 extinguishers do not leave any kind of non-flammable residue on the surface or material that they’re used on. This means that even though the initial flames are put out, they could ignite again because there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. According to Fire Extinguisher 101, "They don't work very well on class A fires because they may not be able to displace enough oxygen to put the fire out, causing it to re-ignite."

Warning

It is crucial that the appropriate extinguisher is used on a particular fire. CO2 extinguishers will cause chemical fires to ignite and spread quickly, making the fire even more dangerous. There are many brands and choices of fire extinguishers, and residences should be equipped with all the kinds necessary to fight the ignition of every type of residential fire.

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