Fire Extinguishers: PASS the flames

Wednesday, 7 November 2012 | Tags: , , , ,

If you act fast, fire extinguishers give you a chance to put out a fire while it's still small. We talk to the experts to find out what works best for typical household use.

The Basics

  • An extinguisher marked “A” handles ordinary combustibles like wood and paper.

  • A “B” extinguisher handles grease fires and other flammable liquids

  • A “C” attacks electrical fires involving appliances or computers.

  • For maximum protection buy an all-inclusive A-B-C fire extinguisher. Using the wrong type could actually make a fire bigger.

  • Look for the UL seal of approval, which means the extinguisher has been tested and certified by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. – an independent, internationally-recognized, not-for-profit product safety testing organization.

Other Considerations

  • Indoor fires double in size approximately every 30 seconds. A fire extinguisher is only good for eight to 25 seconds, so buy a LARGE extinguisher. We recommend at least five pounds.

  • Don’t stop at just one in your home. You should have at least one per 600 square feet, or one per floor. Ask for a discount for buying in bulk.

  • A gauge tells you whether the extinguisher has been discharged or if the pressure is low.

  • Make a note of the expiration date and replace your extinguisher regularly.

Remember: PASS

We did some fire extinguisher training with the help of Captain Gabe Roder of the Vancouver Fire Department. He taught us to always remember PASS: pull the pin, aim, squeeze, and spray!


We tested these smaller sized ABC extinguishers meant for home use against a medium sized fire:

  • First Alert: $20
  • Garrison: $16.99
  • On Guard: $16.99
  • Kidde: $21.97

Our specific tests and results included:

Extinguishing Test

With the help of firefighter Captain Lorne Cook, a fire prevention officer, we battled blazes with each of the extinguishers.

  • Our fire was too big for the Garrison. It couldn’t finish the job

  • The On Guard didn’t seem to work at all. Perhaps we had a faulty product.

  • The First Alert and the Kidde managed to fight the fire, but if it was any bigger, it wouldn’t have been enough. Smaller extinguishers run out of powder before the fire is fully out.


This is one case where size does matter: if the extinguisher is too small it may run out of powder before the fire is completely out. You need at least a 5lb fire extinguisher for the kitchen, marked A, B, and C.


Thank you to the following sponsors:

    Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services



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