There are fewer things, if they at all exist, that is more dangerous than fire damage whether within or outside the home. It is noteworthy that not all fires are the same. Fires are classified into classes depending on the cause of the fire or its fuel. There are 6 classes of fire and each can be best dealt with in different ways, ensuring increased protection for your home, and reducing the risk of fire damage.
Understanding the 6 different classes of fires would help you identify the biggest fire risks in your home, depending on the fuels and fire hazards present as well as how best to prepare in case of a fire emergency.
Let’s break down each of the different classes of fires.
- Class A Fires: Solid Fires
Class A fires are caused by the ignition of solid, flammable objects around the home such as wood, paper, fabric, trash, and light plastics. They are the cause of most fires in the home and as such should not be treated lightly.
The best way to deal with a Class A fire is to put it out using water or a foam extinguisher before it spreads in the presence of other combustible materials.
- Class B Fires: Liquid Fires
Class B fires involve flammable liquids, especially fuels like petroleum or petroleum-based products such as gasoline, paint, and kerosene, and other domestic products such as cleaning solvents.
Unlike a Class A fire, water is not a good extinguisher in this case. You should instead make use of foam or powder extinguishers when dealing with liquid fires.
- Class C Fires: Gas Fires
Cooking gas used in the kitchen is often made up of iso-propane, propane or butane, or a mixture of them. These gases are highly flammable and are the general cause of gas fires in the home.
The best way to deal with these types of fires is to cut off the gas supply and then apply a dry powder extinguisher.
- Class D Fires: Metallic Fires
Certain metals, especially sodium, have been known to cause and fuel fire in the home, even though such occurrence is rare. It is noteworthy though, that metals are also good conductors, so they help fires spread, and they can retain heat at high temperatures before they melt.
Metallic fires should not be tackled with water, as water can actually fuel the fire and increase the damage. Class D fires are treated with dry powder agents instead, as they smother the flames and limit damage to property or people.
- Electrical Fires
Electrical fires are not strictly a class of fires by themselves, as they could be caused and sustained by any Class B, C, or Class D fires. They generally occur when there is a spark caused by faulty electrical equipment or overvoltage, which on ignition is fuelled by other materials.
Old buildings with outdated electric installations and moldy walls are at a higher risk of such fires.
Electric fires are best dealt with using CO2 extinguishers or with the use of non-conductive materials. Water should never be used when fighting electric fires, as this puts you at risk of electric shock.
- Class F Fires: Grease Fires or Cooking Fires
Class F fires are common occurrences in the kitchen. They occur when cooking oils or grease come in wrong contact with fire. This combustion can be quite serious and difficult to control.
Because they can spread quickly and be difficult to manage, Class F fires are best controlled by using a wet chemical extinguisher or a fire blanket to smother the flames.
Best extinguisher types for dealing with fires according to their class
The table below provides a summary of dealing with the various classes of fire discussed here. It provides the class of fire, as well as their fuel, how to suppress them, and the proper extinguisher type to use.
|How to Suppress
|Fire Extinguisher Type
|Freely burning combustibles
|water, water mist, foam
|Dry powder agent
|Cooking or grease fire
|Smothering, wet chemical
|Wet chemical, water mist
Other suggested tips to prevent fire damage in the home
1. Focused Training
Educate people in the home on how to operate a fire extinguisher as well as the different classes of fire and how to tackle them. Also, remind the children to never attempt to put out fires by themselves.
2. Regular Testing and Maintenance
Remember to have equipment inspected regularly, and replace fire extinguishers once they pass their expiration. You’ll also need to have your building inspected by the local fire department to ensure that it meets fire codes regarding your fire protection system, building capacity, and fire alarm requirements.