Fire Extinguishers

Keep safety in mind by the hearth

By Shannon Beineke

Keeping a fire extinguisher near your hearth could, one day, make the difference between a happy home and a lumpy pile of ashes. Fires cost millions in damages and take hundreds of lives every year in this country. Any delay before extinguishing a house fire could put the home, along with the people inside it, in grave danger. This situation can be avoided by keeping a fire extinguisher close to the fireplace, and by knowing how to use it before things get out of hand.

An ABC extinguisher is an advisable option because it can extinguish three classes of fires. Class C fires are electric, Class B fires involve fuels like kerosene or gasoline, and fires in the Class A category burn lumber, paper or cardboard—the sort of material used in a fireplace. Be sure to get the right kind of extinguisher and learn how to use it properly; using an air-pressurized water (APW) extinguisher for a kitchen fire (Class K) actually causes flames to spread faster!

Certain types of fire extinguishers are still useful in select situations. Carbon dioxide extinguishers (CO2) can be used to put out both Class B and Class C fires. Types ABC and BC are both dry chemical extinguishers, filled with powder, and pressurized with nitrogen. Halon fire extinguishers use a clean agent suppression system, so they don't leave any residue behind.

Some people know which kind of fire extinguisher they would prefer, but refuse to get one because it won't look right anywhere near the fireplace. That's when vintage fire extinguishers come to the rescue.

Vintage fire extinguishers can be restored to their original beauty as long as they're mostly dent-free. Besides, they look way more attractive than a bright red hunk of metal. Antique fire extinguishers can be found online, at garage sales and in attics, and they're usually made of brass or chrome. A large piece of furniture can hide extinguishers if having them on display is simply not an option.

If there are little hands lurking around the house, it might be better to invest in a fire extinguisher cabinet. These are the boxes seen hanging in public buildings with extinguishers behind the clear glass. Just be sure to keep a key nearby. Remember: all extinguishers must be replaced immediately if broken, inspections should be scheduled annually, and hydrostatic pressure should be checked once every five years. Never put off an inspection. Safety comes first, and after all, isn't that the whole point of the fire extinguisher?

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