All fire extinguishers are chosen and installed according to the class of fire risk most likely to occur in their surrounding area. Each type of fire extinguisher works to tackle the different types of fires in its own unique way, and is identified by a colour-coded label.
In this simple guide, we outline the different label colours of fire extinguishers and what each one signifies.
Should a fire take hold, it’s imperative that people in the building know where vital fire-fighting equipment is located and are confident they’ll be picking up the right fire extinguisher appropriate for the class of fire it’s being used on.
Fire extinguisher categories are quickly identified by a colour-coded label, placed along the top of the fire extinguisher to announce its type and contents. Below we’ve listed out the five fire extinguisher colour codes and the meaning of each one:
A red label fire extinguisher denotes a water fire extinguisher, which works by cooling the fuel and ensuring it burns at a much slower pace until the fire is extinguished. Often found in busy places like offices, schools and hospitals, this is the most commonly used Class A fire extinguisher (for blazes caused by flammable solids like wood or paper). Read our guide to water fire extinguishers for more information.
The foam fire extinguisher colour is cream. They’re most commonly used on Class B fires (started by flammable liquids). However, as they’re water-based, they’ll also work on Class A fires. These fire extinguishers perform a cooling function and quickly smother burning materials, while the foam agent helps prevent the fire reigniting. Foam fire extinguishers shouldn’t be used on kitchen fires or those with an electrical source. However, they’re ideal for office environments, hospitals, schools and other spaces where organic materials play a large role in the landscape. Discover more in our guide to foam fire extinguishers.
The dry powder fire extinguisher colour is blue. These fire extinguishers smother Class A, B and C fires (those started by flammable solids, liquids and gases) by producing a thick barrier between the fuel and source of oxygen. Powder fire extinguishers shouldn’t be used in enclosed spaces because the powder could easily be inhaled and the residue that’s left over is hard to remove. Consider this fire extinguisher for premises including garage forecourts, commercial boiler rooms and workspaces that feature welding. Learn more in our guide to dry powder fire extinguishers.
A black band fire extinguisher indicates a CO2 fire extinguisher, which works to suffocate the fire by transferring the oxygen it needs to burn. This type is suitable for Class B fires (flammable liquids like petrol or oil) but is also recommended for electrical fires thanks to the fact it’s non-damaging to electrical equipment and machinery. Premises that would benefit from incorporating a CO2 fire extinguisher include modern offices, kitchens and server rooms. Refer to our guide to CO2 fire extinguishers for more detail.
The wet chemical fire extinguisher colour is bright yellow. This type of fire extinguisher is specifically designed for use on Class F fires (cooking oils and fats), making it the ideal solution for the demands of commercial kitchen and canteen environments. Wet chemical fire extinguishers work by creating a layer of foam on the burning oil or fat, stopping the supply of oxygen so the fire isn’t fuelled any further.
For more information on the different types of fire extinguishers and their uses – including a handy fire extinguisher chart (UK) – download the CheckFire Fire Extinguisher Guide.
BY Amy Moseley
BY Toria Jones
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