Fire extinguisher guide: selecting, locating, inspecting fire extinguishers


More than 27% of homes in Washington and Oregon do NOT have a fire extinguisher, according to a recent poll conducted by PEMCO Insurance Northwest.  That figure goes up for renters, with 58 percent of them saying they do not have a fire extinguisher in their unit.

Considering most people will experience an average of 5 fires in their lifetime, according to the National Fire Protection Association, keeping a fire extinguisher in your home is a necessity. Without one, you’re doing a less than ideal job protecting your family and property.

Here’s our guide to selecting a fire extinguisher and where to place it to protect what’s most valuable to you.

Selecting the Right One

Five primary types of fire extinguishers are available. Each one works with different types of fire.

  • Class A – Works on cloth, paper and wood
  • Class B – Works on grease, gasoline, flammable liquids and oil-based paints
  • Class C – Works with electrical appliances and tools
  • Class D – Flammable metals, often used in factories
  • Class K – Animal and vegetable oils used in cooking appliances, most often found in commercial kitchens

We recommend fire extinguishers labeled Class C or a combination of Class B-C or Class A-B-C for your home. These extinguishers also work well with businesses that do not deal with flammable metals, oils or fats.

Location, Location

Most fires start in the kitchen, so keep an extinguisher in the cooking area. Don’t keep it right next to the stove, though. Otherwise, you may waste valuable seconds running to another room to grab an extinguisher if the fire is too hot or close to the kitchen extinguisher. Keep a fire extinguisher in your garage, too.

Make sure nothing blocks the extinguisher. Do not place it in a place where a ladder or step is required to reach it. Remember: every second counts in putting out a small fire.

Using An Extinguisher: the PASS method

Having an extinguisher and knowing how to use it in the event of a fire are two very different things. The acronym, PASS, gives you a simple way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher. PASS refers to:

  • Pull the pin. Make sure the nozzle points away from you before releasing the locking mechanism.
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the extinguisher’s handle slowly.
  • Sweep the nozzle in a side-to-side motion until the fire is put out.

Share the PASS method with your family, and practice using it in your fire drill plan. Also, train your employees on how to use an extinguisher.


When did you last check your fire extinguisher to make sure it’s working properly? Fire extinguishers last anywhere form 5 to 15 years. If you haven’t used it in a long time – maybe never – check the pressure gauge. The needle on the gauge should be in the green zone.

Also make sure all hoses and nozzles are clean and not damaged or dented. The canister and hoses should also be free of rust. Finally, make sure to return the extinguisher to its expected location so everyone knows where to find it in the event of a fire.

Make it a habit to check the extinguisher gauge when you test your smoke alarms.