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Fire Safety: Classes of Fire

Fire is one of the most dangerous threats to our homes and businesses. Along with floods and structural damage, fires can cause the most devastating effects, ranging in severity from superficial financial and physical effect to more serious injuries and fatalities. Now of course, firefighting is best left to the professionals who are trained to handle the dangers of firefighting and rescue, but that doesn't mean you don't need to have a basic awareness of fire and fire safety.

For more information on fire safety precautions you can read the Fire Service's Fire Safety In The Home guide. For more information on the different Classes of fire and the different types of fire extinguishers available, read on.

Classes of Fire

There are different types of fire, each defined by their source or by the different handling methods they require. To make both identification and management easier to define, the most common fires have been separated into "classes"; each class has a certain source which influences how the fire can be extinguished safely. Fires will belong to either class A, B, C, D, E or F as outlined below:

Class A

Source:

Class A fires are started by everyday combustibles like wood, paper, plastic or rubbish; anything that leaves ash when burnt.

Extinguisher:

A Class A fire is best extinguished with water but foam, dry powder and wet chemical extinguishers can also be used effectively.

Class B

Source:

Flammable and combustible liquids like oil, petrol and paraffin cause Class B fires.

Extinguisher:

Class B fires are best extinguished by smothering the fire with foam, dry powder or CO2 gas extinguishers.

Class C

Source:

Flammable gases like propane, butane and methane (along with many other similar gases) are responsible for Class C fires.

Extinguisher:

A dry powder extinguisher is the best option for handling a Class C fire.

Class D

Source:

Class D fires are caused most commonly by combustible metals such as aluminium, magnesium and titanium.

Extinguisher:

No water is to come into contact with a Class D fire; instead a dry powder extinguisher is best as it smothers the fire and absorbs the heat.

Class E

Source:

A Class E fire is an electrical fire, caused and fuelled by an electrical current or electrical overheating.

Extinguisher:

No water is to come into contact with an electrical fire; the circuit must first be broken to stop the current and then a non-conductive extinguishing agent like CO2 gas or dry powder should be used.

Class F

Source:

Any fire involving cooking oils, grease or animal fat is a Class F fire; due to the nature of the source, Class F fires are usually kitchen fires.

Extinguisher:

Volatile in nature, a Class F fire should be extinguished with a wet chemical fire extinguisher which will form a barrier on the surface, depriving it of oxygen and smothering the fire.

It may seem that you don't need to know the different classes of fire in detail, but when a fire occurs at home or at work you will be in a better position to minimise damage if you know which fires need what management. Long before you contact the insurance company and a Fire and Flood Restoration Company, you will have to deal with the fire itself. Of course, it is best to let trained firefighting professionals deal with the dangers of fire but it doesn't hurt to be prepared. So brush up on your fires and know how to deal with a crisis should the worst happen.