Fire Extinguisher Info

Fire extinguishers consist of a hand-held cylindrical pressure-vessel, usually made of steel or aluminum, and an agent, which can be discharged to extinguish a fire. There are two main types of fire extinguishers: stored pressure and cartridge-operated. Stored pressure fire extinguishers are the most common type and, of these, the ones that have a dry chemical as the agent are most common. The dry chemical is typically mono ammonium sulfate, sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate – all of which are considered non-toxic.


There are five primary types of fire extinguishers, each designed to put out different kinds of fires.


class A      

For use with ordinary materials like cloth, wood and paper.

(Often found in homes and businesses)


class B

For use with combustible and flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, oil and oil-based paints.

(Often found in homes and businesses)


class C

For use with electrical equipment like appliances, tools, or other equipment that is plugged in.

(Often found in homes and businesses)


class D

For use with flammable metals

(Often found in factories)


class K

For use with vegetable oils, animal oils and fats in cooking appliances.

Often found in commercial kitchens (restaurants, cafeterias, catering businesses)


There are also multipurpose fire extinguishers that might be labeled "B-C" or "A-B-C." Most home improvement stores carry multipurpose fire extinguishers that cover Class A through Class C.

When to use a Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishers can be helpful on a small fire. Consider the use a fire extinguisher on a potential fire once all of the following conditions have been met: 

  • Have I alerted others in the building that there’s a fire?
  • Has someone called the fire department?
  • Am I physically able to use a fire extinguisher?
  • Is the fire small and contained in a single object (like a pan or a wastebasket)?
  • Am I safe from the fire’s toxic smoke?
  • Do I have a clear escape route?

Use a fire extinguisher when all of these questions are answered “yes.” If you’re unsure about whether or not it’s safe to use a fire extinguisher, and for all other situations, alert others, leave the building, and call 911 from a mobile or neighbor’s phone. It is not recommended that children use fire extinguishers.

When operating a fire extinguisher,  remember the word PASS:

  • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.


Remember to check fire extinguishers when you change your smoke detector batteries for:

Easy access in an emergency
Be sure nothing is blocking or limiting your ability to reach it.
The recommended pressure level
Many extinguishers have gauges that show when pressure is too high or too low.
Working parts
Make sure the can, hoses and nozzles aren’t damaged, dented, or rusted.
Remove any dust, oil, or grease that might be on the outside of the extinguisher.
Guidelines and instructions
Some extinguishers need to be shaken monthly, others need to be pressure tested every few years, but most need to be replaced every 10 years.


 Are there any hazards to be concerned about with fire extinguishers?

 The main concerns are:

 • Contents are under pressure and may explode when combined with other materials. 

• Very old fire extinguishers (pre 1960’s) may contain carbon tetrachloride, a known carcinogen. 

If you have a very old fire extinguisher and the label says it contains carbon tetrachloride, contact the Montgomery County Planning Commission at or at 610-278-3618 for advice on what to do with the extinguisher. 

If It’s Empty:

 • Squeeze the Lever above the Handle: This will ensure that all contents are discharged. 

• Remove the Head so that the recycler knows the container is empty. 

• Recycle the Steel Body: Once the head is removed, the container can be sent to a metals recycler. 

If It Is Not Empty: 

The casing is usually made out of steel or aluminum and can be recycled. Recyclers will not accept containers that are not empty so you have to discharge all contents first. 

When emptying the container for disposal: 

• Discharge outside, away from children or pets 

• For safety, wear goggles and a particulate mask when discharging extinguisher 

• Pull the pin on the extinguisher – this unlocks the operating lever 

• Squeeze the lever above the handle to discharge contents 

• Aim low and discharge contents into a bucket or another container

 • After you have finished discharging the contents and nothing else comes out, remove the head from the container – this will let the recycler know that the extinguisher is empty. 

Fire extinguishers can also be taken to: 

• Marco, Inc., 320 Commerce Drive, Exton, PA 610-363-2233 (Completely discharged please) 

 • Keystone Fire Protection, 433 Industrial Dr., North Wales, PA 215-641-0100 

Disclaimer: This listing is provided as a public service by Lower Providence Fire Department. No companies are endorsed or recommended. To add listings or to make corrections, contact 610-539-5408 (Assistant Chief Office) 

© 2021 Lower Providence Fire Department