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Under One Roof

Canadian Roofing Reference Manual

1.4.4 Fire Extinguishment

Do you know how to use a fire extinguisher? Do you know the techniques for using one to suppress the fire most effectively? There are some simple directions to achieve maximum efficiency.

The MOST IMPORTANT skill in fire extinguishment is knowing when the fire is too big!

Using a fire extinguisher is NOT the first step in reacting to a fire.

Make sure the fire department is called. If you are alone, YOU call right away. If you are not alone, have someone else call them while you do something else.

Once you know the fire department is on the way, concentrate your efforts on getting people out of the danger area. Pull an alarm, SHOUT if you need to – anything to draw attention to the fire, and to get people away from it. These two steps often take just seconds to do.

If you are alone, first call the fire department, then fight the fire. You never know if you are going to be able to put it out until it is out.

Once the fire department has been called, and all others are out of danger, you can try to fight the fire with an extinguisher. It may have grown in the short time that elapsed since you first saw it so judge wisely whether or not it is too dangerous for you to fight. DO NOT put your own life or safety at risk – Remember, the fire department is on its way.

If you sense that the fire is out of control, if you run out of extinguishing agent, or if you start to feel dizzy or weak STOP! DO NOT put your life at risk. Smoke and fumes often render people unconscious long before the fire actually reaches them.

Fire Extinguisher Operation

Knowing what type of extinguisher to use on a given type of fire is indeed important, however, this becomes almost useless information if you do not know how to operate the extinguisher.

Although each extinguisher has operating instructions printed right on it, you won’t usually have time to stop and read them if you are facing a fire. Learn how to use them BEFORE a fire breaks out.

Most extinguishers operate in the same basic manner. The discharge mechanism consists of the handle, trigger, and safety pin.

To discharge the extinguisher:

  • Pull the safety pin.
  • Squeeze the trigger, keeping the container upright.

As you SWEEP the fire – working from the BASE of the fire – remember these points:

  • Keep any draft or wind at your back. You don’t want the fire to be fanned into your face.
  • Keep low. Smoke, fumes, and heat all rise, so your chances of being overcome by them are lessened by staying close to the ground.

Never trust a fire. Never think you have a few more minutes to keep fighting. The “flashover” point can take place in just a few minutes! Flashover is the point at which every surface in an area is on fire.

  • Spray the extinguisher at a low angle. Spraying at a steep angle can cause the solution to bounce away – uselessly.
  • If you are spraying liquid fuels, spraying at a steep angle might cause the fire to “splash”, causing several other fires.
  • As you sweep, and the fire lessens, move slowly forward. Direct the spray to the front bottom edge of the fire.

Always watch your back! Be sure there aren’t any fires behind you as you concentrate on the one in front of you!