Fire Extinguisher Types

Fire Extinguisher types and use chart

Fire Extinguisher Types

In New Zealand, fire extinguishers have a uniquely coloured band at the top of the cylinder for easy recognition. Because there are no universal extinguishing agents available, it’s essential to know the different fire extinguisher types. Some fire extinguisher types can make a fire worse or help spread it. Each fire extinguisher type needs to meet NZS4503:2005.

What Are The Classes Of Fire?

  • Class A – fires involving carbon-based materials such as paper, wood or textiles.
  • Class B – fires involving flammable liquids such as petrol, diesel or oils.
  • Class C – fires involving flammable gases.
  • Class D – fires involving combustible metals.
  • Class E – fires involving electrically energised equipment.
  • Class F – fires involving cooking oils and fats.

What Are The Main Fire Extinguisher Types?

The various fire extinguisher types to put out fires started with different kinds of fuel. The fire risk from the different classes of fire in your business premises will determine which fire extinguisher types you need.

fire extinguisher types

The five types of fire extinguisher are:

  • Dry Powder
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Foam
  • Water
  • Wet Chemical

Dry Powder

ABE is a multi-purpose firefighting extinguisher, and the powder includes monoammonium phosphate as its primary agent. The BE extinguisher has potassium bicarbonate in it which more commonly known as baking powder. The powder is removed under pressure by nitrogen gas generally. There is a specific third kind of powder that’s rated for class A and D (metals fires). These contain graphite powder, and their usage requires specialist training also.

dry powder fire extinguisher typeBand Colour


What Fire Types To Use For

ABE Fire ExtinguishersABE extinguishers can be used to put out fires of class A, B, C and E.This covers a wide variety of different circumstances including fires involving wood, paper, fuel, paint, in addition to electrical fires.BE Fire ExtinguishersBE extinguishers can be used to deal with fires of classes B and E, which include flammable liquids like gasoline and diesel, in addition to electrical fires.

How Dry Powder Extinguishers Work

Dry powder extinguishers in effect, smother flames by forming a barrier between the fuel and the source of oxygen.ABE fire extinguishers contain the chemical powder, monoammonium phosphate, which functions as an extinguishing agent. This chemical spreads quickly and melts over the flames to cover the fire in the case of class A and E fires, and hence puts it out.With class B fires, the powder smothers the base of the fire and blocks the vapour from leaving, which puts out the fire immediately.BE fire extinguishers include a different kind of dry chemical powder which doesn’t melt over the flames. Thus, it can not be used to put out class A fires.Powder fire extinguisher sign nz

Benefits Of Dry powder Fire Extinguishers

  • These types of fire extinguishers can be used on a range of different kinds of fire. So, it’s reasonably much safer even in challenging scenarios such as electrical fires.
  • These are rather powerful and efficient in snuffing out the fire immediately.
  • They come in different sizes and can also be saved quickly in regular home/office settings.
  • These powder fire extinguishers can cover significant areas, therefore providing more protection.
  • Dry Chemical fire extinguishers also act as remarkable heat shields. The discharge of the dry powder serves as a guard versus radiated heat.

Downside Of Dry powder Fire Extinguishers

  • Cleaning up after use can be a chore because of the mess created by the powders in the process of fighting the fire.
  • Visibility can be lowered by a great deal while using this extinguisher. This could prevent in finding the exits and accurately aiming at the fire.
  • Breathing in the chemicals in these extinguishers for an extended period can be harmful.


Carbon Dioxide

CO2 is a non-conductive and non-corrosive gas, so can be used on live electrical equipment. CO2 is usually the main fire extinguisher type offered in server rooms. They also put out Class B fires (flammable liquids, such as paint and petroleum).

Band Colour

Blackcarbon dioxide fire extinguisher type

CO2 Fire Extinguisher Uses

CO2 fire extinguishers are commonly used for extinguishing class E fires. Due to the extinguishing agent not causing any damage to computers or electrical devices, it is the perfect extinguisher for locations such as

  • Electrical Switchrooms.
  • Server/Data rooms.
  • Electrical machinery.
  • Offices.

How CO2 Extinguishers Work

As the carbon dioxide fire extinguisher releases the liquid then turns into a gas and displaces the oxygen around the fire. It also cools the surrounding air as it expands. However, be careful not to use this on Class D fires, as CO2 may react with these materials. It holds its charge once used. However, you should have it recharged ASAP.

Benefits Of CO2 Fire Extinguishers

  • Being non-toxic and leaving no residue CO2 will not contaminate food, machinery or electrical equipment.
  • CO2 is a non-conducting agent, so can be used on live electrical devices.
  • Relatively cheap to have recharged.
  • Carbon Dioxide does not leave any residue behind, therefore no mess to clean up.

Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher sign nz

Downside Of CO2 Fire Extinguishers

  • There is a threat of ice burn to your hands as the temperature level of an extinguisher horn drops quickly and freezes over.
  • As CO2 works by displacing the oxygen around the fire, it is not appropriate for outside use, or in environments exposed to windy conditions.
  • CO2 is a high pressured extinguisher. Using it on class A fires or class F fires might cause the fire to spread out.
  • You must take care with how much CO2 is being discharged in small, confined locations.


Foam fire extinguishers are the most common kind of fire extinguisher for Class B fires, but also work on Class A fires as they are water-based.

foam fire extinguisher typeBand Colour


Foam Fire Extinguisher Uses

AFFF fire extinguishers appropriate for use on combustible liquid fires such as:

  • Gas
  • Oil
  • Paint

How Foam Fire Extinguishers Work

The Foam fire extinguisher works by provides a blanket covering the flammable liquid, thus starving the fire of oxygen. For Class A fires not only does it remove the oxygen but also decreases the temperature thanks to the cooling impact from the water.Foam fire extinguisher sign

Benefits Of Foam Extinguishers

  • Foam supplies a prolonged lasting layer to manage the fire after the extinguisher discharge is complete.
  • It can likewise be utilised to form a vapour suppression barrier over combustible liquid spills.
  • Our brand-new fluorine-free foam breaks down around 97% after 14 days.

Downside Of Foam Extinguishers

  • A foam fire extinguisher is mainly water. For that reason should not be used on Class E fires.
  • The aqueous solution is corrosive and requires to be cleaned after used, particularly on painted surface areas.
  • It is advised to not utilise foam extinguishers for class F fires.


water fire extinguisher typeThese fire extinguisher types are a cheap fire extinguisher for class A fire danger. Many premises will need either foam or water fire extinguishers. Because water makes steel rust, the cylinder is stainless steel.

Band Colour

Full Red

Water Fire Extinguisher Uses

H2O extinguishers are appropriate for use on class A fires such as:

  • Paper
  • Wood
  • Cloth

How water extinguishers work

This type of fire extinguisher works by reducing the burning fuel to below its ignition temperature. Once this point is reached the fire will be extinguished.Water Fire Extinguisher Sign

Benefits Of Water Extinguishers

  • Water is affordable and readily available.
  • No impact on the environment.
  • It is a reliable extinguishant on Class A fires.

Downside Of Water Extinguishers

  • Water fire extinguishers are only suited for Class A fires.
  • Using this kind of extinguisher on live electrical equipment will cause a shock hazard to the user.
  • Using water for fat and combustible liquids will worsen the fire.


Wet Chemical

Wet chemical extinguishers are excellent on Class F fires, such as cooking oils and fats. They can also be used on Class A fires although it is more typical to have a foam or water extinguisher for this kind of fire risk.

wet chemical fire extinguisher typeBand Colour


Wet Chemical Fire Extinguisher Uses

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are suggested to extinguish class A and class F fires. These types of fire extinguishers are beneficial as a preventative safety measure in commercial kitchens where it is more common for cooking oil and fat fires to ignite. They are the only types of extinguishers suggested fighting these types of fires. Industrial kitchen areas are also recommended to have a fire blanket on site as a precaution for pot and pan fires that could happen.

How Wet Chemical Extinguishers Work

The wet chemical solution contains potassium, which cools and decreases the temperature of the fire, therefore stopping the fire from dispersing. When the fire extinguisher is activated, the chemical sprays out in a fine mist which then reacts with the fats and oils in the fire. The reaction creates a soapy layer on the surface which smothers, cools and extinguishes the fire. Wet chemical fire extinguishers, foam extinguishers and water extinguishers should never be used on fires that include electrical appliances and equipment.

Benefits Of Wet Chemical Fire ExtinguishersWet chemical fire extinguisher sign

  • A wet chemical fire extinguisher supplies fast reduction in case of a class F fire, leaving a foam-like barrier that continues to manage the ignition point after the mist is expelled from the extinguisher, decreasing the possibilities of the fire reigniting.
  • The pressure of this extinguisher type is low which helps to stop spreading the cooking fats and oils.
  • Clean up after use fasts and easy.

Downside Of Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers

  • The wet chemical solution is alkaline. Therefore it might corrode some metals.
  • The chemical could irritate the eyes and the skin when used.
  • You should never use a wet chemical fire extinguisher on electrical fires.

Fire blankets

Fire blankets are primarily in the kitchen for hot oil fires such as frying pans and deep fat fryers. They can also be used for welding or on clothing fires. They work by smothering the fire, stopping access to the oxygen fuelling it.