The 5 Classes of Fire Explained (A to E) - FFG (2022)

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Fires classify into different types or ‘classes of fire,’ so we know how best to control them.

The most common time you’ll come across the different types of fire is when you look at fire extinguishers.

The 5 Classes of Fire (USA)

Class A: Ordinary Combustibles

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Class B: Flammable Liquids and Gases

Class C: Electrical Equipment

Class D: Combustible Metals

Conclusion

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Not all fire extinguishers are the same. In addition, different fire extinguishers fight different types of fires.

You wouldn’t want to put out an oil fire with a water-based extinguisher, for example, because oil floats on water. Similarly, a water extinguisher wouldn’t be great for an electrical fire because water is a conduit for electricity.

Safety Note: Follow the guidance of your local fire authority about the safety equipment best for you. If there is an active fire, evacuate yourself from the vicinity of the fire and call your fire emergency hotline immediately.

Related Article: The 5 Best Fire Extinguishers for the Home, Kitchen, and Garage

The 5 Classes of Fire (USA)

Note that the following five fire classifications follow the USA standard system for classifying fires. However, European and Australian categories slightly differ (jump to the international comparison chart).

The five classes of fire are:

  • Class A: Ordinary Combustible
  • Class B: Flammable Liquids and Gases
  • Class C: Electrical Equipment
  • Class D: Combustible Metals
  • Class K: Cooking Oils and Fats

Class A: Ordinary Combustibles

Ordinary combustibles are the sorts of materials that you will often find around the house. They are typical fuels for house fires.

Examples of ordinary combustibles include:

  • Wood: logs for fireplaces, furniture, and wood building structures.
  • Paper: such as the paper you might find in the trash, as well as books on your bookshelf.
  • Plastic: such as Tupperware containers, toys, and bags.
  • Cloth: such as clothing and curtains.
  • Rubber: such as the rubber found in shoes.

If you need to extinguish an ordinary combustible fire, it is possible to use most fire suppression techniques, including:

  • Water: Such as water from a garden hose or tap.
  • Dry Chemicals: ABC fire extinguishers usually contain dry chemicals.
  • Other Methods: Fire blankets can deprive a small fire of oxygen.

Because ordinary combustibles are so common in house fires, authorities usually recommend that you get a fire extinguisher that includes at least an AB rating (Most common fire extinguishers are class ABC).

The 5 Classes of Fire Explained (A to E) - FFG (2)

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Class B: Flammable Liquids and Gases

In the United States, all flammable liquids and gases are Class B. In Europe and Australia, flammable liquids are Class B, and flammable gasses are Class C. Flammable liquids and gases are commonly found in garages and workshops. You might also find other Class B flammables around your houses, such as in your paint kit, alcohol cabinet, and your household heating if you use natural gas.

Flammable liquids include:

  • Gasoline: The gas (petrol) you put in your car fits this category. Diesel is also part of this category.
  • Most oils: The oil you put in your car, as well as oils you put on your chainsaw car-bike chains, are included.
  • Most paints: Oil-based paints are considered flammable liquids.
  • Alcohol: The spirits on your cocktail shelf are also considered flammable liquids.

Flammable gases include:

  • Hydrogen: Commonly used in party balloons (to help them float above air) and as a fuel for some bus transport systems.
  • Butane: There’s a good chance you’ll find this in your cigarette lighter. It may also be in your refrigerator as part of the cooling process.
  • Methane: If you use natural gas to heat your home, it’s full of methane. It’s also often used in cooking and hot water systems.
  • Ethylene: Often used in the agriculture industry.

The best materials for extinguishing a Class B fire are:

  • Halon: Used to be commonly used in fire extinguishers until the 1990s when scientists found it bad for the Ozone layer.
  • Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher: Your regular ABC household fire extinguisher is a dry chemical extinguisher capable of fighting Class B fires.
  • Foam: Can be effective for extinguishing liquid gas fires.

Water is not usually recommended for Class B fires as water can scatter the liquid fuel. Further, some liquids float on water, meaning the water is not the best substance for separating the energy from an oxygen source.

Standard household ABC fire extinguishers can suppress flammable liquids and gases (check your extinguisher – most fire districts mandate an ABC extinguisher for your home).

The 5 Classes of Fire Explained (A to E) - FFG (3)

Class C: Electrical Equipment

In the United States, electrical equipment is considered Class C flammable material. Electrical appliances are considered Class K materials in Europe and Class E materials in Australia (see comparison chart below).

Electrical fires are one of the most common household fires types. In the United States alone, firefighters attend up to 44,880 electrical-related household fires per year.

Electrical equipment that commonly causes fire includes:

  • Clothes Dryers: Clothes dryers can cause fires when they are not properly maintained. Lint build-up acts like kindling for sparks, and poorly installed or maintained lint traps can cause problems.
  • Wiring and Cords:Poorly installed wiring can cause sparks. Overloaded power banks can lead to short circuits and power surges.
  • Space Heaters:It is common for people to leave space heaters near loose cloth like bedding, curtains, and clothing left to dry.

The best materials for extinguishing electrical fires include:

  • Dry Chemical Extinguisher:The ideal way to fight a small electrical fire is to use a dry chemical fire extinguisher such as an ABC-rated household extinguisher.

IIt’simportant to note that fire and water are not very good at extinguishing electrical fires because it is an electrical conduit. However, it is also notable that electricity itself does not burn – it is the spark and heat required to burn surrounding fuels. Therefore, the fire may resemble another fire class depending on the remaining materials once you remove the electrical source.

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Class D: Combustible Metals

Class D fires involve combustible metals as the fuel for the fire. The US, Europe, and Australia consider combustible metals to be ”lass D.”

Combustible metals usually have a very high flash point, so high amounts of heat need to be exposed to the metal before it begins to burn. However, sodium is a metal that can burn upon contact with air or water. Metal shavings are a hazard because the high accessibility of oxygen to the metal surfaces can make combustion more likely.

Combustible metals include:

  • Sodium is a highly reactive metal that can cause combustion when exposed to air or water.
  • Lithium: Such as in laptop and intelligent phone batteries.

The best materials for extinguishing combustible metal fires include:

  • Dry powder: Dry powder is not confused with dry chemical extinguishers. Dry powder extinguishers can extinguish Class D fires.

Combustible metals are less common in households and more common in industrial fires. Therefore, it is usual that fire control districts will not mandate Class D extinguishers to be present at your home (check for your local circumstances).

A regular household ABC fire extinguisher is not usually the best for fighting Class D fires. It may, in some instances, exacerbate the fire’s intensity. For example, a scorching combustible metal fire may break water down into hydrogen gas and oxygen, both of which act as reactants for spurring the fire.

Class D dry powder extinguishers absorb heat and separate the metal from oxygen sources.

The 5 Classes of Fire Explained (A to E) - FFG (4)

Class K: Cooking Fires involving Oils and Fats

Class K fires are fires that involve cooking oils and fats. In Europe and Australia, these are class F fires.

Common materials in class K fires include:

  • Vegetable Oil:Oils such as vegetable oil, canola oil, butter, etc., that are for cooking are in this category.
  • Cooking Grease:Grease can accumulate behind and undercooking appliances. Safety inspections of the industrial kitchen will usually check to ensure there is no build-up of grease present as it poses a severe fire risk.

Typical substances used to suppress fires include:

  • Water Mist: Water is not the best for Class K fires, but misty water can be a good suppressant.
  • Foam: Most Class K fire extinguishers operate using a particular substance that turns oils into foams.
  • Fire Suppression Blanket: Fire blankets are often used in kitchens if the fire is small enough to be covered entirely by the mantle. The blanket will suffocate the fire by denying its access to oxygen.

Many industrial kitchens, restaurants, etc., are mandated to have a Class K fire extinguisher proximal to the kitchen. Check your local requirements.

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International Classes (Europe & Australia)

MaterialsExamplesUSAEuropeAustralia
Ordinary Combustibles.Wood, trash, paper, plastic.Class AClass AClass A
Flammable and Combustible Liquids.Gasoline, most oils, oily paints, ethanol.Class BClass BClass B
Flammable and Combustible Gases.Hydrogen, butane, methane, ethylene.Class BClass CClass C
Electrical Fires.Extension cords, space heaters, toasters, hair dryers.Class CClass KClass E
Flammable Metals.Lithium, potassium, magnesium, titanium, zirconium.Class DClass DClass D
Cooking Oils and Fats.Vegetable oil, unsaturated fats, lard, butter.Class KClass FClass F

Conclusion

There are five standard classes of fire. Fires are split into these classifications to identify the best ways to suppress them. In addition, there are various forms of fire extinguishers used to stop multiple types of fires. Make sure you use a fire extinguisher that is the type mandated by your local fire district for your specific establishment and keep it in an approved fire extinguisher cabinet.

FAQs

What are the 5 fire extinguisher classes? ›

What are the 5 Types of Fire Extinguishers?
  • Class A Fire Extinguishers. Class A fire extinguishers are safe for use on ordinary combustible fires, like those fueled by paper or wood. ...
  • Class B Fire Extinguishers. ...
  • Class C Fire Extinguishers. ...
  • Class D Fire Extinguishers. ...
  • Class K Fire Extinguishers.
Feb 17, 2021

Which are Class A B and C fires? ›

Class A – fires involving solid materials such as wood, paper or textiles. Class B – fires involving flammable liquids such as petrol, diesel or oils. Class C – fires involving gases. Class D – fires involving metals.

What is class E type of fire? ›

Class E Fires are fires involving electrical equipment. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO EXTINGUISH WITH ANY WATER BASED SUBSTANCE.

What is class F fire? ›

Class F fires are fires which involve cooking oil or fat. Though technically a sub-class of fires caused by flammable liquids or gases, they differ from conventional fires due to the extremely high temperatures involved.

Why is there no Class E fire? ›

Electrical Fires

This is not strictly a class (class E) of fire, because electricity is more or a source of ignition than a fuel. However, fires in live electrical equipment are an additional hazard. You don't want to be using water, or any other conductor as that could be fatal.

What are the 5 types of fire extinguishers and their uses? ›

There are five main types of fire extinguishers:
  • Water, water mist or water spray.
  • Foam.
  • Carbon Dioxide.
  • Wet Chemical.
  • Dry Powder- standard or specialist.
Mar 13, 2020

What type of fire is Class A? ›

There are four classes of fires: Class A: Ordinary solid combustibles such as paper, wood, cloth and some plastics. Class B: Flammable liquids such as alcohol, ether, oil, gasoline and grease, which are best extinguished by smothering.

What class is K fire? ›

Class K fires involve vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances. Extinguishers with a K rating are designed to extinguish fires involving vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats utilized in commercial cooking appliances.

What is K class fire extinguisher? ›

Class K fire extinguishers offer improved fire control for cooking fires by: Minimizing the splash hazard. Forming a soapy foam on the surface of the hot cooking oil, holding in the vapors and steam, and smothering the fire. (A process known as saponification.)

What are Class C fires? ›

A class C fire is one in which an energized electrical element is the cause of the fire. “Energized” means that the electrical component (whether electrical appliance, wiring, device, etc.) is connected to a power source.

What is a Class D extinguisher? ›

A Class D fire extinguisher is used on combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, sodium, etc., which require an extinguishing medium that does not react with the burning metal. Extinguishers that are suitable for Class D fires should be identified by a five-point star containing the letter "D."

How many fire classes are there? ›

Classification of Fires

Fires are classified in six groups A, B, C, D, F and electrical: Class A fires – are fires involving organic solids like paper, wood, etc.

What is the difference between a class C and a class E fire? ›

Class C fires involve electricity and electrically energized equipment. Note that these fires are designated as Class E in some classification systems. Types of fire extinguishers used to extinguish a class C fire: Carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguisher.

What type of fire extinguisher is used for Class E? ›

Use: Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are ideal for environments at risk of electrical appliances (Class E) and also fires involving flammable liquids (Class B).

What causes Class B fire? ›

Class B fires are fires which involve flammable or combustible liquids. The presence of these liquids, which are also known as hydrocarbon fuels, represent the fuel aspect of the fire triangle (heat, fuel and oxygen) and provide the materials necessary to begin, develop and maintain a fire.

What are the uses of fire? ›

Fire has been used by humans in rituals, in agriculture for clearing land, for cooking, generating heat and light, for signaling, propulsion purposes, smelting, forging, incineration of waste, cremation, and as a weapon or mode of destruction.

What does the A in pass stand for? ›

It's easy to remember how to use a fire extinguisher if you can remember the acronym PASS, which stands for Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. Pull the pin. This will allow you to discharge the extinguisher. Aim at the base of the fire.

What is ABC in fire extinguisher? ›

"ABC" indicating that they are designed to extinguish class A, B, and C fires. "BC" indicating that they are designed to extinguish class B and C fires.

How do you remember fire extinguisher classes? ›

It's easy to remember how to use a fire extinguisher if you can remember the acronym PASS, which stands for Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. Pull the pin.

What is Class A fire hazard? ›

Class A—fires involving ordinary combustibles, such as paper, trash, some plastics, wood and cloth. A rule of thumb is if it leaves an ash behind, it is a Class A fire. Class B—fires involving flammable gases or liquids, such as propane, oil. and gasoline. Class C—fires involving energized electrical components.

What are stages of fire? ›

of fire, how fire develops and significant events which can occur during a fire. Traditional Fire growth in a room can be divided into three distinct stages: the growth stage (incipient), the fully developed stage (free-burning), and the decay stage (smoldering).

Why is it important to know the different classes of fire? ›

There are different types of fire extinguishers because there are various types of fires. Each extinguisher is suitable for fighting certain types, and it's important for you to know the differences if it's your job to fight fires at work.

What is the K fire? ›

The NFPA describes class K fires as those fires that involve combustible cooking materials such as vegetable oils that are used in cooking operations. These types of fires tend to spread rapidly and can result in injuries and massive building damage.

WHAT IS A in race? ›

The RACE acronym simply stands for: Remove, Alarm/Alert, Confine, Extinguish/Evacuate. It is a great tool to use in the case of a fire emergency, as it's easy to remember, even when panic has taken hold.

What is in AK fire extinguisher? ›

A Class K fire extinguisher uses a fine wet mist consisting of an alkaline mixture, such as potassium acetate, potassium carbonate, or potassium citrate that forms a soapy foam as it is applied to the cooking oil or other substance, quenching the steam, vapors, and the fire's risk of re-ignition.

What is a 20 B fire extinguisher? ›

The Class B size rating indicates the square footage the extinguisher can cover. 20B means that as long as you sweep the nozzle side to side, there is enough extinguishing agent inside the canister to provide 20 square feet of coverage.

How do you use AK class fire extinguisher? ›

"K" Class - How to use a fire extinguisher training - YouTube

What is a class Delta fire? ›

CLASS A - Ordinary combustibles such as wood, cloth, and paper. CLASS B - Flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, and oil-based paint. CLASS C - Energized electrical equipment, including wiring, fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery and appliances. CLASS D - Combustible metals such as magnesium or sodium.

What is in Class C fire extinguisher? ›

Fire extinguishers with a Class C rating are suitable for fires in “live” electrical equipment. Both monoammonium phosphate and sodium bicarbonate are commonly used to fight this type of fire because of their nonconductive properties.

What is CO2 extinguisher? ›

Carbon Dioxide extinguishers are filled with non-flammable carbon dioxide gas under extreme pressure. You can recognize a CO2 extinguisher by its hard horn and lack of pressure gauge. The pressure in the cylinder is so great that when you use one of these extinguishers, bits of dry ice may shoot out the horn.

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