How are the different types of fires extinguished by a portable fire extinguisher?

An 'ABC' fire extinguisher is a type of fire extinguisher that is designed to combat multiple classes of fires, namely Class A, Class B, and Class C fires.

The extinguishing agent used in ABC fire extinguishers is a dry chemical powder that is effective against these three types of fires. The primary purpose of an ABC fire extinguisher is to quickly and effectively extinguish fires in various settings, including residential, commercial, and industrial environments. It is a versatile fire extinguisher that can be used in different situations. Here's how it works for each fire class:

  1. Class A fires: The dry chemical powder in the ABC extinguisher works by smothering the fire, interrupting the chemical reaction that sustains it. It also helps to cool down the burning material, reducing the risk of re-ignition.

  2. Class B fires: The dry chemical powder forms a barrier between the fuel (flammable liquid) and the oxygen, effectively smothering the fire and preventing it from spreading.

  3. Class C fires: The dry chemical powder in the ABC extinguisher is non-conductive, meaning it does not conduct electricity. It can be safely used on electrical fires to suppress the flames without the risk of electric shock to the user. The powder disrupts the chemical reaction and removes the heat from the fire.

ABC fire extinguishers are typically easily identifiable with a label or marking indicating their suitability for Class A, B, and C fires. They are often found in public places, offices, homes, vehicles, and other locations where multiple fire hazards may be present. It is important to note that while ABC fire extinguishers are effective for the mentioned fire classes, they may not be suitable for all types of fires. It is crucial to understand the nature of the fire and select the appropriate extinguisher accordingly.

In Singapore, the previous guidelines for portable fire extinguisher use and maintenance (CP 55:1991) defined 'Class C' fires as those involving live electrical equipment. However, since 1 May 2013, CP 55:1991 has been replaced by the Singapore Standard, SS 578:2012. Under SS 578:2012, 'Class C' now refers to fires involving flammable gases instead of electrical hazards. There is no specific classification for fires involving live electrical equipment or electrical hazards in the new standard.

It is therefore important to note that fire extinguishers in Singapore should not be labeled as 'Class C' because neither the SCDF (Singapore Civil Defense Force) nor the accredited Certification Bodies have approved or certified fire extinguishers for 'Class C' fires involving flammable gases.

For electrical fires, only clean agent, dry powder, or carbon dioxide fire extinguishers should be used to extinguish the fire in its early stages. However, before attempting to put out the fire, it is essential to ensure that all affected electrical equipment is de-energized or isolated from the power supply.

Fire extinguishers containing these extinguishing agents can be used to extinguish fires involving electrical equipment since the remaining burning materials typically fall under 'Class A' or 'Class B' categories, such as TV, switchboards, and wiring.

In the event of a fire, members of the public should only attempt to fight the fire if they can do so without endangering themselves and others. If they are unable to extinguish the fire, it is advised to immediately evacuate the area, close the door to contain the fire, and call 995 for assistance.

Remember, fire safety is essential, and having the right fire extinguisher and knowing how to use it properly can help prevent the spread of fire and protect lives and property.

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