The right fire extinguisher, properly used, can keep a small household fire from turning into a conflagration. A fire in your home can involve any one or a combination of three things: combustible solids, flammable liquids, or live electricity. To protect your family, arm yourself with a fire extinguisher rated ABC to handle all of these types of fires.

        Class A fires consume combustible solids, such as paper, wood, fabric, and most plastics. Class A extinguishers expel water propelled by a gas or are easily pumped. Foam also puts out Class A fires.

        Class B fires are those that burn in flammable liquids, such as grease, oil, gasoline, and kerosene. Foam, dry chemical, and carbon dioxide all work against liquid fires; don't use water because it will spread flames.

        Class C fires are caused by live electricity. With the power off, these become Class A or Class B fires. Use a carbon dioxide or dry chemical extinguisher on electrical fires. Never use foam or water, because you could suffer a serious shock and/or spread the fire.



    Insist that any fire extinguisher you buy be rated by an independent testing agency such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Also, look closely at the label for a number that indicates the capacity of its contents. The larger the number, the greater the capacity, but also the more the extinguisher will weigh. 

    Think, too, about how many extinguishers you will need. At minimum, buy one each for the kitchen, basement, and garage. You might want to provide a fourth for a bedroom area. 

    As soon as you get the extinguisher home, read the directions to the whole family. Recheck the extinguishers monthly to make sure they're are fully charged. 

    Mount each fire extinguisher near a doorway, no more than 5 feet above the floor and as far as possible from any location in which a fire could likely break out, such as range, fireplace, or wood stove.