Extinguishing home fires: When to leave it to the professionals


It’s tempting to stay and fight a fire in your home. It’s a small fire, you think. And you can probably put it out yourself with that fire extinguisher in your closet before the fire department arrives.

Acting Fire Commissioner Spence Sample respects and understands the temptation. “A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives,” he says. “The number one priority for residents is to get out safely.”

Sample recommends learning how to use your fire extinguisher properly, and more importantly, learning when it’s time to leave it to the professionals.

Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and the fire is not growing and you are close to an exit which can allow quick escape if the fire gets out of control. Only do this after everyone has exited the building, the fire department has been called or is being called and the room is not filled with smoke.

To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher that can be used on all types of home fires and is large enough to put out a small fire, but is not so heavy that it is difficult to handle. Look for the label of an independent testing laboratory.

Read the instructions that come with your fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out.

Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.

Finally, know when to go. Fire extinguishers are just one part of a fire response plan, but the most important part is safe escape. Make sure your family has a well-practiced home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.

For more information on fire safety in Alberta, contact your municipality’s fire or emergency service or the Office of the Fire Commissioner at 1-800-421-6929, email firecomm@gov.ab.ca or visit http://www.ofc.alberta.ca and click on the Public Education tab.