Having a fire extinguisher on hand can mean the difference between stopping a small fire or allowing the fire to spread.
An all-purpose fire extinguisher is rated for three types of fires:
A "Class A" fire is a wood or paper fire.
B "Class B" fire is flammable liquids such as cooking oil or gasoline.
C "Class C" fire is an electrical fire.
An ABC class extinguisher will be suitable for all 3 types of fires. Extinguishers come in many different sizes; a 2A10BC extinguisher is recommended for the home. Smaller extinguishers fit nicely in a car or boat, but do not have the fire fighting ability that a larger unit does. A larger extinguisher might be listed as a 3A40BC.
Using an Extinguisher
Be sure and read the directions that come with the extinguisher. Directions are also permanently affixed to the extinguisher. In general, there are two steps to using a fire extinguisher.
Pull the pin.
Aim the hose at the base of the fire and squeeze the handle. Use a side to side sweeping motion. You do not need to get very close to the fire; 8-12 feet is a good distance.
Disposing of an Extinguisher
If you have an old extinguisher that you wish to dispose of, you may throw it in the trash, provided it is fully discharged. You can discharge your extinguisher outside to relieve the pressure. Pick a day where the winds are calm and aim it towards the ground. This is a good time to see how an extinguisher works! The dry chemical is not toxic, but is considered an irritant, so take care not to breathe the powder. If you do not wish to discharge the extinguisher yourself, you can call a local fire extinguisher service company to see if they will dispose of it for you.