Unitasker Wednesday: The fire extinguisher

Most of our Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes. This one is not.

First Alert FE3A40GR Fire ExtinguisherAlthough they are often used as impromptu weapons in movie fight scenes, a fire extinguisher has but one proper and intended use. In spite of this unfortunate limitation, you probably need more than one of them in your home. Consumer Reports recommends that you have one full-floor, multipurpose fire extinguisher on each level of your home and one in your garage. They also recommend that you have smaller supplemental units in your kitchen and car. Their recommended pick for for a full-floor unit is currently the First Alert FE3A40GR. If you need a supplemental unit, consider the Kidde FA110, which also fared well in their tests.

If you already have fire extinguishers placed at appropriate locations in your home, be sure to check the pressure indicator periodically. You should also know how to determine if your fire extinguisher needs to be replaced.

We’ve written about this in the past and we’ll probably write about it again in the future. Fire safety is worth repeating.

30 Comments for “Unitasker Wednesday: The fire extinguisher”

  1. posted by Alix on

    If an extinguisher is no longer usable, how does one dispose of it?

  2. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Alix — Check out their website or call the non-emergency number for your local fire department and see if they have a recycling program. Some do. If they don’t, they might have a recommendation for where to take them. Again, if you’re going to call, please call the non-emergency number.

  3. posted by Miss Margaret Picky on

    This is a great post. So many people do NOT have fire extinguishers. I have one of the little Kiddee brand ones I got for $20 fifteen years ago and it is still showing adequate pressurization.

    One tip I will give is to have it in a handy place where you can get to it if there is a fire in your kitchen. Don’t keep it in the cabinet over the stove!

    For disposal, you should first check locally to see what options are available but if there are no good choices then you can always discharge the fire extinguisher in a safe place, remove the head, and recycle or dispose of the steel body. Isn’t there metal recycling available almost anywhere even if it is just a junkyard?

    Just be really careful about disposing of fire extinguishers (or any other pressurized container) still pressurized.


  4. posted by Matt on

    Not a unitasker – can also be used to prop open doors. JOKING.

  5. posted by Amanda on

    It’s important to learn how to use your fire extinguishers too. I thought I was so responsible for purchasing one for my apartment until there was a fire on my neighbor’s side of the shared deck and I couldn’t get it to work. I ended up using the bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer. The firefighters showed me that I hadn’t pushed hard enough on one lever. I know now but it could have been really scary.

  6. posted by robert on

    But which type of fire extinguisher should you have? A water extinguisher is not a good idea for an electrical fire or, say, one in your garage where spilt fuel has caught fire.

  7. posted by Shalin on

    GREAT POST! More folks should own a fire extinguisher, know how to use them, and know if they are *willing* to use them.

    I have many tips from a previous experience as a vol. FF, but here’s just a few things to know:

    1) Have one in the kitchen and one elsewhere near and exit (e.g. garage). If there’s a fire in the kitchen which makes it hard to get to the one in the kitchen, you can get the other one, and vice versa.

    2) CALL 911! Especially if the fire is just more than you care to deal with! For small fires that you can put out by covering/smothering it (toaster-oven fires, etc.) – to call or not could be your choice. Although fire nearly doubles in size ~every 10 seconds – so act swiftly with the extinguisher or phone.

    3) Water can worsen a chemical or engine (car, motorcycle, etc.) fire. It may be best to use type D extinguishers on chemical or engine (car, motorcycle) fires. These are not common in home goods stores, but very useful when the situation comes up.

    4) Don’t throw water on an *electrical* appliance if it’s still plugged in! A C-type extinguisher is needed (which is “built in” to an A-B-C type extinguisher).

    More info:

    Very best,

  8. posted by Rae on

    Great post, thank you.

    I was driving my home (an RV) down a bad hill last fall and did everything right, but my brakes still failed. I barreled into a runaway lane with all six tires smoking and soon as I stopped, one burst into flames. Until then, my fire extinguisher was this ugly thing hanging on the wall in my entrance. It became the only thing standing between me and losing everything I’ve worked for.

    The extinguisher wasn’t big enough to put out the fire, but it bought a helper enough time to drain water from my tanks, which did put out the fire. No harm done (except to my nerves, of course). I went to Canadian Tire the next day and bought a bigger extinguisher!

  9. posted by Stephanie on

    I licensed foster homes for a time, and in WA, they require foster parents to have 5 lb 2A:10BC extinguishers. The 5lb is enough to put out a fire on a human being. The 2A:10BC rating puts out a wide range of fires, including chemical.

    Also good for fire safety: ladders for the exterior of your house, kept on the second floor (often under a bed in each room), so you can escape safely if the stairs are blocked. Know how to use them, and teach your kids!

  10. posted by chacha1 on

    My one fire extinguisher lives under the kitchen sink, right across from the stove. I have never had a kitchen fire, or any other kind of home fire, and I’ve always assumed that if there IS a fire in our building it will be caused by one of our neighbors who smokes. So, the extinguisher is my nod to virtue, my real insurance is from USAA.

  11. posted by fire marshall joe on

    you also need to remember where you put them!!!!!

  12. posted by Laura on

    From experience, I’d recommend against putting them on the floor. Our then-newly mobile infant managed to knock over and discharge one we had tucked into a nook in the kitchen. She was fine but it was a big mess, and of course we had to go buy a new one. We are in a different house now, but it lives on the kitchen counter.

  13. posted by Rue on

    Some unitaskers are actually worthwhile! Especially this one.

  14. posted by tabatha on

    there was a bush fire at my previous job next to several cars. no one was hurt and only one of the cars had some paint and tires melt. but when we saw it one of the women from upstairs grabbed the extinguisher, pulled the little clip and shoved it into my hands so I ran out and tried to put it out. but it was huge and a tree caught fire. someone had already called so the fire department was there real quick. but later I was told I wasn’t supposed to use it unless I was trained. my boss had taken it from me but there was to much wind so he just tried to get everyone away from it b/c he was afraid a car would explode. everyone should know how to use a fire extinguisher.

  15. posted by Valerie on

    A lot of fires start in the kitchen, but it is good to remember that not all of them do. The one fire we almost had in our house was a curtain that blew onto a lamp, the heat from the bulb was enough to make the curtain begin to smoke. Thankfully we were home and caught it right when it happened, and promptly moved the lamp, but it was a very possible fire threat that was not in the kitchen at all.

  16. posted by alton brown fan on

    Alton Brown approves

  17. posted by Harald on

    Amusingly, a fire extinguisher was the only unitasker in Alton Brown’s kitchen until the 10th anniversary special, when they used the extinguisher to make a nice fruit smoothie. ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. posted by klutzgrrl on

    Excellent idea.

    can I suggest a fire blanket? We had one in our last kitchen, in a special holder mounted on the wall.

    Someone I know was badly burned when attempting to take a burning pan of oil outside. (It sounds crazy I know, but I guess a sleep-deprived mom doesn’t necessarily think straight).

    And while following up on the extinguisher suggestion, it might be a good idea to test smoke detectors and replace batteries.

  19. posted by HelpLady on

    Glad to see a unitasker featured, that makes sense for everyone… I just wanted to add some tips from my local fire department:

    (a) make sure when you get a fire extinguisher, to make sure it’s not one of the ‘extra compact’ ones you often see at retail stores, as they don’t have the capacity to actually put out a fire when you need it;

    (b) make sure you check your extinguisher monthly to ensure it’s maintaining its pressure; and finally

    (c) do NOT keep your extinguisher in a cabinet in the kitchen. Instead: Keep it right by an exit… and if a fire occurs, when you grab that extinguisher, if the fire’s gotten too big for you to fight safely: GET OUT OF THERE and call 911.

    Bonus tip from the FD: When it comes time to pull the pin, some people are surprised how much force it takes to pull and break the plastic ‘tie’ – instead before pulling, turn it like a key to break the tie cleanly, then pull.

  20. posted by Debbie M on

    I also keep my fire extinguishers near my exits (including bedroom windows). That way, picking up a fire extinguisher puts you between the fire and the exit.

  21. posted by Bryan on

    Great Post PJ!

    I always have a fire extinguisher in the house and I would recommend getting a dry chemical fire extinguisher as fires are commonly started by electrical equipment malfunction or a liquid.

    Water fire extinguishers are only good for candle fires or match fires and if used on electrical or liquids they will make a fire worse. Dry extinguishers are good all around

  22. posted by Steve on

    Thanks for this, I have an extinguisher in my kitchen but hadn’t really considered having them elsewhere in the house.

    I also have several other unitaskers – smoke detectors. One in the hall, one on the landing. If there is a fire and you don’t have a smoke alarm the smoke can overwhelm you before you’re even awake. Make sure you test it every month and replace the battery every year.

    Another tip I was given relating to car fires: If your car catches light under the hood/bonnet, IF you have time and only IF it is safe for you to do so, pull the catch to pop your hood/bonnet as you exit. This enables the fire service to tackle the fire more easily.

  23. posted by Jeannine on

    My over the road truck driving son tells me he has more than one in his tractor cab and would use it on anyone who tried to break in when he is parked. Sometimes he is in the outermost darker areas of a truckstop or alone on a deserted off ramp or highway rest area. No guns allowed in a truck, so he could buy time to call for help. After I learned that, I put a smaller one in my car behind the seat. Hmmm, maybe I need put it a little handier?

  24. posted by Lou on

    For a housewarming present a friend gave me a “fire blanket.” It’s a flexible asbestos sheet to just throw over flames. Pressure not an issue; no expiration date. We mounted it on the door of the cabinet under the breakfast bar, about 4 feet from the stove & below.

  25. posted by Marie on

    We keep several wall-mounted throughout the house. Don’t forget near the dryer; lint is really flammable.

  26. posted by Tesla on

    Lesson learned! We had a kitchen fire that started on the stove top – we didn’t have an extinguisher anywhere in the apartment, so I dumped flour on top. That smothered the fire, but we were quite lucky.

    Because we had to air out the apartment, hubby and I went and purchased a fire extinguisher that very hour!

    Using one is also important – be sure to go to your fire hall and get training!

  27. posted by Kirsten on

    I’m on the safety team at work, and the company brought in a firefighter to give us all training on fire safety and how to use a fire extinguisher. The key to putting out a fire is to aim at the base of the flames, and slowly pan back and forth. In the kitchen, in the absence of a fire extinguisher, keep a proper fitting lid, some salt and some baking soda nearby. All of those items will help put out or slow down a fire.

    Another huge key to preventing damage should a fire break out – close all the doors behind you. Building materials and codes these days require a certain amount of safety, and often times a fire in one room will stay there if it’s isolated.

    It might be worth checking with the local fire department or community center to see if they have any fire safety training for the home.

  28. posted by Rachel on

    Thanks for this post. I’ve been meaning to get a fire extinguisher, and now that the research has been done for me I just need to get my credit card. ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. posted by Weekly Round-Up: On Fire Extinguishers & Smoke Detectors โ€” Almost Frugal on

    […] Unitasker Wednesday: The fire extinguisher | Unclutterer […]

  30. posted by angela on

    I hope this is the only unitasker I have in my house – if not currently, some day!

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