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Township of East Zorra-Tavistock

Your First Defense Against Small Fires

Diagram of fire extinguisher with labelsTypical red fire extinguisher


Portable fire extinguishers have limited applications against small fires. When used properly, an extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until firefighters arrive. Fire extinguishers do not replace the need to call the Fire Department. Always call 9-1-1 first when a fire occurs, no matter how small. Fire extinguishers are not designed for use on large or spreading fires. Even on small fires, they are effective only under the following conditions:

  • The extinguisher must be rated for the type of fire being extinguished.
  • The extinguisher must be large enough for the fire at hand.
  • The extinguisher must be in good working order, fully charged and within easy reach.
  • The operator must be trained in the proper use of the extinguisher.
  • The operator must be physically capable of lifting, handling and operating the extinguisher.

What Type Of Extinguisher Should I Buy ?

There are three basic classes of fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers must be labelled to show the class of fire they can extinguish.

  • Class A: Ordinary combustibles such as paper, wood, rubbish, drapes and upholstery.
  • Class B: Flammable liquids such as gasoline, oils, solvents, paints and flammable gases.
  • Class C: Electrical fires involving Class "A" or Class "B" materials and live electrical power - overheated wiring, fuse boxes, stoves, motors etc.

The extinguisher must be tested and listed by The Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada (ULC). Look for the ULC label on the extinguisher. Extinguishers in the kitchen should be at least rated for class B and C.


Be certain that you use the correct type of extinguisher for the fire you are fighting. If you use the wrong type of  extinguisher, you can endanger yourself and even make the fire worse.

Source of article (condensed): Toronto Fire Department.

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