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Published: May 17, 2024 7 min read

Learning how to put out a fire is not only a useful skill, but also a life-saving one. By knowing the basics, individuals can protect themselves and loved ones from the devastating effects of fires.

The best thing to do when there’s a fire in your home is to evacuate and call emergency services. However, when you know how to put out a fire it can help you react swiftly and effectively in critical moments.

Read on to learn the different classes of fire, how to put out fires without a fire extinguisher and some tips on how to use extinguishers. If you’re concerned about other safety issues in your home, check out our list of the best home security systems.

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Classes of Fire

Not all fires are created equal.

Different flammable materials create different classes of fire. When you know what each class involves it helps determine how to extinguish each class or know which fire extinguisher to use.

The four main classes of fire are:

  • Class A fire - These involve ordinary materials such as paper, wood, fabrics, rubber and many plastics.
  • Class B fire - These involve flammable liquids and gasses such as gasoline, oil, alcohol, greases, tars, solvents and lakers.
  • Class C fire - These involve energized electrical equipment, such as appliances, wires and circuit breakers. They are uniquely hazardous because they present the risk of electric shock.
  • Class D fire - These generally occur in industrial settings. They involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, and sodium.

There are also Class K fires which involve cooking oils, trans-fats, fats and other combustible cooking materials. These kinds of fires generally occur in cafeterias or kitchens.

How to put out a kitchen fire

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the leading cause of home fires is cooking fires.

The fastest way of putting out a cooking fire is to first turn off the heat source, if it’s safe to do so. Next, cover the pan with a metal lid, a cookie sheet or a large, fireproof dish. Doing this smothers the fire. Avoid swatting at the fire with a towel, as this will literally fan the flames. Instead, you can drape a damp towel over the fire to contain it and deprive it of oxygen.

In case of an oven or microwave fire, turn off the heat (or unplug it in the case of a microwave) and keep the door closed to cut off its oxygen supply.

For grease fires in particular, don’t use household items such as water, baking powder or flour, as these could lead to a bigger fire.

How to put out a fire pit or campfire

To extinguish these types of fires, douse the fire with water to put out the flames. Then, stir the embers and ashes with soil and pour more water over them again to make sure they’re thoroughly wet and the fire is out.

To avoid a fire getting out of control, whether in your backyard pit or out camping, make sure you build it within a pit or fire ring. If there isn’t a pit or fire ring, make one using rocks. Don’t forget to remove any flammable materials such as extra dry leaves or sticks before lighting the fire and avoid using excessive fuel.

How to put out an electrical fire

In the case of an electrical appliance fire, disconnect it from the power source first. If the fire is too large or spreading rapidly, evacuate immediately and call emergency services. Don’t, under any circumstance, use water as it is a natural conductor of electricity. Using water on an electrical fire can help the fire spread or could get you electrocuted.

You can use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to suffocate small fires. However, it’s best to contact emergency services as they’re trained to handle these and other fires.

A good fire safety tip when it comes to electrical fires is to never overload outlets or use extension cords to connect heavy appliances such as heating units or air conditioners.

What to do in case of a gas fire

We don’t recommend you try to put out a propane gas fire yourself. When it comes to gas fires, it’s best to evacuate everyone from the building and contact the fire department once you’re at a safe distance.

How to use a fire extinguisher

Before using any type of fire extinguisher, identify the safest evacuation route. According to the NFPA, “you need to fight the fire from an angle that ensures you have a clear path to safety while also making sure exits for anyone else in the home aren’t compromised.”

If the fire is blocking this path or you don’t feel comfortable using an extinguisher, evacuate and call the fire department.

Generally, you can use most fire extinguishers using what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls the P.A.S.S. technique:

  • Pull the pin and break the tamper seal.
  • Aim the nozzle (or hose) at the base of the fire
  • Squeeze the lever or handle to release the substance
  • Sweep the nozzle (or hose) from side to side until you put out the fire.
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How to Put Out a Fire FAQs

How to put out a fire without water

Ultimately, it will depend on the type of fire. If you’re dealing with a grease fire, avoid using water and instead smother the flames by covering them up with a lid or cookie sheet. For electrical fires, first cut off the fire source, then use a non-conductive substance such as baking soda or a Class C fire extinguisher. In the case of gas fires, shut off the gas source and use a Class B extinguisher or smother the flames with a fire blanket if you have one.

How to put out a lithium battery fire

The best way to put out a lithium battery fire is to use an extinguishing agent. The most effective fire extinguisher for this class of fire is a Class D fire extinguisher. If you don’t have a class D extinguisher you can use water to douse the fire. (While you shouldn’t use water for lithium fires, you can use water to put out this type of fire because lithium batteries contain small amounts of lithium metals.)

How to put out a chemical fire

Chemical fires are Class B fires and you can put them out by suffocating them as oxygen fuels these fires. To extinguish chemical fires you should use a Class B fire extinguisher. However, if one isn’t available it's best to evacuate and call emergency services as these professionals will have agents such as foam, carbon dioxide gas or dry powder to put them out.

Summary of Money’s guide on How to Put Out a Fire

Learning how to extinguish fires is a useful skill that could help you protect yourself and those you care about. The National Fire Protection Association advises that when you encounter a fire you should “get out as quickly and safely as possible, and once outside, call the fire department immediately for assistance.”

However, knowing how to put out a fire can help you act quickly in these situations. For example, if you’re cooking and accidentally start a grease fire, you can quickly put it out by covering it with a metal lid, baking pan or a large, fireproof dish. For house fires or any fire for that matter, if there’s an extinguisher available exercise OSHA’s P.A.S.S. technique: pull the pin, aim at the base, squeeze the lever and sweep the nozzle.