It is always better to fight a fire through prevention and early detection. However, with training and practice, adults can use portable fire extinguishers to extinguish small contained fires such as a cooking pan, wastebasket fire or camp fire. This may minimize property damage and prevent needless injury.

How to use a fire extinguisher

Remember to PASS when operating an extinguisher.


  • Keep a safe distance from the fire when using the extinguisher
  • Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you
  • Remove the pin or lever release mechanism to unlock the operating lever
  • Hold the extinguisher vertically and aim the nozzle at the base of the fire
  • Squeeze the handle to fully release the contents of the extinguisher
  • Move the nozzle from side-to-side in a sweeping motion at the base of the fire
  • Fight the fire closest to you and continue the sweeping motion until the fire is extinguished
When to use an extinguisher

If you discover a fire, you can use a portable fire extinguisher if:

  • Everyone has left the fire area and is evacuating the building
  • The fire department has been called
  • The fire is contained to a small area
  • A clear escape route exists between you and the fire
  • There is an appropriate working fire extinguisher available
  • You have read the extinguisher instructions and received training in its safe operation
When not to use an extinguisher
  • If you don't know how to use it
  • If you are breathing in smoke or gases
  • If the fire is larger than you are

NOTE: A portable fire extinguisher is designed for a "small" contained fire

Types of fire extinguishers
  • CLASS A - Materials normally found around the home (i.e., wood, paper, cloth and rubber)
  • CLASS B - Flammable or combustible liquids (i.e., grease, oil-based, lacquers and some rubbers)
  • CLASS C - Energized electrical equipment and household appliances (i.e., televisions, radios and stoves)
  • CLASS D - Combustible metals (i.e., magnesium, sodium or potassium)
Maintain your extinguisher
  • Check the pressure gauge each month to ensure the device is holding its charge
  • Refill or replace your extinguisher after each use
    • Rechargeable extinguishers should be serviced by a professional after every use
    • Disposable extinguishers must be replaced after use
Where to put your extinguisher
  • Extinguishers should be located in areas that contain potential fire hazards including the kitchen, workshop, garage and basement 
  • In each area, place the extinguisher near the door so you can reach it easily, extinguish the fire and safely escape