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Fire Extinguishers: Types, Maintenance, and Testing Guide for Fire Safety [Infographic]

Updated: 7 days ago

Fire safety is essential for all buildings and workplaces, and fire extinguishers are crucial in reducing the likelihood of fire incidents.

In this article, we will delve into the importance of fire extinguisher maintenance and testing to ensure optimal fire safety.

Fire Extinguishers: Types, Maintenance, and Testing Guide for Fire Safety

Understanding Different Fire Classes

There are six fire types of fires (i.e. Class A, B, C, D, E, or F fires) defined by their fuel sources and characteristics. In New Zealand, understanding these classes is crucial for effective fire safety.

  • Class A – Combustible Solids (e.g. Wood, Paper & Plastic)

  • Class B – Flammable & Combustible Liquids

  • Class C – Flammable Gases

  • Class D – Combustible Metals

  • Class E – Electrically Energised Equipment

  • Class F – Cooking Oil & Fats

Different Fire Extinguisher Types

Fire extinguishers are portable devices designed to suppress small fires by expelling extinguishing agents. Different types of fire extinguishers are available, each suitable for combating specific types of fires. Here are the most common types: 

  1. Water Extinguishers (Class A): These extinguishers are suitable for fires involving ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, and cloth. They work by cooling the fire and extinguishing it through water dispersion.

  2. Foam Extinguishers (Class A and B): Foam extinguishers are effective against Class A fires (ordinary combustibles) and Class B fires (flammable liquids). They create a blanket of foam that suppresses the fire and prevents reignition.

  3. Dry Powder Extinguishers (Class A, B, and C): Dry powder extinguishers are versatile and can be used on Class A, B, and C fires. They contain a dry powder that smothers the fire by interrupting the chemical reaction.

  4. CO2 Extinguishers (Class B and C): CO2 extinguishers are suitable for Class B and Class C fires involving flammable liquids and electrical equipment. They work by displacing oxygen, effectively smothering the fire.

  5. Wet Chemical Extinguishers (Class F): Wet chemical extinguishers are designed for use in commercial kitchens and are effective against Class F fires involving cooking oils and fats. They work by cooling the fire and creating a barrier to prevent re-ignition.

  6. Class D Extinguisher (Class D): This extinguisher is specifically designed for fires involving combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, and sodium. It works by forming a crust over the metal surface, cutting off the oxygen supply.

Each type of fire extinguisher is labelled with the classes of fires it is suitable for, making it essential to choose the right extinguisher for the specific fire hazard present. Training in fire safety and proper extinguisher usage is crucial for personnel tasked with fire prevention and suppression in commercial, industrial, and residential settings.

Knowing the Fire Extinguisher

Components of a Fire Extinguisher include:

  • Pressure Gauge: Indicates the pressure level of the extinguishing agent.

  • Safety Pin: Secures the operating lever and prevents accidental discharge.

  • Handle: Initiates the discharge of the extinguishing agent.

  • Nozzle or Hose: Directs the flow of the extinguishing agent toward the fire.

  • Extinguishing Agent: The substance contained within the extinguisher that suppresses the fire.

  • Inspection Tag: Indicates the testing date and maintenance history of the fire extinguisher.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Using a fire extinguisher effectively involves following the PASS technique: Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Additional Tips:

  • Stand back: Start using the extinguisher from a safe distance, usually around 6 to 8 feet away from the fire.

  • Watch for re-ignition: Even after the fire appears to be out, watch for signs of re-ignition and be prepared to use the extinguisher again if necessary.

  •   Evacuate if necessary: If the fire is not quickly controlled, evacuate the area and call 111. Never let a fire block your exit.


  • Only use a fire extinguisher if the fire is small and manageable.

  • Ensure you have a clear escape route in case the fire cannot be controlled.

  • Know the types of fires and use the appropriate extinguisher for each type (A, B, C, D, E or F).

Maintenance and Testing

Routine maintenance procedures for fire extinguishers include visual inspections, checking pressure gauges, ensuring proper labelling, and keeping the extinguisher free from obstructions or damage.

Regular maintenance and testing of fire extinguishers are essential to ensure their reliability and effectiveness during emergencies. Neglected maintenance can result in malfunctioning equipment, which may fail to extinguish fires when needed, leading to potentially devastating consequences.

Fire Extinguisher Inspection Checklist
Fire Extinguisher Inspection Checklist

Testing Procedures

Fire extinguishers should undergo thorough testing to verify their functionality and readiness for use. This includes monthly visual inspections by designated personnel and annual inspections conducted by qualified professionals.

At TESTntel, safety is our top priority. Contact us today for a FREE COST ESTIMATE. Learn more about how TESTntel can help safeguard your environment against electrical hazards.

Learn more about TESTntel Field Services:


Common Issues and Solutions

1.      Extinguisher not easily accessible:

Solution: Re-position extinguishers to ensure easy access in case of emergency.

2.      Extinguisher pressure gauge in the red zone:

Solution: Replace or recharge extinguisher to ensure proper pressure levels.

3.      Physical damage to the extinguisher (dents, rust, corrosion, illegible operating instructions):

Solution: Replace damaged extinguisher with a new one.

4.      Missing or broken safety pin:

Solution: Replace safety pin to ensure proper operation of extinguisher.

5.      Blocked or damaged nozzle or hose:

Solution: Clear blockages or replace damaged parts to allow for effective discharge of extinguishing agent.

6.      Outdated inspection tag or label:

Solution: Schedule regular inspections and maintenance to ensure extinguisher is up-to-date and in proper working condition.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

NZS 4503:2005 Hand Operated Fire-Fighting Equipment is a crucial standard for ensuring compliance with fire-fighting equipment regulations in New Zealand.

This standard outlines requirements for the selection, installation, distribution, and maintenance of hand-operated fire-fighting equipment, including portable and wheeled fire extinguishers, fire hose reels, and fire blankets. It applies to both commercial and domestic buildings, ensuring that all premises have the necessary equipment to combat fires effectively.


How Long do Fire Extinguishers Last?

The lifespan of a fire extinguisher varies depending on factors such as its type, quality, and maintenance. Generally, most fire extinguishers have a lifespan of 5 to 15 years. However, it's essential to regularly inspect and maintain them according to manufacturer guidelines and regulatory requirements.

At TESTntel, we test extinguishers upon the client's requirements, typically every 6 months to 1 year, to ensure their integrity and safety.

How Can I Dispose Old Fire Extinguishers?

You can dispose of old fire extinguishers in several ways:

  1. Local Fire Department: Many fire departments offer disposal services for old fire extinguishers. Contact your local fire department to inquire about their disposal procedures.

  2. Hazardous Waste Collection Centres: Some municipalities have hazardous waste collection centres where you can drop off old fire extinguishers for proper disposal.

  3. Recycling Centres: Some recycling centres accept old fire extinguishers for recycling. Check with your local recycling centre to see if they offer this service.

Or, make it easier for you by requesting disposal from us. At TESTntel, we handle the disposal of faulty/expired fire extinguishers and provide replacements for our clients upon request. Contact us today for more details.

Testing, documentary, disposal, replacement - all in one at TESTntel.


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