Fire Extinguisher Colours - A Simple Guide

Oct 09, 2019

There are 5 fire extinguisher colours: Red, Cream, Blue, Black, and Yellow. We explore the different types of fire extinguisher here in this simple guide.

Each colour fire extinguisher represents a different type of extinguisher, used on the various different types of fires. In the event of a fire, you and your employees are able to identify exactly the type of fire extinguisher required for that type of fire based on the colour label.

We lay out the features of each fire extinguisher below, and which types of fires they are used for.

Label Colour - Red


Overview:

Water extinguishers are the most common extinguisher for class A fires. Red water fire extinguishers carry the original ‘signal red’ colour label, and the majority of business premises would require either a water or foam type of fire extinguisher. Water fire extinguishers are suitable for use on class A combustible material fires, and create a cooling effect, penetrating burning materials and preventing reignition. Water fire extinguishers are environmentally friendly.

How do water fire extinguishers work?

Water fire extinguishers work by producing a cooling effect on the fire’s fuel, and removing the heating element that is needed to keep the fire burning. This causes the fire to burn much slower and ultimately, results in the flames being put out and fire being extinguished.

Where should you store water fire extinguishers?

Water fire extinguishers need to be placed next to the exits on floors that have been identified as class A fire risks during your latest first risk assessment.

Which type of premises might need water extinguishers?

  • Buildings made of wood or another organic material
  • Premises storing organic materials, like:
  • Office buildings
  • Schools and nurseries
  • Hospitals
  • Domestic dwellings
  • Warehouses

To be used on:

  • Paper and Cardboard
  • Fabrics and Textiles
  • Wood and Coal

Not to be used on:

  • Electrical equipment
  • Kitchen fires
  • Flammable gas and liquids

Label Colour - Cream


Overview:

Foam extinguishers with their cream labels are the most common type of fire extinguisher for Class B fires.

They also work on Class A fires, being water-based, and can be used for fires involving organic materials.

Foam fire extinguishers create a cooling blanket effect, smothering burning materials and preventing reignition of the fire, and are effective for fires from petrol origin.

How do foam fire extinguishers work?

Foam fire extinguishers work in two ways - by creating a cooling effect on the fuel that is responsible for causing the fire. Secondly, when this extinguisher is used on burning liquids, the foaming agent inside the extinguisher creates a barrier between the flames of the fire and the fuel, which ultimately extinguishes the fire.

Where should you store foam fire extinguishers?

Foam fire extinguishers should be stored at exit points where either a class A or class B fire risk has been identified.

Which type of premises might need foam extinguishers?

  • Buildings made of wood or other organic materials
  • Premises where there are organic materials to be found like:
  • Office buildings
  • Schools and nurseries
  • Hospitals
  • Domestic dwellings
  • Warehouses

To be used on:

  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Material
  • Wood
  • Coal
  • Flammable liquids - petrol, paint and turpentine

Not to be used on:

  • Kitchen fires
  • Electrical fires
  • Flammable metal fires

Label Colour - Blue


Overview:

The blue-labelled dry powder extinguishers are sometimes called ‘ABC’ extinguishers because they are used on class A, B and C fires, and can be utilised in environments containing multiple fire risks. They shouldn’t be used in enclosed spaces because the powder can be easily inhaled and the residue is very difficult to clean.

Standard dry powder extinguishers can be used on some electrical fires, plus specialist dry powder extinguishers are used for fires involving flammable metals, and are ideal for use as vehicle protection. Specialist dry powder extinguishers are only used on flammable metals, such as titanium and magnesium.

How do powder fire extinguishers work?

Dry powder fire extinguishers work by separating the fuel of the fire from the oxygen element, or by removing the heating element of the fire triangle.

Where should you store powder fire extinguishers?

Powder fire extinguishers need to be stored next to the source of the fire risk.

Which businesses might need dry powder extinguishers?

  • Businesses who regularly use flammable gases
  • Locations where flame cutting or welding is carried out
  • Garage forecourts
  • Buildings with large boiler rooms

To be used on:

  • Organic materials such as: Paper, Cardboard, Material, Wood, Coal
  • Flammable liquids - petrol, paint, turpentine
  • Flammable gases - liquid petroleum gas (LPG), acetylene
  • Electrical fires

Not to be used on:

  • Cooking oil /chip-pan fires 
  • Enclosed spaces, such as offices or domestic dwellings

Label Colour - Black Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguishers


Overview:

CO2 extinguishers have black labels and are mainly used for electrical fires, although they are also usually the main type of extinguisher used in computer server rooms.

They also put out Class B (flammable liquid) fires. Being non-toxic and leaving no residue, CO2 extinguishers with a black label will not cause any damage to machinery or electrical equipment.

How do CO2 fire extinguishers work?

A CO2 fire extinguisher works by suffocating the fire with CO2, which causes the oxygen to be displaced and the fire to burn out.

Where should you store CO2 fire extinguishers?

CO2 fire extinguishers should be stored next to the source of the fire risk and/or by the nearest fire exits.

Who might need CO2 extinguishers?

  • Premises with electrical equipment, like:
  • Office blocks
  • Commercial kitchens
  • Server rooms
  • Building sites

To be used on:

  • Fires involving electrical equipment
  • Flammable liquids, like paint, petrol & turpentine
  • Small flammable liquid fires

Not to be used on:

  • Kitchen fires or chip-pan fires
  • Organic materials like paper, wood, cardboard or fabric
  • Flammable metals

Label Colour - Yellow


Overview:

Wet chemical extinguishers with yellow labels are specialist extinguishers, designed for use on fires involving cooking oils and fats (‘Class F’ fires).

They can be used on Class A fires, although businesses usually have a foam or water extinguisher for this purpose.

Wet chemical extinguishers can also be used for fires caused by various organic materials including wood, coal, textiles, fabrics, cardboard and paper.

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are the ideal extinguisher for fires involving fat or cooking oil.

How do wet chemical fire extinguishers work?

This fire extinguisher works by creating a layer of foam on the surface of the burning oil or fat that starves the fire of oxygen. The spray itself contains the chemical potassium, which also has a cooling effect that helps to eliminate the fire.

Where should you store chemical fire extinguishers?

Wet chemical fire extinguishers should be stored next to the source of the fire risk.

Which businesses might need yellow chemical extinguishers?

  • Professional kitchens
  • Chippies
  • Restaurants
  • Canteens

To be used on:

  •  Chip-pan and cooking fat fires
  • Organic materials like: Paper, Cardboard, Material, Wood, Coal

Not to be used on:

  • Flammable liquid or gas fires
  •  Electrical fires
  • Fires involving flammable metals

We hope this guide to fire extinguisher colours has been helpful.

If you have questions, get in touch to talk through the needs of your business.

Call us on 01933 677125 or fill in the quick online form to discuss your Fire Safety needs today!