Fire Extinguishers

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Portable Fire Extinguishers

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 10 establishes the criteria for portable fire extinguishers. NFPA categorizes fires into the following categories:

  • Class A – Fires in materials such as paper, wood, cloth and certain plastics.
  • Class B – Fires in flammable liquids and flammable gases.
  • Class C – Fires that involve energized electrical equipment.
  • Class D – Fires in combustible metals such as magnesium and titanium.
  • Class K – Fires in cooking appliances that use large quantities of combustible cooking oils.

Each of these categories are also used to identify fire extinguishers intended for use with these types of fires.  The type of fire that an extinguisher is designed to suppress is listed on the label of the extinguisher. Newer fire extinguishers have pictures on their labels that show what kinds of fires they are effective on. Many extinguishers have multiclass ratings. An extinguisher rated ABC is designed to suppress A, B, and C fires. Besides the alphabetical rating, Class A and Class B portable fire extinguishers also have a numerical rating. This numerical rating describes the extinguishing potential of a given size extinguisher.

Most of the portable fire extinguishers found on the UAHuntsville campus are rated ABC and contain a dry chemical fire extinguishing agent. Some of the laboratories on campus have extinguishers rated BC and may contain carbon dioxide as the extinguishing agent. Carbon dioxide extinguishers can be identified because they do not have a pressure gauge indicator on the handle.

Fire Extinguisher Training

OEHS provides training upon request to employees on the use of portable fire extinguishers. Contact Bobby Dempsey, Safety Specialist, at 256-824-2352 or by email at for more information.

Monthly Fire Extinguisher Inspection

All campus fire extinguishers must be checked once per month to ensure their charge is still in the red zone on the guage.  The back of the inspection tag must be initialed and dated at the time the inspection is performed.

  • Laboratory and shop managers are responsible for checking fire extinguishers monthly and for initialing and recording the date of inspection on the inspection tag.  OEHS will perform a review of fire extinguisher inspections during laboratory and shop audits.
  • OEHS student employees perform monthly inspections for all fire extinguishers in common areas on campus.
  • University Housing employees are responsible for checking fire extinguishers monthly and for initialing and recording the date of inspection on the inspection tag.  The local fire marshal monitors compliance and will check inspection tags during inspection visits.

If an extinguisher is found that has not been checked, shows an inadequate charge on the indicator, does not work, has visible damage, or has been used please contact the Facilities and Operations Work Order Desk at 256-824-6490 or email a maintenance request to

Using Portable Fire Extinguishers

The OEHS has published the linked guide, "How to Use a Fire Extinguisher".