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Fire Extinguisher Facts & Statistics

According to the website SafeHome, a fire must be extinguished within three minutes of its inception for a home to be saved because a fire doubles in size every minute. Understanding home fire protection and the rules for using fire extinguishers can save a home from burning in as little as 20 minutes.

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Residential Fire Statistics

The average time it takes for a 9-1-1 response in urban areas is six minutes, but the range can be anywhere from four to 20 minutes. In the United States, residential fire-related deaths and injuries are 20 times as high as disasters caused by floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes combined. Seventy-one per cent of deaths and 68 per cent of injuries occur from residential fires, so owning a fire extinguisher in the home is recommended.

Extinguishers Location

Twenty-nine per cent of residential fires are started by appliances or electrical problems, 21 per cent are started by heating accidents, 19 per cent are started by cooking accidents, 13 per cent are started by arson, and 18 per cent have unknown origins, according to SafeHome.com. About 23 per cent of fires start in cooking areas, while 12.2, 9.7, 8.1 and 4.4 per cent start in sleeping, chimney, lounge and laundry areas, respectively.

Classes of Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers should never be used on grease or electrical fires. Fire extinguishers work on three classes of fires, which will be labelled on the fire extinguisher: Class A works on wood, cloth and paper; Class B works on flammable liquids such as gasoline or oil-based paint; and Class C extinguishes energised electrical equipment such as wiring, circuit breakers, fuse boxes and appliances. If the fire extinguisher is marked ABC, it is safe on all three types of fires.

Fire Size and Fire Extinguishers

When choosing a fire extinguisher, size is important. The label of the fire extinguisher will provide information on the size of fire it will extinguish. For example, a portable fire extinguisher will discharge all of its contents in eight to 10 seconds, compared to larger extinguishers that will spray for several minutes.

Maintenance and Discarding

Once discharged, fire extinguishers need to be recharged, which is available through fire extinguisher companies. If the fire extinguisher has never been used, it may require regular maintenance. Labels and instruction manuals give instructions on how often the fire extinguisher will need a checkup. According to the website Kidde, 80 per cent of fire extinguishers sold are single-use and cannot be recharged. If the gauge reads "empty" or the fire extinguisher is more than 12 years old, the extinguisher should be replaced.

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About the Author

Leah Waldron is the head of Traveler Services at First Abroad, a gap year travel company based in Boston and London. As a travel, research and LGBT news writer, Waldron has publication credit on magazines and newspapers including "Curve Magazine," "USA Today," "The Sun Sentinel" and the "The Houston Chronicle." Waldron has a bachelor's and master's degree in creative writing from Florida State University.

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