Fire Extinguisher Colour's explained by our team of fire experts in a simple up guide below
There are 5 fire extinguisher colour's types : Red, Cream, Blue, Black, and Yellow.
Each colour represents a different type of fire extinguisher, which are used on different types of fires.
The fire extinguisher colours changed in 1997 to meet Irish and European Standards.
All modern fire extinguishers have a red (or chrome) body, with the identifying colour displayed in a wide band at the top of the extinguisher – as in the image below:
Fire extinguisher labels: the colour is displayed in a wide band at the top of the extinguisher
Why Did The Fire Extinguisher Colours Change?
Up until 1997 in Ireland , the body of the fire extinguisher was normally made up of the entire distinguishing fire extinguisher colour.
For example in Ireland , Foam extinguishers would have been completely cream, and powder extinguishers would have been completely blue.
In Ireland the standard fire extinguisher colour was changed to ‘signal red’ for 2 main reasons.
1st, red is the colour associated with both danger and fire and so there is an obvious reason with fire extinguishers.
Secondly, red is the colour most easy to see, especially in a darker environment, such as a smoke-filled room.
The only exception to the ‘red’ rule, is chrome extinguishers.
Whilst these do not strictly conform to the guidelines, all chrome extinguishers in the range are I.S.291:2015 quality supervised and tested against the Irish standard.
We would recommend using larger extinguisher ID signs with chrome extinguishers, to make them more visible.
Lets' look at the Different Fire Extinguisher Colours.
The chart below provides a quick reference summary of each of the fire extinguisher colours and the fires they tackle.
We then give you a detailed explanation of each extinguisher colour type in the following section.
The Fire extinguisher colour code identification chart
The Different Classes Of Fire.
The different fire extinguisher colours explain to you which classes of fire a fire extinguisher should be used on.
There are six classes of fire: A, B, C, D, ‘Electrical’, and F.
Class A fires – combustible materials: These are the fires caused by flammable solids, such as wood, paper, and fabric, where the fire gets its fuel from.
Class B fires – flammable liquids: These are the fires caused by flammable liquids, Lacquers, petrol, alcohol, and oil based paints
Class C fires – flammable gases: These are the fires caused by flammable gases, such as, butane hydrogen or methane.
Class D fires – combustible metals: They are the fires which are caused by metals and chemicals such as magnesium, or potassium.
Electrical fires – electrical equipment: These are the fires that are caused by electrical items, like heaters. Once the electrical unit has been withdrawn, the fire changes it’s class, which means you can use a different colour type of fire extinguisher if required.
Class F fires – cooking oils: Typically these are cooking oil, chip pan, fat, for these to ignite they would require up to 340 celsius
Fire Extinguisher Colours – Explanation in detail.
Overview: Our Water extinguishers are the most commonly used fire extinguishers for the class A fires and carry the original ‘signal red’ colour label.
- Paper and cardboard.
- Fabrics and textiles.
- Wood and coal.
Do Not Use For:
- Fires involving electrical equipment.
- Kitchen fires.
- Flammable gas and liquids.
Who would Need Water Extinguishers?:
Typically buildings made of wood or another organic material and premises storing organic materials. Some examples would be:
- Office buildings
- Schools and nurseries
- Domestic dwellings
It would be recommended that the vast majority of buildings in Ireland would need either a water or a foam extinguisher.
THE Foam extinguishers with their cream labels are the most commonly used type of fire extinguisher’s for Class B fires. They also work on Class A fires, being water-based.
- Cardboard & Paper
- Fabrics textiles.
- Wood and flammable Liquids.
Do Not Use For:
- Kitchen fires.
- Electrical fires.
- Flammable metal fires.
Who might need Foam extinguishers?:
Buildings made of wood and of another organic material and premises that are storing organic materials. The examples include:
- Offices, schools
- Apartment Blocks common area’s
It’s recommended that most of the buildings in Ireland would need either water or foam fire extinguishers on site.
The blue labelled dry powder extinguishers are commonly called the ‘ABC’ fire extinguishers because they are commonly used on class A, B and C fires. They should not 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, and some specialist dry powder fire extinguishers can be used for the fires involving flammable metals.
Do Not Use For:
- Cooking oil /chip-pan fires
- Fires involving electrical equipment over 1000v
- or in enclosed spaces, such as offices or domestic dwellings
- Flammable liquids, like petrol, paint, turps
- Flammable gases, like liquid petroleum gas, acetylene
- Fires involving electrical equipment up to 1000v
The specialist dry powder fire extinguishers can be only used on flammable metals, such as titanium and magnesium.
What premises that might need Dry Powder extinguishers?:
- Businesses who regularly use flammable gases.
- Premises or where flame cutting or welding work is carried out.
- Petrol station forecourts.
- Premises with large boiler rooms.
The CO2 extinguisher has a black label and is mainly used for electrical fires, although they are also usually the main type of extinguisher used in IT server rooms. They also put out Class B (flammable liquid) fires.
- Flammable liquids, like paint, petrol and turpentineblack
- Fires that involve live electrical equipment
Do Not Use For:
- Kitchen fires or pan fires
- materials like paper, wood, cardboard or fabric material
- Flammable metals
What premises might need a CO2 extinguisher?:
A premises with electrical equipment, like:
- Commercial kitchens
- IT Server rooms
- Construction sites
All work vehicles in Ireland should also carry a 2kg CO2 extinguisher as this would be standard In Ireland.
The Wet chemical extinguisher with it’s yellow label is the specialist fire extinguisher, designed for use on fires involving cooking oils and fats (‘Class F’ fires). They can be used on Class A fires although businesses in Ireland would usually have a foam or water fire extinguisher for this purpose on site.
Do Not Use For:
- Flammable liquid or gas fires
- Electrical fires
- Fires involving flammable metals
If you still have questions, or if you’d like to book a free survey of your premises by one of our Irish Standard registered fire extinguisher engineers, please just call us on +353 (0)1 839 5116
We at SecuritySystems.ie by RFC really hope that this helpful guide to fire extinguisher colours has been helpful and that we answered all your concerns and questions about what colour different extinguishers are. Our guide on types of fire extinguisher may be useful too.
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