Fire is dangerous and it is not something to go about lighting as we have seen and continue to see in our high schools this year. Fires kill, destroy and injure. History of school and house fires in Kenya are not something we would want to relive or even think of. They have been catastrophic for lack of a better word. Young productive lives have been lost. Who was or is to blame? I don’t know and I don’t care but one thing I know is a large percentage of Kenyans, Kenyan organizations and even some private sectors are not conversant with fire safety. The following steps will assist in proper fire safety and protection at home and in our places of work.

Step 1: What is fire?

For a fire to exist, there are four elements that must be present. That is oxygen (O2) to sustain the combustion, heat to raise the temperature of the material to its ignition temperature, fuel supports the combustion and finally a chemical reaction between all the three elements. Simply put a fire is a physical result of a chemical reaction between an oxidant (oxygen), fuel and a material raised to its ignition temperature.



Fire Tetrahedron: Image courtesy of

The basis behind fighting a fire is eliminating either of the four components of the fire tetrahedron.

Step 2: Classes of Fire.

To be able to fight small fires effectively (small fires are what grow into a big fire) we need to know the various classes of fire that can occur.

  • Class A – these are fires caused by ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper etc.
  • Class B – these are fires caused by flammable liquids such as petrol, paint and flammable gases such as butane and propane.
  • Class C – These are fires caused by electrical equipment such as motors, generators and electrical appliances. However if the power is removed from such a fire it becomes any other type of fire.
  • Class D – Fire caused by combustible metals such as sodium, potassium, aluminium etc.
  • Class K – These are fires caused by cooking oil such as vegetable fat &oil and grease fires.

The first step to putting out fire is to know which class of fire it belongs to, because that will enable you to understand which type of extinguisher to use on the fire. Talking of extinguishers, let’s look at the various types of fire extinguishers and their applications.

Step 3: Types of Fire Extinguishers

Before buying a fire extinguisher, it is important to survey your area and identify the type of materials found there.

1 Powder A, B and C fires. Special exist for D fires Powder fire extinguisher Image cortesey of courtesy of
2 Water A fires

Not suitable for B or C fires

Water fire extinguisherImage courtesy of
3 Foam A and B fires Foam fire extinguisher image courtsey of

Image courtesy of

4 Carbon dioxide B and C fires Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher image courtsey of

Image courtesy of


To easily identify and differentiate the extinguishers, they are colour coded on the surface of the extinguisher cylinder as follows:

  • Water – Red
  • Foam – Cream
  • Dry Powder – Blue
  • Carbon dioxide – Black

Step 4: Fire Extinguisher Use

The basis of extinguishing a fire is PASS.

Pull the pin

Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire from a recommended safe distance

Squeeze the lever to discharge the fire extinguishing agent

Sweep the nozzle from side to side standing at a safe distance until the fire is completely put out.

 Step 5: Fighting a fire safely

When fighting a fire remember the 3 A.

Activate the building alarm and notify the fire department or ask someone else to do this for you.

Assist any person who is in immediate danger or any who is incapable to help themselves because of one reason or another. However make sure you are safe yourself.

Attempt to put out the fire only after the first 2A have been accomplished.

Always remember your safety comes first.

Even if you know all these fire safety measure make sure you share the information with those around you, your child (children) care givers and teachers, your colleagues, your partner, your children etc. You will be surprised just how many people don’t know what to do in the instance of a fire.

Have a fire free week!

Hi! I am Brenda Rombo, a mechanical engineer, a writer and a dreamer but you can call me Bee. In 2014 I started a platform to discuss the various issues and emerging technologies in Engineering. During my years both as a student and an engineer I have always been fascinated with new and emerging technologies and diversity and inclusion.

01 Comment

  1. […] Fire extinguishers are considered the most basic and the first aid fire fighting equipment for any small fire. It is important that all schools have the right kind of extinguishers and that teachers and students are not only taught how to use portable fire extinguishers but also on which kind of fires they should use them on. Please click here to read more on fire extinguishers. […]

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