How Many Types of Fire Are There?

How many types of fire are there

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Fire, as a natural phenomenon, has been intertwined with human history for millennia. 

It has served as a steadfast companion, offering warmth on cold nights, providing protection from predators, and allowing us to cook our food for sustenance. 

The mastery of fire was one of the defining moments of human evolution, enabling our ancestors to forge tools, tame the wilderness, and build thriving civilizations.

However, fire’s dual nature must not be overlooked. 

As much as it has been our friend, it can also be a formidable foe. 

When fire becomes unbridled and uncontrollable, it can wreak havoc, causing devastating consequences to lives, homes, and natural landscapes. 

The destructive power of wildfires, building fires, and industrial accidents reminds us of the need for vigilance and preparedness in the face of this primal force.

To navigate the complexities of fire and its potential dangers, understanding how many types of fire there are, as well the differences between them is of paramount importance. 

Different types of fire extinguishers
Knowing the right fire extinguisher for the right fire type is vital

Different types of fires arise from a diverse range of materials, each requiring an evolution of fire safety and a tailored approach for effective extinguishing. 

From the common Class A fires involving ordinary combustible materials to the specialised challenges of Class D fires involving combustible metals, a comprehensive knowledge of fire classifications empowers us to respond confidently and responsibly to fire emergencies.

How Many Types of Fire Are There?

There are six main classes of fires, each involving different materials and posing unique challenges for firefighting:

1. Class A – Solids

2. Class B – Liquids 

3. Class C – Gasses

4. Class D – Metals

5. Class F – Oils and Fats

6. Electrical Fires – These are not given their own class, as they can fall into any of the above categories, however due to the different requirements of electrical fires we will be covering them here. 

What are Class A Fires?

Class A fires are the most common type of fire encountered in various settings, ranging from residential homes to commercial offices and public spaces. 

These fires are characterised by their ignition of ordinary combustible materials, which are readily available in our everyday surroundings. 

Understanding the nature of Class A fires and how to handle them is crucial for effective fire safety and prevention.

The fuel sources that feed Class A fires include materials such as wood, paper, cloth, cardboard, and common plastics. 

These materials are typically found in abundance in residential and commercial spaces, making Class A fires a significant concern for fire safety.

How Do You Extinguish a Class A Fire?

The primary method for extinguishing Class A fires is to use water or water-based extinguishers. 

Water is a versatile and readily available firefighting agent that cools down the burning material, reducing the heat and ultimately smothering the flames. 

By removing the heat element of the fire triangle (heat, fuel, and oxygen), water effectively puts out the fire and prevents re-ignition.

When using water to extinguish Class A fires, it is essential to apply the water directly to the base of the flames. 

This ensures that the water reaches the burning material and cools it down, preventing the fire from spreading further. 

A class A fire
Class A fires are one of the most common types of fire

If possible, avoid spraying water directly onto electrical equipment or live electrical wires to prevent electric shock and potential electrocution hazards.

Another effective method to combat small Class A fires is by using fire blankets. 

Fire blankets are made of fire-resistant materials and can be quickly deployed to smother flames. 

They work by cutting off the oxygen supply to the fire, suffocating it and extinguishing the flames. 

Fire blankets are particularly useful for smothering fires on clothing, curtains, or small household items.

What are Class B Fires?

Class B fires pose a unique set of challenges due to the involvement of flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, grease, and alcohol. 

These fires can occur in various settings, including kitchens, garages, workshops, industrial facilities, and places where flammable liquids are stored or used. 

Understanding how to handle Class B fires is crucial for effective fire safety and prevention.

Flammable liquids are highly volatile and can ignite easily, making Class B fires more intense and difficult to control compared to Class A fires. 

When a flammable liquid catches fire, it can quickly spread and produce intense flames, creating a dangerous and rapidly evolving situation. 

Additionally, flammable liquid fires can re-ignite if not fully extinguished, making them particularly challenging to manage.

How Do You Extinguish a Class B Fire?

To effectively control and extinguish Class B fires, it is crucial to use the appropriate firefighting agent. 

Water is generally not recommended for Class B fires as it can cause the flammable liquid to spread, potentially making the fire more dangerous. 

This class of fire also includes Lithium-ion battery fires, which is currently one of the causes of fire that is drastically on the rise. 

Instead, foam-based extinguishers or dry chemical extinguishers are the preferred choices for combating Class B fires.

Foam-based extinguishers work by covering the flammable liquid with a layer of foam, creating a barrier that prevents the release of flammable vapours and cutting off the oxygen supply to the fire. 

This smothers the flames and cools down the burning liquid, eventually extinguishing the fire.

Dry chemical extinguishers, on the other hand, are effective for Class B fires because they disrupt the chemical reaction of the fire. 

These extinguishers release a fine powder that separates the fuel from the oxygen, extinguishing the flames. 

They also work well on Class A fires, making them versatile and useful in various fire situations.

It is important to remember that when dealing with Class B fires, safety is paramount. 

Before attempting to extinguish a fire, assess the situation and ensure you have an escape route in case the fire becomes uncontrollable. 

If the fire continues to spread or becomes too intense, evacuate the area immediately and call the emergency services for professional assistance.

What are Class C Fires?

Class C fires involve flammable gases, which can create a hazardous and potentially explosive atmosphere. 

These fires present unique challenges and require specific precautions to ensure safety and prevent accidents. 

Class C fires pose a significant threat to locations like manufacturing and industrial warehouses, chemical plants, and facilities storing substantial quantities of flammable gases. These settings are particularly vulnerable to these types of fires.

Understanding the risks associated with flammable gases and implementing proper safety measures is crucial in managing Class C fires.

How Do You Extinguish a Class C Fire?

Extinguishing a Class C fire requires a methodical and cautious approach due to the volatile nature of flammable gases involved. 

When facing such a fire, two crucial steps come into play: shutting off the gas supply and utilising a dry powder extinguisher.

The first and most crucial step is to quickly shut off the gas supply at its source. 

This action prevents the continuous flow of fuel to the fire, thereby hindering its ability to grow and spread. 

Cutting off the gas supply is paramount to prevent the fire from intensifying and posing a greater threat to individuals attempting to extinguish it and those nearby.

After successfully shutting off the gas supply, the use of a dry powder extinguisher is recommended for extinguishing the Class C fire. 

Dry powder extinguishers are specifically designed to combat fires involving flammable gases effectively. 

The dry powder agent works by smothering the flames, cutting off their oxygen supply, and interrupting the fire’s chemical chain reaction, which leads to its rapid extinguishment.

It is important to note that while dry powder extinguishers are effective for Class C fires, water-based extinguishers should never be used in this scenario. 

Water-based extinguishers may cause the fire to spread or result in an explosion due to the reactive nature of certain flammable gases.

Additionally, individuals attempting to extinguish a Class C fire should prioritise their safety at all times. 

If the fire is beyond their control or if they are unsure about the gas source, it is best to evacuate the area immediately and call for professional help. 

The handling of Class C fires requires a level of expertise and knowledge to ensure the safety of both individuals and property

What are Class D Fires?

Class D fires present a unique and highly hazardous situation, involving combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, sodium, and lithium. 

These fires can be particularly dangerous due to the reactive properties of these metals, which make them prone to violent and rapid combustion when exposed to air or water. 

The presence of combustible metals in specific industrial settings or laboratories increases the risk of Class D fires, and proper precautions must be taken to handle and store these materials safely.

One of the critical challenges in dealing with Class D fires is the limited effectiveness of conventional firefighting methods. 

Water, commonly used to extinguish other types of fires, can exacerbate Class D fires. 

When water comes into contact with burning combustible metals, it reacts vigorously, releasing hydrogen gas, intensifying the fire, and causing potential explosions.

How Do You Extinguish a Class D Fire?

To extinguish Class D fires safely and effectively, specialised dry powder extinguishing agents must be used. 

These agents, typically made of sodium chloride or graphite-based compounds, form a smothering layer over the burning metal, cutting off the supply of oxygen and heat. 

This action disrupts the combustion process and gradually cools the metal, leading to the fire’s suppression.

Due to the specialised nature of Class D fires and the need for specific extinguishing agents, it is essential to have personnel trained in handling such emergencies. 

Firefighters and other responders must be equipped with the appropriate dry powder extinguishers and knowledgeable about the risks and characteristics of combustible metal fires. 

These fires can be unpredictable and require careful planning and coordinated efforts to control and eliminate them safely.

What are Class F Fires?

Class F fires, also known as cooking oil fires or fat fires, are a specific type of fire that commonly occurs in commercial kitchens, restaurants, and other food preparation areas. 

These fires involve cooking oils and fats and can quickly escalate into intense and challenging situations to control.

The high temperatures used in cooking, especially deep frying, can cause cooking oils and fats to reach their autoignition point, leading to spontaneous combustion. 

Once ignited, the flames can rapidly spread and generate intense heat, posing a severe threat to kitchen staff, customers, and the entire building.

A Class F kitchen fire
Class F fires can be incredibly dangerous due to the oil involved

One of the primary reasons Class F fires are so dangerous is that water, a common extinguishing agent used for other types of fires, is ineffective and dangerous when applied to cooking oil fires. 

When water comes into contact with hot oil, it instantly vaporises and expands, splattering the burning oil and spreading the fire further. 

This reaction can cause severe burns and injuries to anyone nearby.

Knowing how to protect from kitchen fires is of vital importance to anyone working in the restaurant industry. 

How Do You Extinguish a Class F Fire?

The most effective method to extinguish Class F fires is to smother the flames with a fire blanket or use a wet chemical extinguisher specifically designed for cooking oil fires. 

Wet chemical extinguishers contain a special solution that creates a thick, soapy foam, which cools the burning oil, forms a barrier, and prevents the release of flammable vapours. 

This action starves the fire of oxygen, extinguishing it safely and effectively.

Preventing Class F fires involves implementing several safety measures in commercial kitchens and food preparation areas. 

Regular cleaning and maintenance of cooking equipment, ventilation systems, and hoods help reduce the buildup of grease and oil residues that could fuel a fire. 

Additionally, kitchen staff should be properly trained in fire safety, including the proper use of fire extinguishers and the importance of using fire blankets when dealing with cooking oil fires.

Commercial kitchens should have well-maintained fire suppression systems, such as automatic fire suppression systems installed in hoods above cooking areas. 

These systems can quickly detect and suppress cooking oil fires, minimising the risk of fire spreading to other parts of the kitchen.

What are Electrical Fires?

Electrical fires are a prevalent and concerning type of fire that poses a significant risk in modern life. 

Unlike other classes of fire (Class A, B, C, etc.), electrical fires are not categorised under a specific class. 

Instead, they are a distinct category of fires caused by electrical faults and malfunctions. 

These fires can result from various factors, such as faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, damaged appliances, or improper use of electrical equipment.

Damaged electrical equipment is one of the main causes of fires

Over time, electrical wires can deteriorate, become frayed, or develop loose connections. These issues create resistance and generate heat, which can ignite nearby combustible materials. 

Similarly, overloaded circuits, often caused by plugging too many electrical devices into a single outlet or circuit, can lead to overheating and ultimately trigger an electrical fire.

Another common cause of electrical fires is damaged appliances and electrical equipment. 

Ageing or poorly maintained appliances can develop electrical faults, leading to short circuits and fires. 

Electrical fires can also be triggered by the misuse of electrical equipment, such as using extension cords or power strips inappropriately or using appliances with damaged cords or plugs.

How Do You Extinguish an Electrical Fire?

In the event of an electrical fire, using water to extinguish the flames is extremely dangerous due to the risk of electrical shock. 

Instead, it is best to de-energize the electrical source by shutting off power at the circuit breaker or main electrical panel, if safe to do so. 

For smaller electrical fires, a Class C fire extinguisher or a dry powder extinguisher can be used. 

However, it is essential to prioritise personal safety and evacuate the area if the fire becomes uncontrollable.

To prevent electrical fires, regular electrical inspections and maintenance are essential. 

Homeowners and businesses should have their electrical systems inspected by qualified electricians to identify and address any potential issues. 

It is crucial to avoid overloading circuits, use proper wattage bulbs in light fixtures, and refrain from using damaged electrical equipment.


Understanding how many types of fire there are, and the appropriate methods to extinguish them is vital for everyone’s safety. 

In case of an emergency, knowing how to act quickly and effectively can make a significant difference in protecting lives and property. 

Fire safety training, having the right fire extinguishers, and staying informed about potential hazards are all crucial steps towards ensuring a safer environment for ourselves and those around us. 

With the current shift to electric cars, and the rise in the usage of lithium-ion batteries, it is now more important than ever to understand the difference in fire types and how to safely deal with them, with lithium-ion battery fires costing the UK £158 million a year alone

Let us all be proactive in fire prevention and response to mitigate the risks of fire-related incidents and create a safer world for everyone.

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