Fire Extinguishers

As a home inspector, one of the aspects of my job is to inform my clients of any potential safety hazards, this includes fire safety. Most homes have at least one or two smoke detectors nowadays, but many still do not have them in all the proper locations.(see Fire safety tips post for smoke detector locations) Unfortunately most home do not have any fire extinguishers. I feel fire extinguishers are an important aspect of your families safety.

Here are some highlights from the National Fire Protection Agency report issued in 2018.

Report highlights

  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 355,400 home structure fires per year during 2012-2016.  These fires caused an annual average of:
    • 2,560 civilian fire deaths
    • 11,670 civilian fire injuries
    • $6.5 billion in direct property damage.
  • Four of every five (80%) fire deaths and three of every four fire injuries (74%) were caused by home fires.
  • On average, seven people died in U.S. home fires per day.

Cooking equipment was the leading cause of home structure fires and home fire injuries and the second leading cause of home fire deaths. Smoking materials were the leading cause of civilian home fire deaths over the period, although this was not true every year. With cooking being the leading cause of home fires, this means there was probably someone present when the fire started. Fires in the earliest stages can be extinguished with the proper use of and the right type of fire extinguisher. Therefore it is beneficial to have the right types of extinguishers strategically located in your home.

Fire Extinguishers-What to Know

Fires are classified by fuel type into five categories. Fire extinguishers are classified by the type of fire they are intended to be used against using a letter designation.

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Multi purpose fire extinguishers are available nowadays. Such as "A-B-C" or "b-C". These are great for home use. There are also spray can type extinguishers which are rated for "A-B-C-K" fires. These are suitable for all typical house fires. If you are unsure of what type of extinguisher to purchase, seek assistance from a qualified sales person.

Placement of fire extinguishers

I recommend installing one fire extinguisher on each level of your home and a dedicated extinguisher for the kitchen and garage. They should be placed where they are readily accessible and in plain view. Some points to consider when placing your fire extinguishers:

  • Install them so they are visible and accessible (not in a closet)
  • Place them near points of egress so that you have an escape route
  • Do not place them to close to the cook top, you need to be able to get to it if there is a cooking fire
  • Secure the fire extinguisher with the included bracket so they will be where they're supposed to be if needed

Safety First

Of course the first thing to do if a fire breaks out is to get everyone out safely. You should have an escape plan that everyone in the family is familiar with. Everyone should know how to properly use a the fire extinguishers that you have and what type fires they are for. Points to consider before attempting to put out a fire:

  • Is the fire small and contained to just one area
  • Do I have an escape route
  • Am I safe from toxic fumes
  • Do I have the right type extinguisher for the fire

For more information on home fire safety visit the National Fire Protection Agency website at

For all your home inspection needs in Northwest Indiana, give Ed a call at 219 405-0660or visit