Fighting Fires - When Time is of the Essence
Posted: July 11, 2012
First of all, most rural areas are served by local volunteer fire departments that depend upon responders who are available. This can be a problem during normal daytime hours due to volunteers working at jobs where the employer is not flexible and can’t let employees leave work to respond to an emergency. Response time is often an issue as well due to the distance many responders must travel to get to an emergency. All of this creates a serious dilemma when time is important in preventing a small fire from becoming a raging inferno.
These are very good reasons for purchasing and placing fire extinguishers at strategic locations around the farm. Ideally, the ABC-type of fire extinguisher is the overall best option for farm environments.
The ABC-type includes extinguishers that you can use on:
- A – Ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, hay, straw, etc.
- B – Flammable liquids such as oil, grease, diesel fuel, gasoline and other petroleum products
- C – Electrical fires
Another consideration is the rating on the extinguisher. In other words, is it a 5-, 10- or 20-pound multi-purpose ABC type? One rule of thumb in placing a certain pound rating at a specific location is the size and scope of the potential fire. For large storage facilities, a 20-pound rated extinguisher may be needed for containing the fire until the fire department arrives. Combines and farm tractors fit in the middle category with at least a 10-pound rating recommended. Insurers and farm safety specialists suggest that two ABC-type extinguishers be placed on a combine, one in the operator’s cab and another at ground level—easily accessible for firefighting purposes.
Farm vehicles such as pick-up trucks need at least a 5-pound version stowed in a location that is known by the driver and passengers who ride in the vehicle. Under most circumstances, the rating in pounds also refers to the number of seconds that a dry chemical extinguisher needs to discharge their retardant chemicals: 5 pounds = 5 seconds, 10 pounds = 10 seconds, etc., according to the Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development website.
Keep in mind that you should inspect fire extinguishers monthly to ensure that they have not discharged, meaning that you would not get the advertised rating of protection. To ensure that the inspections are being done, tag the extinguishers with the date and name of the individual who conducted the inspection. When the extinguisher’s gauge indicates that it’s no longer in the safe range, replace it with a charged back-up until it can be re-charged.
Training on extinguisher use is always recommended. Improper use may spread a fire that could have otherwise been contained. And with training, you can prevent a small fire from spreading and becoming larger. Ask your local fire department if it offers fire extinguisher training. If so, you, your family and workers should take advantage of this opportunity to learn about proper fire extinguisher use. The training should also cover other fire prevention tactics for your farm and residence.
Remember PASS When Using a Fire Extinguisher
- Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
For more fire extinguisher safety tips and fire prevention strategies, visit the National Fire Protection Association website.