Methods Used for Extinguishing a Fire

Methods Used for Extinguishing a Fire

Understanding the Fire Triangle

  • Fire requires three elements: fuel, oxygen, and heat. This concept is often referred to as the Fire Triangle.
  • The basis for all fire extinguishing methods involves removing at least one element of this triangle.


  • Cooling, which removes heat, is the most commonly used method to extinguish a fire.
  • Water, due to its high heat capacity and availability, is frequently used for cooling.
  • The heat of the fire is absorbed by the water, which in turn becomes steam, therefore decreasing the temperature and extinguishing the fire.


  • Smothering another method, involves hindering the supply of oxygen, to the fire.
  • Foam, fire blankets and carbon dioxide extinguishers are used to create a barrier between the fuel and the oxygen.
  • The method takes advantage of the fact that without sufficient oxygen, combustion cannot continue.


  • Starving the fire involves removing the fuel source.
  • Depending on the situation, it might mean turning off the gas supply or moving combustible materials away from the fire.
  • No fuel means nothing for the fire to consume, thus extinguishing the fire.

Interrupting the Chemical Reaction

  • Some fire extinguishing methods involve the disruption of the chemical reaction at the flame front.
  • Certain compounds can interrupt the chemical reactions that allow a fire to sustain itself.
  • For instance, a dry chemical extinguisher discharges a powder that interferes with the reaction, effectively stopping the fire.

Safe Fire Extinguishing Practices

  • Always remember to call the fire department immediately when a fire breaks out.
  • Evaluate the situation carefully before deciding on the method of extinguishing the fire.
  • Never put yourself at risk attempting to extinguish a fire. Always prioritise personal safety.
  • Understand the appropriate use of fire extinguishers - using the wrong extinguisher on a fire can exacerbate the situation. For instance, using a water extinguisher on an electrical fire may lead to electrocution.

Remember, whilst the methods are inclusive, not all these methods work for all types of fires. To correctly and safely extinguish a fire, it’s important to understand the nature of the fire, such as the fuel source and the available resources. The most important thing, however, is to prevent fires by taking necessary safety measures and precautions because prevention is always better than cure.