What Fire Extinguisher Do You Use on Live Electrical Equipment

by Anna

When dealing with fires involving live electrical equipment, it is crucial to employ the appropriate fire extinguisher to ensure both safety and effectiveness. Fires caused by electrical equipment pose unique challenges, as water-based extinguishers can exacerbate the situation by conducting electricity. To mitigate such risks, it is essential to understand the types of fire extinguishers suitable for electrical fires and their proper usage.


Understanding Electrical Fires

Electrical fires occur when a source of electrical energy ignites a combustible material or causes electrical equipment to overheat. These fires can be classified as Class C fires under the fire classification system. Unlike other classes, such as Class A (ordinary combustibles) or Class B (flammable liquids), electrical fires cannot be extinguished effectively with traditional water-based extinguishers. Using water on live electrical equipment can cause electrical shock and potentially fatal injuries to individuals attempting to put out the fire.


Class C Fire Extinguishers

Class C fire extinguishers are specifically designed to combat electrical fires. They contain non-conductive extinguishing agents, making them safe to use on live electrical equipment. The most commonly used non-conductive extinguishing agents are carbon dioxide (CO2) and dry chemical agents.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Fire Extinguishers

CO2 fire extinguishers work by displacing oxygen, effectively smothering the fire. They are well-suited for electrical fires because CO2 is a non-conductive gas, which means it does not conduct electricity. These extinguishers are available in various sizes, from portable handheld models to larger wheeled units, suitable for industrial settings.

Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers

Dry chemical fire extinguishers are another effective option for extinguishing electrical fires. They contain a fine powder that suppresses the fire by interrupting the chemical reaction of the fire triangle (fuel, heat, and oxygen). ABC dry chemical extinguishers, which contain monoammonium phosphate, are the most versatile as they can tackle Class A, B, and C fires.

Using the Fire Extinguisher Safely

1. Evaluate the Situation

Before attempting to use a fire extinguisher on live electrical equipment, prioritize personal safety and evacuate the area if the fire is spreading rapidly or becoming unmanageable. Always call the emergency services to report the fire and let professionals handle the situation if you are uncertain about the fire’s size or your ability to control it.

2. Identify the Fire Type

Ensure that you have correctly identified the fire as an electrical fire (Class C) before using the fire extinguisher. Using the wrong type of extinguisher can lead to more significant hazards and inefficiencies in fire suppression.

3. Check Extinguisher Suitability

Verify that the fire extinguisher you intend to use is rated for Class C fires. Examine the label or markings on the extinguisher to ensure it contains non-conductive agents like CO2 or dry chemicals.

4. Aim at the Base of the Fire

When using the fire extinguisher, aim at the base of the fire rather than the flames. Focusing on the base helps smother the fire’s source and disrupts the chain reaction, thereby extinguishing the flames more effectively.

5. Use a Sweeping Motion

Using a sweeping motion, move the fire extinguisher from side to side while aiming at the fire’s base. This technique helps cover a broader area and maximizes the extinguishing agent’s effectiveness.

6. Evacuate After Use

Once you have successfully extinguished the fire or if it becomes too large to handle, leave the area immediately, closing any doors behind you. Always prioritize your safety, and do not attempt to re-enter the area until it is deemed safe by the authorities.


Using the appropriate fire extinguisher is vital when dealing with live electrical equipment fires. Class C fire extinguishers, such as CO2 and dry chemical extinguishers, are specifically designed to combat electrical fires safely and effectively. Understanding their proper usage and adhering to safety guidelines is crucial in protecting both property and lives during fire emergencies.

Remember that fire safety is a shared responsibility, and educating yourself and others about the correct use of fire extinguishers is essential for overall safety preparedness. By being knowledgeable about the types of fires and fire extinguishers, we can work towards a safer environment and reduce the potential impact of fires caused by live electrical equipment.


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