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Nothing brings an abrupt end to a good time like an unintended conflagration. Having a fire extinguisher on hand any time there is the potential for something to catch fire is always a good idea. However, first make sure that the extinguisher you choose is equipped to properly fight any potential fire that might flare up.

Letter Rating

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All fire extinguishers have a letter rating that tells you the type of fire it can put out. “A” extinguishers will put out wood, paper, textile, and plastic fires. If a flammable liquid—motor oil, gasoline, kerosene, paint, etc.—catches fire, reach for a “B” extinguisher. Extinguishers with “C” ratings are made specifically for electrical fires, while “D” extinguishers are for combustible metals and “K” extinguishers are for cooking oils, fats, and grease.

Number Rating

A number preceding a letter in an extinguisher’s rating indicates the size of the fire the extinguisher can fight. Multiply the number before an “A” by 1.25 for its equivalency in gallons of water. For instance, a 2-A extinguisher is as effective as 2.5 gallons of water. The number preceding a B or C represents square feet. A 10-BC extinguisher can extinguish a liquid or electrical fire that is up to 10 square feet in size.

Pressure Gauge

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The pressure gauge on an extinguisher’s nozzle tells you if it’s ready to fight a fire or not. Check the gauge on your extinguishers often, as some will lose their charge over time. If it’s a rechargeable unit, take it to a certified recharging station. If not, replace with a new extinguisher.

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