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Fire safety is one thing that people take for granted, until it's too late. Then it is, too late.



There are mainly 4 types of fires Classes. A 5<SUP>th</SUP> class of fire, “K” for cooking type fires. The term for them is Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta fires. Taken from the military, but much easier if you have to report one. It gives the responding Fire Dept. a heads up what they’ll be facing.

A. Anything that leaves an ash. Wood, paper, cardboard, etc.
Even the human body leaves an ash. Usually a white smoke.

B. This is a liquid type fire, gas, oil, paint, plastics, transmission fluid, kerosene and diesel fuel, grease, rubbing alcohol, brake cleaner, starting fluid, etc. Even antifreeze. Always a heavy black smoke when burning.

C. Electrical Fire. Sparks and heat from this fire usually start the other class fires. Metal type of fire. This is where those mag wheels, aluminum and other special metals will get hot enough to burn.



Fire is a combination of 3 things and 3 things only that require a chemical reaction to start a fire. You break what is called the “Fire Triangle” and a fire will go out. The triangle consists of wood, gas, shorted/overloaded electrical circuit, thermal heat of metal. Heat, spontaneous combustion, a flame, hot wires, hot metal. Oxygen, fire has to have air to burn.

What is a Class of fire, how it works and dealing with it

A Class Alpha fire can be that pile of newspapers, greasy rags, an old couch in the garage, a pile of fire wood, or the clothes you’re wearing. To name a few.

Just look around your garage sometime and think about what is piling up. If you do any welding at home, a pile of rags or newspapers can be ignited by hot metal splating. They could smolder for hours before igniting. Or spontaneous combustion can start a pile of rags on fire. This is how a haystack will usually start up. The wet hay stacked together dries and generates heat. Once hot enough, the fire starts.

An Alpha fire usually requires heat to ignite it. The oxygen and fuel is there. Heat is the missing element.

To extinguish an Alpha fire is usually done just by simply removing the heat source. Water is best used for this. Simple, but most effective. Next time you burn the pile of leaves in the back yard, keep a charged garden hose handy. It might not put it out, but can buy you lots of time for more help to arrive. You can take the air away by covering it up with a blanket or using a CO2 extinguisher, but you have to cool it or it will reignite. That’s called “reflash”. You’ll find the Fire Dept. will hang around after a fire is out, because they are watching for a reflash from hot spots. Forest and house fires starting up again, after they’re put out, are bad for this.

So always dig up the loose, burned materials and look for any smoldering materials. This is why you see Fire Dept. people digging through rubble after the fire is out.


A class Bravo is from a gas tank, grease in a hot fry pan, paint cans near the water heater in the garage, propane, etc. Anything that is a petroleum product, even rubber tires are considered a Bravo fire.

Think of that 1 gal gas can for the lawn mower, old 1 gal paint cans, Aerosol Paint cans, oil jugs, old tires, etc, stored in a garage? A bravo fire is the flumes themselves burning, not the liquid. Tires are a special case. Even the flumes from a car battery will first explode, contained fast burn rate, and then start other items on fire.

A bravo fire usually requires a spark, flame or ignition source to start it. Your sparkplug or the fine mist of diesel fuel sprayed into a hot combustion chamber is a controlled burn. Once burning, it will generate heat from the fuel. Liquid (bravo) fires are actually the flumes burning once they have reached, what is called, its flash point. Flash point is the temperature that the flumes will ignite. Gasoline has a flash point of appx -70 degs.

Diesel fuel appx 185 degs. JP8 (jet fuel) is 100degs, JP5 is 140 degs. (JP8 & JP5 are military fuels similar to civilian jet fuels. But not to be confused with Mogas or Avgas.) That is a gasoline standard. Flashpoint is also what makes the difference between products that that are rated combustionible or flammable on your HAZMAT rating. For shipping, usage, and storage.

To extinguish a bravo fire the best means is to remove the oxygen. By using a fire extinguisher designed for it. Primarily a Class Bravo (PKP, Purple K) or CO2 Class Charlie extinguisher. Both will remove the oxygen, but one designed primary for a bravo fire will work best. You do have to watch for a reflash due to heat reigniting it once the extinguishing agent dissipates. Remove the source of heat or fuel, (turn off the car engine) to keep the fire out. If you leave a frying pan on the stove with it covered then take the lid off, there is a good chance once oxygen is present for it to start. The grease is at its flashpoint only waiting for air to arrive. Baking soda or just recover it and remove from the heat source is best way to put it out.

A fire team can, and will, use water. But only in a mist form,
to remove the air from it and put it out. This requires a lot of water and special training/skills to do it. NEVER use a solid stream of water from a hose or the Alpha type water fire extinguishers, to try and put it out. You’ll only cause the fuel to spread when the water hits it.



Rubber tires? The best way is to use a water mist and try a remove the existing fuel. Rubber burns hot and long with lots of smoke. Everett, Wa. Had a rubber tire dump fire that lasted for weeks until it burned itself out. Several rubber roads have had this same problem.

On engine fires, (bravo) the agent in Class B extinguishers is very corrosive on electrical/electronic components. If you do use it for an engine fire, figure that whatever electrical components that didn’t get hurt by the fire are probably damaged by the extinguishing agent. So get ready for some serious gremlins.



A class Charlie fire usually starts when positive and negative power sources are touched together. Such as the wrench on the positive side of a car battery against the metal body with the negative still connected. Bare “hot” wires with the insulation worn off from rubbing and then grounds against the car body. Miswiring house circuits backwards. Overloaded circuits with the wrong amp fuses in them. To light of wires for the load, (old school) a penny or tin foil in a fuse to keep it working. If a fuse trips, it’s for a reason. Find the reason and fix it. Don’t over ride it.

To extinguish a Charlie fire, the best way is to turn off the power. Downed power lines are best left to the experts that will turn the power off. Pull the fuse, trip the circuit breaker, pull the power plug, etc. BUT safely, and only if you won’t get shocked. A wet surface, water, sweaty body, all will conduct electicy and can result in death. It only takes 1/10th of an AMP (AC) to possibly kill you.

Just a simple heads up, GOLD is the best conductor of electricity. Your rings work very nicely. That’s why most people working with electricity and electronics take them off while working. And rubber electric safety gloves all have a safety rating for the amount of power they will protect from.

An electrical fire will usually end up starting either an Alpha or Bravo fire because of either the sparks or heat from it. So usually once the power source is deenergized, (not the little bunny either) look for another fire beginning. House fires result from this a lot with overloaded circuits. The 70s house building thing was the use of aluminum wiring. It had a low amps rating and melted easily. When mixed with copper older wire, connections loosen and sparked, caused fires.

A class Delta fire is a metal type fire. This is from the metal getting hot enough to ignite and burn. A metal fire is best left for the experts since it burns extremely hot, 2500 degs + very bright and can be explosive when hit with the wrong extinguishing agent. Mag wheels and aluminum are your biggest source in this hobby/business. But with newer, lighter and special composites/materials being used in cars now, it’s happening more and more.

The best thing to do if it can be done safely is try and remove any other flammable sources from away from this fire. Then cool around it with a water source and let it burn itself out. Do not spray water on it or it could blowup. Let the professionals deal with it.



Fighting a fire takes special skills, training, tools and sometimes just plain guts. There’s nothing in your car, house or hobby worth your life or the lives of others. The best way to deal with a fire is to stop it before it happens.

Look around your garage, yard and house. That fertilizer from 5 yrs ago, get rid of it. Old oil jugs, piles of papers, rags, and empty the trash can too. Old paint cans, aerosol cans, even that wooden work bench are a fire looking for a place to happen.
Dust from painting and wood cutting can come in contact with electrical circuits and ignite.



Working on a gas tank in a closed garage is no no. The spark from anything, wrong tools can cause a spark and blow the place up. Non sparking tools, brass or aluminum is required and then with an extinguisher near by.





If you’re welding, never do it alone and have an extinguisher near by. Inspect and clean the area around where you’ll be working.



Paint on walls and oily firm is a good fire source.



Your gas water heater or furnace is an ignition source. Any open flame heaters will cause a fire from fumes in the garage. Or heating up trash, rags etc to ignition point. Welding on your car with the battery connected can cause a fire. Plus it’s not good on electronics anyway.

Get some fire extinguishers and learn how to use them and inspect them. If you have firearms and maybe do some reloading, that 100#s of gunpowder better be buried in the backyard some where.

Smoking and working on fuel systems or any petroleum based cleaning solvents is a good way to make the 5 o’clock news. Talk with the local Fire Dept about training. Waving an extinguisher over a fuel fire is good for the movies, but it’s not going to put the fire out. Gas, oil, etc are lighter then water and floats on it. They will also burn on top of water. Put an extinguisher at each entrance and at the main work place in your garage. A small extinguisher will put out a very small fire or use it to get out of the area to a safe spot only.




If you do have a fire, first thing is to spread the word. A little “fire” can spread fast to walls, gas cans, etc. When you do call the fire dept, tell them what they’re going to be dealing with. Over come by smoke trying to be a hero will not be a nice thing. Many of the materials in cars and in the home also will put off poison gas when burned.

When working around a possible fire source, protective clothing is also important. Even welding without proper protection will sometimes cause 2 degree burns. Polyester will melt to skin and will not come off nicely, as will other fabrics.

http://www.alibaba.com/showroom/Fire_Retardent_Clothes-showroom.html

Skin will come off with it when it is removed. So use the right coveralls. Cotton or some other fire resistant clothing is always recommended. It may be uncomfortable, but could save you from possible burns or even death.

Fire injuries mainly come from either smoke inhalation or skin burn damage. Skin damage will result in massive loss of body fluids and dehydration. Hair and your skin can melt, as some of you already know and it might not grow back at all, depending on the damage.




If you do get burned, drink lots of water and get water on the burn area. Cools it and keeps the dehydration down. Have it checked immediately because infection easily attacks burned areas. For more information contact your local Fire Station or Dept. Always check your insurance policy for what you’re doing. Many things aren’t always covered and you don’t know how little insurance you have until it’s to late.

FireExtinguisher.com

Fire Extinguishers

This article supplied by myself and another contributing member, who is a Retired Navy Engineering Chief Petty Officer, with 20+ yrs. training, experience and extensive knowledge in fire fighting. Fire experience in Fire Party Leadership, with Aviation, Shipboard and Structural fires. Special schooling, training and experience in Aviation and Special HAZMAT fire handling. Fuels Specialist and QC expert. Has a CDL for the transportation of HAZMAT.


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Very informative and nicely done. Kudos for covering such an important topic that is often overlooked.
 

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One thing I'd like to point out is that cotton isn't very flame resistant unless treated with fire retardant material.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Big thing about cotton is it doesn't melt when exposed to heat, as man made fibers do.
 

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good article.

to add... purple K is an agent thats on its way out. It is more expensive to recharge extinguishers with K then with dry powder. the biggest product used today is dry powder. Which is your standard household extinguisher. Good for all classes (a,b,c) of fires. They are cheaper to refill and perfect for all purpose. Most wont recommend using a CO2 extinguisher on anything but the electrical stuff.

95% of the time it isnt the water that extinguishes a fire but the steam created by the fire. the vaporized water molecules attach themselves to the cyanides and other crap in the room. This not only puts the fire out but it also cools the room, and will also burn the **** out of your victim thats lying in there. It will even burn fire fighters.
 

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Very good article. We all need to double check things in our garages from this one.
Being a former owner of an Auto Repair garage in western Pa, we lost half our garage in a fire, due to a simple mistake of a mechanic.
Believe me, anti freeze and motor liquids/oil mixed, burns fast and out of control.
I watched the business go up in flames with my own eyes, and 3 extinguishers couldn't put out the fire in a bucket that started the whole thing from someone using a cutting torch nearby. Hence, we called that mechanic Sparky after that, and it wasn't long till he was unemployed, and we had a long expensive struggle to get back into business.
You don't know how much your insurance doesn't cover until you need it.
Check your policy.
 

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Very good article. We all need to double check things in our garages from this one.
Being a former owner of an Auto Repair garage in western Pa, we lost half our garage in a fire, due to a simple mistake of a mechanic.
Believe me, anti freeze and motor liquids/oil mixed, burns fast and out of control.
I watched the business go up in flames with my own eyes, and 3 extinguishers couldn't put out the fire in a bucket that started the whole thing from someone using a cutting torch nearby. Hence, we called that mechanic Sparky after that, and it wasn't long till he was unemployed, and we had a long expensive struggle to get back into business.
You don't know how much your insurance doesn't cover until you need it.
Check your policy.
the difference between the US and the rest of the world is that WE HAVE A FIRE PROBLEM. In other countries if you have a fire you turn into an iresponsible outcast who should be banished from town. the US treats you like a victim of a crime. Which is wrong! It took this country until 1977 to realize it has a fire problem when Nixon created an investigation force. It still has a problem, yet people still want to argue that sprinklers are a bad idea. Proven fact that one head installed in each room of a single family dwelling will almost guarantee everyones life to be saved if a fire does start.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Dad, who helped me write this article did that in the garage. He installed sprinklers that pointed both up to the celling and down in the most critical areas. Then he had an adapted outside to hook the hose into it.
With all the "stuff" in the garage, you just never know. Plus he had a phone out there on a seperate line from the house.
 

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Dad, who helped me write this article did that in the garage. He installed sprinklers that pointed both up to the celling and down in the most critical areas. Then he had an adapted outside to hook the hose into it.
With all the "stuff" in the garage, you just never know. Plus he had a phone out there on a seperate line from the house.
cool! you can never be to safe. Remember fire fighting starts with prevention!
 

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Excellent write up. Thanks, I'm gonna do an inventory of the house now. It seems there's alot of knowledge/experience on here concerning this so I have a question. I once saw a demonstration on how a cigarette dropped on a couch caused the whole room to just burst into flame. It started out smoldering with the smoke obviously collecting at the ceiling, then a small flame started on the couch which caused heavier smoke. At this point the level of the smoke started to drop pretty quickly as the room filled and once that smoke hit that small flame the whole room burst into flame. They explained that the smoke itself was flammable and demonstrated by blowing out a candle and reliting it by touching a match to the wisp of smoke coming off the wick. What I'd like to know is, does this only apply to class A fires or does it include the smoke from the other classes aswell? Sorry for the long post but if I had a garage filled with smoke from a class B fire do I need to worry about the same type of thing happening? The answer might determine just how close I'd get to it. (Unless MY car was in there) :)
 

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Excellent write up. Thanks, I'm gonna do an inventory of the house now. It seems there's alot of knowledge/experience on here concerning this so I have a question. I once saw a demonstration on how a cigarette dropped on a couch caused the whole room to just burst into flame. It started out smoldering with the smoke obviously collecting at the ceiling, then a small flame started on the couch which caused heavier smoke. At this point the level of the smoke started to drop pretty quickly as the room filled and once that smoke hit that small flame the whole room burst into flame. They explained that the smoke itself was flammable and demonstrated by blowing out a candle and reliting it by touching a match to the wisp of smoke coming off the wick. What I'd like to know is, does this only apply to class A fires or does it include the smoke from the other classes aswell? Sorry for the long post but if I had a garage filled with smoke from a class B fire do I need to worry about the same type of thing happening? The answer might determine just how close I'd get to it. (Unless MY car was in there) :)
Fire breaks down materials, whether it be wood or fuel. the process of combustion results in generally the samething. To realize this you need to understand why they use different products to extinguish certain fires. Example... is a CO2 extinguisher. This is used on an electrical fire as O2 is a main part of the fires growth. The CO2 displaces the O2 and basiclly suffocates the fire. Water does NOT insulate electricty it conducts it. When you use water to extinguish a class A fire it isnt the water that puts it out per say. The heat evaporates the water and turns it into steam. this cools the fire and removes the heat which is a part of the fire triangle.

the breakdown of products produces waste. The reason why fires are alot worse today then they were 20 years aso is b/c of the polymers and plastics used in almost everything. petrolium products burn hotter then wood and paper and they off gas the combustion by products. The foam in the couch that burned is an oil product, it produces more smoke with quite a few were toxins compared to burning wood. the noxious gases from anything should not be breathed in without proper BA.

Everything that burns has a process in which it breaks down... even fire gear. fire gear is only designed to withstand a flashover for something like 20 seconds.before the heat breaks the gear down and begins to burn it. A flashover is the point when the entire room begins to break down off gas and burn at the same time. the can be forcefull at times and hurt firefighters.

the gases produced by combustion are all flammable like said regardless of material being burned. What is really cool is when you first make entry to the fireroom that was being starved of O2 when that fire breathes the fingers in the smoke become more pronounced. this is when the room needs to be cooled. When you start to see the gases burn its either time to put the wet stuff on the red stuff fast or get out b/c the room is getting ready to flash.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Class B has the capicity to "reflash" reignite due to the fumes and heat in the fire area. Normally you'd want to ventilate the area for at least 15 minutes before going inside. But it also depends on what the fire used for fuel, gas being the most dangerous. Remember all the metal exposed to the fire's heat will remain hot for sometime after the fire is out.
When you do ventilate always BLOW AIR IN, as the sparks from a electric motor sucking the air out can reignite the fire.
 

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Class B has the capicity to "reflash" reignite due to the fumes and heat in the fire area. Normally you'd want to ventilate the area for at least 15 minutes before going inside. But it also depends on what the fire used for fuel, gas being the most dangerous. Remember all the metal exposed to the fire's heat will remain hot for sometime after the fire is out.
When you do ventilate always BLOW AIR IN, as the sparks from a electric motor sucking the air out can reignite the fire.
Everything has the possibility to reflash. The big thing with a large scale flammable liquids fire is the use of foam. Nothing will flash with out the oxygen it needs to breathe. The foam creates a blanket and a barrier.

I had a good discussion with a local FM a-ways back about ventilating a room with toxic/ flammable fumes. it is a double edged sword. For instance you fill a room with a flammable vaporized gas, where the LEL is beyond met to the point that oxygen is almost non existant. the gas requires oxygen to burn so what do we do??? we vent the structure, whether you force air in or out you will still incorporate more O2 into the structure, thus creating a situation of an explosion happy mixture. the best thing to do is vent as fast as possible to achieve a point lower then the LEL to avoid a fire.

There are two ways to vent with fans. One is positive pressure and the other negative. positive acts as a system allowing you to clear an entire structure with a large fan in a short amount of time, if you walked around with a smoke ejector it would take you all day.
 

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Nice reminder to everyone.
Sometimes we take for granted we are aware of the hazards.
That is till something goes wrong...
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Old Navy saying Dad always said, "Learn or Burn". And don't forget to check your insurance too.
 

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Remember, now that it's the winter season, and we are working in more closed environments in the garage, all those flammable fumes have a tendency to build up and cause a dangerous situation.

Be a good buddy, buy your friend a fire extinguisher for Christmas !
 
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