Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguisher

Last updated: December 15, 2019

What Does Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguisher Mean?

A carbon dioxide (CO2) fire extinguisher is a portable, active fire protection device that works by expelling carbon dioxide onto a fire. It works by displacing the oxygen the fire relies upon to continue burning, and it is primarily used to extinguish fires in which the source of the fuel is a flammable liquid or gas.

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are a very common form of fire extinguisher and are used in situations where traditional water and foam fire extinguishers or dry chemical fire extinguishers are not suitable. A carbon dioxide fire extinguisher is a “clean extinguisher” and leaves no residue on the area it is applied.

Safeopedia Explains Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguisher

The type of fire suppressant that needs to be used to extinguish a particular workplace fire varies depending on the substance that is fueling the fire, as well as the equipment and human safety considerations that exist within the vicinity of the fire.

For instance, traditional water extinguishers are useful for extinguishing ordinary combustion fires (Class A fires) by eliminating the heat necessary for the fire to continue; however, they are not effective for situations in which the source of the fire is a liquid (Class B) or gas. The reaction may inadvertently cause the flaming liquid to displace or splash, and water may not be able to reduce the heat from the fire to a low-enough temperature to terminate the combustion reaction that keeps the fire burning. In this case, a carbon dioxide extinguisher can be used to eliminate the fire by displacing the oxygen that the fire relies upon for fuel.

Because carbon dioxide is a non-conductive material, CO2 extinguishers are also useful for extinguishing electrical (Class C) fires and were originally developed for this purpose. They are not useful as a method of extinguishing ordinary flammable combustible solids, as the solid will continue to smolder after being extinguished and may reignite once oxygen returns to its immediate atmosphere.

A dry chemical fire extinguisher can be used to eliminate all of the types of fire that a carbon dioxide extinguisher can, as well as additional fire types such as Class A fires; however, a carbon dioxide extinguisher may be better-suited for the elimination of a Class B or C fire, as dry chemical extinguishers release a toxic substance that is easily inhaled if used in an enclosed space without adequate respiratory protection.


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