Knowing Your Fire Extinguisher Colours

Types of Fire Extinguishers and their Uses
1024 536 Fire Risk Assessment & Fire Safety Training

As you would expect, fire extinguishers are subject to very rigorous regulations to ensure that they are safe to use, correctly labelled and easy to identify.  When a fire breaks out, however small, it can be confusing and disorientating – it’s critical that anyone who feels able to deploy an extinguisher is able to quickly and confidently identify the best extinguisher for the fire that they are fighting. For this reason, fire extinguishers are colour coded to enable easy identification.

  1.  Solid Red

Water extinguishers are coloured solid red.  Suitable for use on ‘Class A’ fires only (Combustible materials such as wood, paper, fabric and refuse), they are commonly found in domestic environments and areas where there are large quantities of paper such as printing facilities.  The major downfall of water extinguishers is that care must be taken not to make accidental contact with live electrics, due to the risk of electric shock.

  1. Cream

Like their water counterpart, foam extinguishers are red.  However, they are distinguishable by the cream panel above the instructions on the body of the extinguisher.  Unlike water extinguishers, the foam variety are safe for use on flammable liquids as well as Class A fires.  They are not suitable for use on fires resulting from the combustion of flammable gases or electrical items.

  1. Blue

A dry powder extinguisher is identified by the blue panel above the instructions.  Suitable for use on wood, paper, textiles, liquid and electrical fires, dry powder is a great all purpose extinguisher – unfortunately, it does lose some points by being extremely messy and very difficult to get out of textiles and soft furnishings.

  1. Black

Primarily for use on electrical fires, CO2 extinguishers are identified by the black panel above the instructions.  Unsuitable for use on wood, paper, textiles, flammable gases and kitchen fires, this extinguisher is best kept for environments which are heavy on electronic equipment.

  1. Yellow

In an emergency, you should be looking out for the yellow panel on a wet chemical extinguisher if you are certain that the cause of the fire is wood, paper, textiles or cooking oil.  This is a good all purpose extinguisher to have in the home, but should never be used on liquid fires or fires involving flammable gases.

This might all sound extremely simple, but it’s important to remember that fires spread quickly and cause people to panic – and when people panic, they don’t always make the right choices.  It’s very easy just to grab the nearest extinguisher to hand and direct it at the fire, which can have disastrous (or even fatal) consequences.  The best way to ensure a calm, orderly response from your staff in the event of a fire is to provide high quality training, which makes the correct response second nature.

You must also bear in mind that you are legally required to have all extinguishers serviced at least annually, and to check them regularly yourself.  If a fire does break out, someone attempting to fight it with a faulty extinguisher could cost them their life.


Scott Taylor MIFireE, MIFSM, CFPA E-Dip TC

Scott Taylor has worked as a fire professional for over 15 years working in the public and commercial sector. He likes to work with businesses as a partner, passing on knowledge and information in a pragmatic manner balancing risk, benefit and cost to ensure compliance.

All stories by: Scott Taylor MIFireE, MIFSM, CFPA E-Dip TC