In this video, we’ll review what causes a fire, how to respond if one does occur, and the best practices for a fire prevention plan.
What Causes Fires?
So, what causes a fire? Well, in its simplest form, fire is a combustion or burning reaction that can occur when heat, fuel, and oxygen are present. To eliminate a fire, one of these three elements will need to be removed or the fire will continue to burn.
It’s important to remember though, that not all fires are the same. In fact, there are five different classifications of fires and the methods used to extinguish them can vary. Knowing this, it’s important that we familiarize ourselves with each type, should we ever encounter them while working in the field. Understanding the differences could help save your life. The five different fire classifications are known as Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class K.
- Class A fires are the most common type of fire. This classification deals with ordinary combustibles such as wood, clothing, paper, plastic, and other easily burnable materials. These fires are often the easiest to extinguish using water, standard fire extinguishers, or a dry chemical powder.
- Class B fires on the other hand are fueled by way of flammable liquids such as oil, grease, gas, tar, or oil-based paints. These types of fires are often more dangerous and difficult to put out because they are fueled by accelerants. A solid stream of water should never be used to extinguish this type of fire as it can cause the fuel to scatter, spreading the flames to other nearby objects.
- Class C fires are fueled by an energized or live electrical current. This type of fire is often caused by short-circuited machinery or overloaded electrical cables. They should NEVER be extinguished with water, as electricity may be conducted from the fire through the water causing electric shock.
- A Class D fire is similar to a Class B, as it involves a combustible material; however, these fires are made up of combustible metals in lieu of liquids. Metal fires represent a unique hazard in the workplace as some metals can accelerate when in contact with air or water. These types of fires should only be extinguished with a dry powder that smothers the fire and removes excessive heat.
- The last classification of fires is a Class K This type of fire involves combustible cooking oils and fats. To extinguish these types of fires, water is NOT recommended as it will scatter the oil, causing the flames to spread. A special Class K extinguisher should always be used for cooking fires, as they are designed to turn the flammable liquid into a foam, quickly extinguishing the fire.
Types of Extinguishers
Now that we’ve reviewed the different classifications of fires, it’s important that we discuss the different types of fire extinguishers on the market today. Although most extinguishers look the same from the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that sets them apart. To know the difference, we’ll need to read the label on the canister to identify its proper use. The marking system on the canister often uses a combination of both pictograms and classification letters to help you quickly identify its appropriate application.
Fire Extinguisher Use
When operating a fire extinguisher, it’s best to follow the PASS system. This consists of first, pulling the pin, then aiming the extinguisher at the base of the fire and squeezing the handle, and finally sweeping the nozzle from side to side until the fire is extinguished. Remember, fire extinguishers only have a few seconds of discharge. Time is the biggest enemy and every second counts. A small flame can often get out of control and turn into a large fire very quickly.
When first encountering a small fire, it’s important that you NEVER put yourself in a dangerous situation. You should only attempt to extinguish a fire if you’re safe from smoke or toxic fumes, an exit route is available, and the fire is small enough to be contained quickly.
If the fire begins to accelerate and is no longer contained, immediately exit the building and alert others by yelling FIRE loudly or by pulling an alarm. Before opening any doors, check to see if it’s hot. If the door is hot, choose another exit. After passing through any doors, make sure to close them behind you to limit the spread of the fire. Remember, the cleanest air is always closest to the floor. If smoke is present, stay low. Do not take time to gather personal belongings or go back for them. Stay calm and remember your safety is always most important.
Of the 1.3 million fires annually, more than seven percent of them involve a commercial vehicle. It’s no surprise either, considering most commercial vehicles have one or more flammable liquids on board. If you were to ever encounter a vehicle fire while driving, quickly pull to the side of the road and exit the vehicle safely. If the fire is small enough to extinguish, you can use your onboard fire extinguisher. If the fire is located in the engine compartment, never open the hood. This will add oxygen to the fire, causing it to accelerate. If the fire cannot be controlled, get to a safe distance and contact 911.
If a tire on your truck or trailer catches fire, quickly pull to the side of the road and use the water from your truck to extinguish the flames. You’ll then need to notify dispatch of the issue. Once the fire is extinguished and the rim has cooled, you should be able to replace a trailer tire. If it was a truck tire that started on fire, you’ll need to contact the garage for assistance. If you’re unsure if the trailer is still towable, contact the garage and await further instructions.
Fire Prevention Tips
One of the best ways you can help prevent fires in the workplace is by keeping your trucks and workspace clean and free of trash and debris. This will help cut down on potential flammables. It’s also important that certain chemicals and flammable substances be stored in a well ventilated area.
Improperly disposed of cigarettes have been a known cause a great deal of workplace fires. Knowing this, it’s important that you always follow the company smoking policy which states that all Service Sanitation buildings and properties are designated as smoke-free. This includes cigarettes, cigars and electronic cigarettes. Employees are only permitted to smoke outside of the property gate.
Proper Vehicle inspections (Pre-trip)
Knowing that our commercial vehicles contain large volumes of highly flammable fuel and combustible liquids, it’s important that each driver performs a thorough pre- and post-trip inspection on their vehicle to spot potential fire hazards. Be sure to check for cracked hoses, loose cables, exposed wiring, or burn smells. If identified, please note it on your paperwork and have all repairs completed as soon as possible. Remember, only a certified mechanic can approve a vehicle to be road worthy if an inspection has uncovered any issues.
In conclusion, it’s important to remember that fire prevention is the best way to address fires. Whenever possible, always do your best to identify and minimize the potential risks. Fire emergencies and disasters can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere. Always be prepared and when in doubt, contact 911.