Three Mistakes People Make With Fire Extinguishers

Posted on by Greg Schoenbaechler

woman making a mistake using a fire extinguisher on a Bullex machine

We recently set up a booth at a NOAA (Northern Ohio Apartment Association) tradeshow here in Cleveland, Ohio.

The tradeshow encouraged vendors to come up with an activity as part of a scavenger hunt, in order to establish interaction, but also something fun for vendors and members to do. If a member fills out the card with all the activities accomplished…they’ll be entered into a drawing for prizes.

Simple enough.

At ABCO, we needed something “fire protection-like”, but also something fun that people would enjoy learning. So, we brought our BullEx machine and had people attempt to put out a simulated fire.

What we learned was that about 50% of people made mistakes when putting out a fire!

Here are the top three mistakes we found participants making:


3 Biggest Mistakes When Using a Fire Extinguisher


1) People stand too close to the fire

The distance between the fire and the extinguisher is extremely important. If you stand too far away, the agent will be too weak to extinguisher a fire. Standing too close to a fire has two consequences:

  • You’ll burn yourself by being too close (yeeoooouch!)
  • You’ll spread the fire (perhaps near someone else) when shooting the pressurized agent

Proper Usage: FEMA recommends standing about 8 feet away to properly extinguisher a fire. Doing so will give the right amount of extinguisher power to extinguisher the fire…without spreading the fire to other areas.


2) People sweep too high at the fire

When first seeing a large fire, a popular tactic was to start from the top of the fire and work your way down.


Doing so will never put out the fire. The proper way is to sweep the fire from its base. The base is where the fuel for the fire is, once that’s gone, the top of the fire will disappear.

PASS is the acronym most remember for putting out a fire. One of the “S’s” stands for sweep, reminding you to sweep the fire along the base of the fire!


3) People forget or can’t pull the pin

“P” in Pass stands for pull the pin. The reason you need to pull the pin is because the pin is the fire extinguisher’s safety button (kind of like a gun). The pin is necessary because it prevents someone from squeezing the handle by accident.

Bonus: Some extinguishers will have a tamper tie connected to the pin, which will indicate to a fire protection company, or law enforcement, that a fire extinguisher has been used.

Here’s a photo of a tamper tie:

Tamper tie on a fire extinguisher

To remove the tamper tie, twist and pull the pin with generous force.



We know there are a lot of people who will say that they can put out a fire. But from our latest tradeshow, it seemed that most of our participants would’ve made serious mistakes. states that in less than 30 seconds, a small flame can turn into a major fire.

Hopefully with these tips, you can avoid the typical mistakes people make when putting out a fire.

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