If you look long and hard enough, you probably will find a 2 1/2-gallon pressurized water extinguisher on many of the fire apparatus in your department. Engines, ladders, chiefs’ cars, and rescue trucks traveling the streets and avenues of most villages, towns, and cities carry these silver “cans” on running boards, in compartments, and in any other location in which they fit.

But have you ever seen one of these tools used at a fire? Have you yourself ever reached for a water extinguisher at the fire scene? Just what can this tool do for us?

The pressurized water extinguisher can lxjust as valuable a tool for firefighters as it is for others, as is illustrated in the following scenarios:

  • Someone shouts “fire” in a factory; a worker grabs tlxwater extinguisher hanging on the wall and proceeds to the area where smoke is visible. The worker uses the extinguisher to put out the incipient fire while other workers call the firedepartment.
  • A smoke alarm is activated in an office building. The in-house fire brigade responding to the area finds a smoldering foam chair cushion and applies water with a 2’/2-gallon extinguisher.
  • A school janitor smells smoke in a utility area and, after pulling the school alarm, uses the water extinguisher on a pile of waste wood.


First-arriving firefighters also can use the water extinguisher in the same circumstances as those described above, as can be seen from the following examples. The key words here are first cirriring.

  • Almost all fires are small at the beginning and grow if left unchecked. The firstarriving fire department unit may have an opportunity to stop or slow down the growth of an extending fire with a water extinguisher.
  • A truck company arrives at the scene where smoke has been reported. No smoke is showing, and an engine company is a short distance behind. Truck company personnel enter the building to investigate the report and discover a small rubbish fire in the stairway. They suppress the fire with the water extinguisher, negating the need for the engine to stretch a line. Both units are returned to service immediately.
  • A water extinguisher also may help to control or extinguish trash-can fires, which can occur on street corners, in aboveor below-ground subway stations, and on upper floors of structures; cookingrelated fires, such as burning pot handles, stove fires, or burning food: and minor fires caused by overheated electrical equipment’s contacting combustible materials.

Of course, a hoseline would be called for whenever there is any doubt about the extinguisher’s ability to handle the fire. Unless a fire is obvious on arrival, most fire departments would dispatch truck company personnel, or the officer in a single-unit response, to investigate the cause of the alarm before stretching any hoselines. If a fire is discovered in the building on arrival at the location, firefighters can use the water extinguisher to slow the tire’s growth while calling for the appropriate size of hoseline. The value here is that the first-arriving firefighters are using the extinguisher to deliver water to the fire much sooner than any hoseline could.

A firefighter uses a water extinguisher to hold fire in a room and knock fire away from the opening so he can close the door while a hoseline is being stretched. With the door closed and the fire confined to the room of origin, other firefighters can pass to perform search and rescue.
  • 1’ircs involving more material, such as a mattress or furniture, also can he handled effectively with a water extinguisher. An odor of smoke, for example, is reported on the 10th floor of an apartment house The tire department arrives with an engine company, and the officer and a firelighter carrying a water extinguisher enter the building to investigate. The remainder of the engine crew remains with the pumper for instructions. The officer arrives at the apartment and observes smoke coming from a bed on fire in the bedroom. At this point, the officer would be correct in ordering the hoseline to be stretched; however, he also can halt the spread of the fire to the other furnishings in the room, and ultimately the apartment, by apply ing water with the water extinguisher to the mattress.
  • Another kind of fire that can be extinguished or held in check before the engine arrives and stretches a hoseline is a vehicle lire. A truck companv, rescue company, or chief’s vehicle encountering a car fire may be able to knock down the fire with an extinguisher while awaiting the arrival of an engine, or a member of the engine can use an extinguisher on the firc while the hose is being pulled and charged.
  • The use of the 2′ -gallon water extinguisher is not limited to smallor mediumsize fires. The extinguisher can be very useful for the first-arriving firefighters at a structure fire. For example, several fireapparatus arrive at a fire on the first floor of a private house. Fire is issuing out onewindow at the front of the house, and just inside the front door fire can be seen extending from the room of origin toward the stairway to the second floor. After gaining entry to the front dr. and while the engine is still stretching a hoseline, a firefighter can use a 2′ j-gallon water extinguisher to hold the fire at the doorway and prevent it from igniting the stairway and trapping the occupants on the second floor. This same scenario can occur when a fire is extending from a room out to a hallway or another room through an open door. By using an extinguisher, a firefighter may be able to knock down the fire extending out of the room, generally at the ceiling level, so the area can be approached and the door closed. Such action may contain the fire to that room until the hose team can make a controlled attack, allowing search and rescue to begin.

Many firefighters have been surprised at the size of a fire that can be controlled or put out with a 2‘/i-gallon extinguisher. When it is equipped with a strap, firstarriving firefighters easily can carry the extinguisher over the shoulder. In the case of minor fires, the extinguisher may be the only l needed. For more serious fires, it must be used with caution and only when a hoseline is being stretched simultaneously. In the hands of an experienced firefighter, a 2’/j-gallon water extinguisher can be the ttxil that most affects the outcome of a fire

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