Best Fire Suppression Chemicals

Fire is a cornerstone of modern life. We use fire to produce heat and light, cook the things we consume, and even to drive our commuter lifestyles. It’s an incredibly important part of our lives, but we must treat it with respect and have means to extinguish spreading fires before they get out of hand. 

Over the years, we have developed a number of different fire suppression chemicals for every scenario. Many are designed for very specific situations, and some work better than others. Today, we’re going to look at some of the fire suppression chemicals that provide effective protection for your family, friends, and coworkers, as well as what fire classes to use them on. 

What are fire suppression chemicals?

Fire suppression chemicals work to prevent the spread of fires by extinguishing flames and reducing the occurrence of flare ups. They may utilize water content, gas, or other means to reduce heat and remove fuel from the equation.

The simplest of all fire protection materials is water. But, it isn’t suited for all fires. In fact, adding water to some types of fires can make the fire worse or further damage valuable equipment, so it’s important to use the right type of fire protection chemicals for the fire you’re fighting. Being aware of the different types of fires, or classes, is the first step in fire suppression.

Fire Classes

Fires are divided into classes, based on the type of fuel that is feeding the fire. Every type of fire fits into either a single class or a combination of classes. Not all countries use the same classification systems, so for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on the US classification system. 

  • Class A – This class includes all types of ordinary combustibles, like paper, wood, fabric and most debris types. Class A fires can safely be extinguished with water, but can also be extinguished with many other fire safety materials like dry chemical powders or wet chemicals. 
  • Class B – If your fire is fueled by flammable liquids or gasses, it is considered a Class B fire. Cutting off the source of the gas is the most important step in extinguishing flammable gas fires. Flammable liquids should never be extinguished with water, as it can cause the fuel to spread and make the fire worse. Dry chemical or chemical foam fire supression agents are best suited for this fire class.
  • Class C – Electrical fires are considered Class C fires in the United States. They are often caused by overloaded electrical cables or short-circuits. Electrical fires present a danger when fighting them with water, since electrical currents can travel through the stream and electrocute us. The best types of chemicals to use here are dry chemical extinguishers and gaseous fire suppression chemicals. Baking soda can be used in a pinch, for very small fires, but don’t rely on it once the fire begins to spread. 
  • Class D – Burning metals constitute Class D fires. These fires possess unique characteristics, and as such, special care must be taken when attempting to suppress them. Air and water can react with certain metals, so we don’t use those agents on metal fires. Dry powders are the safest way to tackle this type of fire, as they work to smother metal fires and absorb their heat.
  • Class K – This type of fire is mostly associated with kitchen fires, as they are fueled by cooking oils and fats. Again, water causes grease to spread and is not a safe way to extinguish these types of fires. A fire blanket may be used to stop a small fire on your stovetop, but for larger fires, there are extinguishers designed for oils and fats that convert the oils into foam, smothering the fuel source.

Again, understanding the fire type is the first step in fighting fires. Once you know that, you will understand the specific characteristics that make one chemical superior to another in terms of fighting it. Furthermore, understanding where these types of fires are likely to occur gives us the information we need to ensure we have the right type of fire suppression chemicals protecting the right rooms. 

What are the major types of fire suppression chemicals?

As you’ve seen, there are a number of different types of chemicals that can be used to fight fires. Some are similar in name, but are not the same product. Let’s look at some of the most popular types of fire suppression chemicals on the market, as well as the fire classes they are rated for.

  • Water – One of the most common commercially installed fire suppression systems is the water-based system. Water is run through pipes in the ceilings, and is pumped into the rooms via sprinklers if a fire is detected. These systems are an effective way of fighting fires in most residential and office buildings, and have been shown to be up to a 97% effectiveness rate in reducing fire damage, according to the American Fire Sprinkler Association.

Certain industries will not usually utilize water-based fire protection agents in places like server rooms, kitchens, or warehouses where fighting fires with water would not be recommended due to the possibility that it could make the fire worse or further damage expensive equipment. Pressurized water should only be used on Class A fires.

  • Chemical foam – Chemical foam is one type of fire suppression chemical that is often utilized in common household and office fire extinguishers. It’s incredibly effective because the foam mixes with water and spreads over the fire’s fuel source. Chemical foam suppression systems are used in any place where there is a possibility of a liquid or grease fire, as its ability to spread over the fuel allows it to smother the flames without spreading the fuel. Chemical foam is suitable for use in Class A, B, C, and K fires.
  • Dry Chemical – Utilizing dry chemicals for fire suppression can be a fantastic choice for a range of different fire classes, making them good multi-purpose fire suppression materials. Different chemical compositions perform differently, however, so be sure you have the right type for your possible uses. Mono-ammonium phosphate is suitable for Class A, B, and C fires, while sodium bicarbonate is suitable for all Class B fires and some Class C fires.
  • Gaseous Fire Suppression – This type of system uses inert gasses in combination with other chemicals for fire suppression. They are generally used to protect against fire hazards in enclosed spaces.

The basic theory behind this type of system is that introducing pressurized inert gasses into the room deprives a fire of oxygen, forcing it out by depriving it of fuel. Gaseous fire suppression chemicals are rated for certain classes of fires and often used in delicate machinery, computer, and marine applications.

Before the fire

There are things you can do before you experience a fire that will help protect your property from extensive damage. Namely, using building materials that are coated in chemical fire retardants can prevent the spread of fires by making those materials less flammable or slower burning. This gives us extra time to fight small fires before they become large, and also gives us extra time to get out in case we can’t fight the fire alone.

Your dealer can help you decide

When it comes to fighting fires, we need every advantage we can get. One big advantage of working with a reputable dealer for fire suppression chemicals is that we are experts in which chemicals to use, as well as which ones not to use. This knowledge ensures you have the right chemicals in the right rooms. This simple step will give you the tools you need to effectively fight and prevent the spread of any fires, as well as avoid any collateral damage that could potentially be caused by using the wrong chemical.